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how do you build a NUTRITIOUS veggie salad?

medical studies keep showing how eating fresh fruits and vegetables are a perfect life extending way to provide nutrition without excess calories, so my question is; exactly what vegetables are best combined to give you a that well rounded "multivitamin" of nutrition.

for example, I like to combine the following for my daily salad;

red or green leaf lettuce
tomato and cucumber
pinto, black, red, garbanzo beans
chopped gherkins pickles instead of dressing.

so what commonly available vegetables should I add would provide some of the nutrients I may be missing from this daily salad, without adding too much sugar or starch vegetables?

I was thinking of adding Mushroom, but what else should I consider adding or omitting?

say you could walk up to a salad bar and then combine anything you wanted, so exactly what would you select for perfect well rounded nutrition, not just for flavor preference.

If you have links to other web sights that study this issue,
as well as how to build the perfect Nutritious FRUIT salad,
I would be very grateful for those references even by email;
joeberger AT gmail DOT com

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  1. I would add pepper of some kind, red or green as well as chopped egg if they have it. And olive oil and vinegar, both of which are good for you. I would not put pickles on it, that would spike the salt way up which IMO would not be "nutritious" if you're looking at it strictly from a nutrition standpoint. I would also mix in some spinach with that red lettuce, it's much more nutritious/has more vitamins. Sprinkle a little sunflower seed on it, I think you've then got a well-rounded, nutritious salad.

    1. Just so you know, cukes and mushrooms are both rather low in nutrients. Just saying, I like 'em and eat them but they don't pack much of a nutritional punch. What about nuts? Beets? Protein in the form of sardines or tofu? I've also heard watercress has as many nutrients as spinach, but is much lighter-tasting. Beans are a good call. I don't think it's a good idea to nix dressing. Olive oil is quite healthy and without a little flavor and body from fat, you'll end up with a diet that's very hard to sustain.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Mandymac

        mushrooms are a great addition! While they are light in calories, they are dense in vitamins and minerals.

          1. re: soupkitten

            Sorry, I just don't buy into that.

            1. re: Quine

              Yeah, I had never heard of the chemical component toxic to mice before I read your link, soupkitten. I'd want to do a little more research.

              The whole argument about mushrooms being grown on pasteurized horse dung, and therefore more susceptible to bacterial contamination, I don't see. Mushrooms are no more problematic than other vegetables. IMO, food safety's more about knowing the methods used to grow your food and washing them than ruling out foods because of someone rating them higher risk. I don't happen to like the taste and texture of most raw mushrooms, though, so for me it's a non-issue.

              1. re: amyzan

                I grow my own mushrooms sometimes and have taken expert courses. Yeah E coli drenched spinach and scallons are way safer...not.

      2. Cabbages of all sorts are extremely nutritious. This could be some finely-shredded red cabbage, or if you find that flavour too strong, one of the many Asian varieties.

        As for fruit salad, berries above all, and especially wild blueberries. Here in Qu├ębec, I can still find some, so I'll be sure to buy some this weekend - thanks for reminding me!

        1. Earl Mindel has written several books on nutrition, try his book, "Food as Medicine". Couple that book with the Berkeley Wellness "Food Encyclopedia" and you have answers to your questions.

          1. Watch the fruit. The give you fiber but they pack a huge sugar punch for the small amount of vitamins and minerals. You might want to pick up a paper back book, The Complete Book of Food Counts by Corinne Netzer so before you shop you have a better idea of what to select.

            1. I'd occasionally switch out the red or green leaf lettuce for something with a bit more bang for it's buck like spinach or arugula. you do need fat to absorb the nutrients of the vegetables, so olive oil, nuts, or avocado would be good. carrots are always good. as is lightly steamed broccoli. i'm also a huge fan of radishes for crunch, and i've heard they're pretty good for you too...

              1 Reply
              1. re: bladerobbins

                I would flat out stop using red/green leaf lettuce and start using romaine, and I do agree with bladerobbins about also adding in spinach and especially broccoli. I agree with others who would also add red bell pepper, loads of nutrition in that one. Here's the info' about romaine lettuce--it tends to be a darker green than red leaf/green leaf and is the only lettuce on this list:


              2. Choose a variety of colors every day (all the colors of a rainbow) and change the vegetables you use each day so don't stick to a base and you'll be fine. Every vegetable has different nutrients so you'll get the widest variety of them by having a variety of veggies.

                2 Replies
                1. re: chowser

                  That was going to be my tip, too. Mix colours and textures, add some lean protein like beans or cottage cheese, and toss with a low-fat/low-sugar dressing. (Notice I didn't say fat-free or sugar-free. I'm leaning towards the homemade, citrus- or vinegar-based dressings with a little oil for flavour and nutrients.)

                  1. re: piccola

                    Great advice about mixing it up since there is NO perfect food. When mixing, look for the deepest, richest colors - these foods pack the most nutirents. Iceberg lettuce VS spinach or any other dark green leafy green; the dark stuff wins every time, ditto for corn VS carrots.

