I love salad bars. REALLY, I do! There is just nothing like a good salad full of fresh veggies and lots of yummy toppings. I love the variety and all the bright beautiful colors.
Salads are really a great way to get those servings of vegetables in each day. I try hard to have a salad with every family dinner, and I often make one for myself at lunchtime. If I have some soup on hand, I will make a smaller salad, but if not, I load up the entire plate and top with pasta or chicken to make it more filling.
One of my favorite things in my kitchen is my Salad Spinner. It is so much more economical to buy a head of green leafy lettuce or romaine, than buying the pre-packaged stuff. It takes no time at all to give it a rinse and a spin…in fact, it is so easy that my 6 year old is the official salad spinner in this house. She begs me to be the one to wash the lettuce, break it into pieces and pack it into the spinner. She has so much fun watching the lettuce twirl, and has become quite the salad- eater since owning the job as the “Bowman family salad spinner.” She even asks for seconds now, which is a miracle since not too long ago she spent a nice chunk of our dinners fussing about having to eat her salad. I have found that if we pass the toppings around the dinner table and let the girls help themselves, (I put out a plate with a variety of chopped vegetables and fruit) they are much more likely to eat it. I tell them they have to have at least 3 different colors on their salads, and since they are artistically minded, it often turns into make a “pretty salad” time. I am proud to say (after much doubt that I ever would) that they are all 3 salad eaters. Yippee!
As far as dry toppings, sunflower seeds are very healthful and give good crunch. I also love a sprinkling dried cranberries. I often make my own croutons by keeping the ends of homemade bread (throw them into freezer in a ziplock until read to use), cube them, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt or what ever seasoning you like. Toast in oven just a few minutes until golden.
As a substitute for croutons, I will take crackers (like Wheat-Thins) and break up a handful and sprinkle it on my salad. I learned that little trick by watching my bro-in-law. (the same bro-in-law that taught me to put Baked Lays Potato Chips in my Subway sandwich:)) I guess we both like an added little crunch! We almost always have a box of crackers on hand, so I do this often.
Other toppings I like to add are grated cheese, hard boiled eggs, (these make great snacks- I try to always have some in the refrigerator, my girls love them and are now even making their own egg salad for sandwiches!) whole wheat pasta, (another thing I try to have on hand in the refrigerator, which we use up especially on the weekends, my girls help themselves to it for lunch and sprinkle with parm. cheese) and fresh fruit–chopped apples, clementines, grapes, strawberries, etc.
I try to keep dressings simple. Todd and I just drizzle ours with a good quality olive oil and a good quality balsamic vinegar. It really is delicious AS LONG as you buy the good stuff.
My girls love the spray dressings that are out by Wish-Bone, Wish-Bone Salad Spritzers, particularly the Red Wine Mist. It is full of red wine vinegar and they love that tang. I have tried to make my own homemade, but have bombed twice. I even tried filling the Wish-Bone bottle up with my homemade dressing, but it didn’t fool them!
I love seeing my family eat their salad! I have found between drinking our green smoothies and eating salads, that it is very easy to get our fruits and vegetables in. It takes a little rinsing and chopping up front, but the health benefits for my family make it very worth it!
**make sure you buy the green stuff! Romaine lettuce and Green Leafy lettuce have seven to eight times as much beta-carotene, and two to four times the calcium, and twice the amount of potassium as iceberg lettuce. Spinach is another green that is amazingly good for you, so throw some of that in, too. As a general rule, the darker green the leaves, the more nutritious the salad green.