Salads aren’t a vegetarian’s only food option, but they’re definitely a big part of their diet. And unfortunately, that’s what makes many otherwise health-conscious people think twice about going meat-free. But the salad’s reputation as a bland side dish is largely undeserved. Although it can get unsatisfying if you have the same two or three things every day, salads lend themselves very well to experimenting. That’s the fun part: you can mix and match to your heart’s content and come up with a variety of salads that satisfy your cravings minus the guilt. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
Roast your veggies: Roasting brings out a different side of vegetables, layering them with richer flavors and softer textures. You can roast them on a grill or your oven, or just sear them on a pan if you’re in a hurry. Eggplants, zucchini, mushrooms, and bell peppers are especially ideal for roasting. Toss them in with some orzo or couscous, drizzle on some olive oil and spices and herbs of your choice, and you’ve got a quick meal that’s good enough for seconds.
Experiment with cheese: Cheeses lend both volume and flavor to salads, making an otherwise light dish a lot more satisfying. Crumbled feta livens up a bowl of greens, while provolone or mozzarella grains add bite to a zesty tomato salad. If you’re a vegan, no worries–most soy-based alternatives are now up to par with their dairy counterparts. Just make sure to use it sparingly–a little goes a long way!
Get your protein: Vegetarian salads don’t have to be completely protein-free. If you like the taste of meat, tempeh or other meat substitutes can do the job pretty well, although you have to watch for the sodium content as some of them are highly processed. Grains, beans, and pulses are also a great source of protein, as well as fiber. If you’re watching your carbs, grains like quinoa and barley can safely satisfy cravings.
Think fruit: Vegetables and fruits can go surprisingly well together. Whether it’s a few orange slices in your Thai salad or a bold mix of grapes and turnip, there are lots of ways to experiment with contrast. Throw some mango slices into your chicken salad or toss your favorite greens in some strawberry vinaigrette. It’s a great way to change things up a little, not to mention getting an effortless daily dose of antioxidants.