Springtime Spinach Strawberry Splendor Salad
It’s been a long time coming… but I think it’s finally safe to say spring is (sort of) in the air here in Boston!
I love spring for so many reasons. For me, spring is not just the start of longer days and warmer weather, but more fresh air, serotonin, motivation, inspiration, and new beginnings.
I have also been finding that suddenly my body is ready for more salads!
(There’s never a wrong time to eat a salad, but in my experience salads are just so much more enjoyable when the sun is warm and there’s no snow on the ground!)
Salads are one of those foods that get easily labeled and hyped up by diet culture:
- We are programmed to believe that if we want to be “healthy”, we must choose the salad.
- We are programmed to believe that when we eat a salad it must be as bland as possible if we are “being good” – fat-free cheese/dressing, dressing on the side or even sans dressing.
- Side note: by opting for low-fat or no-fat dressing, we are actually doing a disservice to our bodies because dietary fats help us to absorb all the amazing fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, K) found in leafy greens. Fats also help us to feel fuller and more sustained for longer!
- We begin to believe that “healthy” = “salad” = “rabbit food” = “boring” and not fun or cool.
Nowadays many of us automatically connect salads and dark leafy greens with DEPRIVATION, BORING, or other negative connotations… without even realizing it! 🙁
Why is this a problem? Because it reinforces black-and-white thinking, yo-yo dieting and mind games around food.
To put this into perspective…the “pendulum” effect
In eating disorder treatment centers, patients with anorexia and bulimia are typically taught by their clinicians that if they choose the salad, “it must be their eating disorder” because salad is labeled as a “diet food”. And sadly due to the above programming, a lot of times patients really do pick salads over other food options for that reason.
But for many people in recovery it’s not the case – they just like salad. Or maybe they’re trying to listen to their bodies and they want some vitality. And they’re being told it’s wrong or not okay on some level.
Regardless, the pendulum is now swinging in the opposite direction: entree salads are actually FORBIDDEN in many eating disorder treatment facilities, and patients in recovery now often seem to believe that eating kale or an entree salad must be disordered (still black-and-white thinking, but in another form).
Salads and dark leafy greens in general, when consumed responsibly (whether raw or cooked or juiced), make for an AMAZING tool to help replete vitamin/mineral deficiencies and thus support mental and emotional heath on a cellular level, since our brain is a vital organ which is biochemically impacted by our nutritional status.
Also great for a lot of other things, whether someone has an eating disorder or not.
I rest my case: We need to change the way we talk and think about salads!
Let’s make salads fun again.
First off – don’t choose salad because you “should”; choose salad if it appeals to you and it’s something you enjoy!
Next – make sure you include ALL the macro’s (carbs, proteins, fats) in addition to the veggies so that you are sustained for more than an hour or two.
- This means including some type of carb (i.e. fruit or roasted sweet potatoes or cooked rice/quinoa), protein (cheese, beans, chicken, or hard boiled egg etc.), and fat (non-diet dressing, oil and vinegar, sliced avocado and/or nuts). Those are just some ideas. 🙂
This kind is my favorite: Springtime Spinach Strawberry Splendor Salad.
AKA: a bed of baby spinach tossed with fresh strawberries, sliced cucumbers, creamy goat cheese and crunchy pecans drizzled in a sweet raw honey balsamic glaze… basically a 5-star meal and even good enough to be a dessert (according to my mom at least)!
1 lb container baby spinach, washed
1 pint strawberries, washed and sliced
1 European cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 cup pecans
- Nut allergies: swap for sunflower seeds
5 to 6 oz. or 3/4 cup goat cheese chevre
Optional: For extra protein – add chicken or chickpeas
Raw Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp raw honey (vegan/FODMAP alternative: maple syrup)
- Prepare vinaigrette by whisking olive oil, balsamic and raw honey in a small bowl until smooth.
- In a large serving bowl, toss spinach with the vinaigrette dressing (right after dressing has been stirred) then add remaining ingredients. Continue to toss until uniform. Makes about 3-4 servings.
- We get our energy-boosting carbohydrates from the berries and honey, heart-healthy fats from the olive oil and pecans, vegetarian proteins from the pecans and cheese, fiber from the fruit and veggies, and micro-nutrients in every bite.
- Dark leafy greens like spinach, arugula, kale, romaine, collards etc. pack the most incredible nutritional punch. Iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene, vitamin K… I could go on. 😉
One more thing I love about this salad is that the vitamin C from the berries combines with the plant-based iron in the spinach so that the iron converts from “non-heme” to the activated (“heme”) form, becoming more bio-available – readily absorbed by the body. (You can read more about iron and anemia here.)
Enjoy and please share or comment to let me know what you think!