The perfect rainbow salad and several excellent variations

The idea for this salad comes from the endlessly energetic Kristen Bell, who calls it the Garbage Disposal salad. I think Kristen calls it this because it uses up all of the bits and pieces in her vegetable crisper (or maybe because she feels like the garbage disposal when she eats it!) That name does not necessarily make it enticing, but trust me, it tastes fantastic. What’s more, it fills you up, and you won’t feel at all like you’re just eating a salad.

For many people the idea of eating salad is a bit sad and sorry, and seems generally unsatisfying. Many people believe that every meal needs to contain a lot of carbohydrates to fill you up, like pasta, rice, chips or bread. But in truth you can make a delicious filling meal just from salad and lean protein, that your waist and your energy levels will absolutely love.

You may think of salad just as a bowl of iceberg lettuce and bland supermarket style tomatoes, maybe some chunks of cucumber. If this is all you are doing with your salad then you definitely will never be looking forward to it, or satisfied by it. But it can be so much more, just take a look below for some great ingredient ideas.

Lettuce and other leafy greens

Start your salad with a leafy green base. About half of your salad should be made up by lettuce or its other leafy friends. There are about a million different kinds of leafy green you can try. They taste incredibly different from each other, so if all you’ve ever known is iceberg, please don’t stop now. Leafy greens are high in calcium, iron, folate, dietary fiber and vitamins A and C. The greener you go the healthier your leafy salad base will be. Some of the varieties you can try include:

  • Arugula
  • Baby spinach
  • Romaine or cos lettuce
  • Butter lettuce
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Kale

Tomatoes

Now add some beautiful blush to your salad, in the form of nutrient rich tomatoes. Tomatoes are actually best eaten at room temperature, and if you can bothered, taste especially wonderful if you grow your own. They are high in dietary fiber and vitamin C, as well as a great source of potassium, manganese and vitamins A, B6 and K.

Basic heirloom tomatoes can seem a bit flavorless, but there are so many more types out there, that I guarantee you will find a variety that your family will love. You should try delicious vine-ripened roma tomatoes, or those tiny juicy sweet varieties such as grape and cherry tomatoes. At their simplest you can slice tomatoes and sprinkle with mozzarella or bocconcini slices, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, and cracked pepper and salt for a gorgeous autumn salad.

Other salad vegetables

This is where we really bring in the rainbow. Start with a leafy green and add a variety of tomato, then go crazy with a wide color blend of other things for taste and crunch. Try cucumber, celery, carrot, avocado, corn kernels, bell peppers, mushrooms, onion, herbs, sprouts or purple cabbage.

Fruit

A touch of fruit is wonderful in a vegetable salad, and adds a fantastic sweetness. Try chopped apple or pear, dried fruit such as cranberries or raisins, sliced mango, grapefruit, orange or watermelon. Something really unexpected you can do is add strawberries, blueberries or grapes for a lovely pop of color and taste. Fruit in a salad also pairs really well with something salty or peppery, like arugula, prosciutto or blue cheese.

More filling vegetables

If you are still reading this list thinking, that won’t fill me up, then I’ve got some other more filling options as well. Make sure you keep the leafy green base as the majority of what you are eating, but add some cooked and cooled vegetables as well for sustenance. You could chop potato or sweet potato, broccoli or cauliflower into small cubes and microwave for a few minutes to be perfectly steamed. You could roast a big pile of vegetables the day before and use them cold in your bowl; things that go well include brussels sprouts, bell pepper, carrot, parsnip, corn, zucchini and pumpkin.

Protein and other delicious toppings

Now add a protein or two to keep filling you up and give you the iron and energy boost you need. Try grilled prawns, chicken or lean beef. Tear up prosciutto or salami. Add a tin of tuna, sardines or salmon. Pop in some chopped boiled egg, cooked bacon bits, olives or chickpeas. Add pretty much any kind of nut or seed you like, think almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chia, sunflower seeds, walnuts or pistachios. Add chopped up cheese; crumbled feta, blue or ricotta, shaved parmesan or grilled slices of haloumi.

Dressing

Salad dressing again doesn’t need to be boring, and also it doesn’t need to be hard. You could start with a basic bottle of French dressing and add extra somethings for taste, for instance add a dob of mayonnaise, pesto, or honey and mustard. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar or orange juice. Add a pile of fresh or dried herbs. Add lime juice, cilantro and sweet chilli sauce. For an Eastern influence mix in a little peanut butter, hummus or brown sugar and soy sauce. Variety is the spice of life, and both the varieties and spices are endless when it comes to salad dressing options.

Still feeling a bit unadventurous about your salad? Try one of the following recipes:

Start with a base of arugula, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and cucumber, tossed with French dressing and salt and pepper. Then choose one of these variations to finish it:

  • Chopped steamed potato and broccoli pieces

Avocado

Feta

Chopped apple

Almonds

Cranberries

A dash of honey and wholegrain mustard

 

  • Thinly sliced red cabbage and carrot

Sliced red onion

Cilantro

Sliced pear

Grapes

Tin of tuna, drained

A dollop of mayo

 

  • Olives

Sliced mushrooms

Grilled haloumi

Grilled sliced lamb

Red bell pepper

Chopped herbs

 

  • Bean sprouts

Thinly sliced carrot

Chopped spring onions, mint and cilantro

Grilled lean beef or prawns

A dash of lime juice and sweet chilli sauce

Chopped peanuts

 

  • Chopped steamed sweet potato

Corn kernels

Crumbled blue cheese

Walnuts

Chopped boiled egg

A dash of mayo and basil pesto

Eating the rainbow has never been easier, or more satisfying

Make your salads huge and guilt free. Have one of these for lunch or dinner (or both!) and you are guaranteed to feel lighter, less sluggish and more energised, and you may even see some pounds slip off the scales. Most of all with these fantastic filling options you will not be bored, and you will certainly never go hungry with ‘just a salad’ again.

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