                2. Walnuts are good on a salad, or slivered almonds. Walnuts and almonds are both pretty high in nutritional value. I also like to include broccoli, as it is also densely packed with nutrients. If you're not a big fan of the taste, you can just shave the tops into the salad and they will practically disappear. Spinach is a good suggestion for the greens - either add it to what you have or just use only it. I would suggest making either a citrus dressing of some kind (something with olive oil, lemon or orange juice, parmesian) or maybe some sort of yogurt-based dressing (you can add lots of savory spices to a mixture of yogurt and oil) will work.

                  Here's a list of 'superfoods'

                  1. I'd nix the cucumber, substitute red bell pepper, add mushrooms, walnuts or almonds or avocado for fat unless you are going to add a nice olive oil. Spinach, watercress, arugula or even kale or chard are nutrient-dense, but romaine is still great. Beans, tuna etc are all nice proteins to add on top.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: gini

                      Kale (a cabbage, and very rich in calcium) is a superfood, but I could never chew it raw in a salad! (much less digest it)... Chard, if young and tender.

                      1. re: lagatta

                        Arugula! Better than spinach, less chewy than kale et al. I love cooked kale though.

                        1. re: lagatta

                          I've had some nice salads with baby kale, actually.

                            1. re: WCchopper

                              Um, generic green? It was in a prepackaged mix with arugula, pea tendrils, and something else, so it was more of a supporting player.

                      2. olive oil for healthy fats and acids
                        red/purple/orange pepper for beta carotene and other carotenoids
                        spinach leaves for iron
                        broccoli, radishes and orange slices for vitamin c
                        pumpkin seeds for zinc
                        fennel and onion for antioxidant flavonoids
                        celery for potassium

                        are you looking specifically for low-calorie, low-fat items, or just "nutritious" ones that are low in carbs? if you don't mind some (healthy) fat and calories, i would add to the list:

                        avocado for more healthy fat and protein
                        papaya for many vitamins, as well as to aid in digestion
                        peanuts for protein

                        I don't think you are doing yourself any favors by skipping the dressing- a tablespoon of good olive oil is one of the best foods you can give your body on a daily basis- good for the heart, the digestive system, skin, hair, and cell repair. add some fresh citrus juice instead of vinegar, and pinch of natural sea salt, and you've got a perfectly healthy dressing.

                        1. raddichio's another leaf for the base to consider
                          nutritious antioxident heavy toppings not yet mentioned: steamed yams, pomegrante seeds,
                          sprout mixes,

                          Consider using flax oil in your salad dressing mix

                          1. As some others have said, don't forgo healthy fat sources like avocado, olives, olive oil, and nuts like walnuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds. Some of the vitamins in your salad are only soluble in the presence of fat, so you'll miss their benefits without some added fat in that salad.

                            I would add red, yellow, or orange peppers, dark leafy greens like spinach, baby beet greens, or arugula, and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, too.

                            1. I wouldn't eliminate cucumbers as others have suggested; they are a natural diuretic, and will help to eliminate bloat due to water retention.

                              My two favorite ingredients in salads are artichoke hearts (no olive oil or pre-marinated) and hearts of palms.

                              I love par-cooked and chilled asparagus, or grilled asparagus on my salads, as well as blanched green beans and blanched cauliflower and broccoli (I find these two less enjoyable in a salad when completely raw).

                              I also love grilled veggies: eggplant, maui onions, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, butternut squash, etc. coated in garlic salt prior to grilling.

                              Sub spinach leaves for or supplement lettuce

                              Lentils are a great addition

                              Love crumbled or sliced egg whites for protein

                              1. I would say all of the above, but vary your picks from day to day. Eating "non nutritious" vegetables once in a while is not going to kill you, and if you restrict yourself to the "most nutritious" you might miss out on some of the trace elements the others have to offer. Also eating the same thing every day is boring. Since I began growing more unusual greens (commonly sold as mesclun mix, mizuma, japanese mustard, japanese cabbage, cress, etc) to supplement the 4-5 varieties of lettuce I usually raise, my salads have been pepped up considerably. If you want vitaminized crunch, you could even add non-sugared breakfast cereal! (though I don't).

                                1. Hi Joe,

                                  This is a perfect time of year for great salads given that farmers' markets are still going strong! I start with different varieties of kale (which are loaded with vitamins and iron and are certainly tender enough for salad if fresh--plus, the thicker leaves make it more substantial and nutrient-dense than lettuce.) Then I add tons of chopped veggies--broccoli, cucumbers, radishes, and cherry tomatoes (especially now!) If I feel like it, I add grated carrots and grated raw beets, and I always add an entire cubed avocado, because the fat helps absorb all the nutrients of the vegetables (I hate oily salad dressings.) I dress it lightly with balsamic vinegar, and it's perfect!

                                  1. I use a variety of greens (from my garden or farmers market, whenever possible) grated carrots, herbs, clover and radish sprouts, various peppers, cukes, beans, scallions. I make one big bowl and use this a a base for lunches or dinners over the next few days and just add whatever protein leftovers I have--salmon, chicken, nuIs, etc--along with some ground flax seed. Very nutritious and it keeps quick lunches at the ready when packing up for work! It would be ideal to make this fresh ecvvery day, but it's too time consuming--and this lasts well for a few days.