For many guys, “salad” would be a four-letter word if it didn’t have five letters. Salad gets an unfair rap, though. This article’s mission: challenge you to rethink your relationship with salad…a better, more satisfying kind of salad than you typically see.
Why does salad need a reputation overhaul?
First – and no offense meant to women (from whom men can learn a lot about health) – we’re conditioned to think of it as un-manly. Sometimes restaurant servers just assume salad was ordered by a female at the table. Salad’s derided as “rabbit food” (and no rabbit, not even Bugs or Ricochet Rabbit, seems manly enough).
More substantively, most salads actually kind of suck. Even at expensive restaurants, they’re usually a pile of greens with a few small things thrown on there. And the “side salad” with an entrée is typically pitiful. Order it at risk of feeling bitter regret for passing up the trusty spuds that were the other option. “Salad” begins to feel like “sacrifice.”
And salad seems like a lot of work. Washing, peeling, etc.
But salad done right – with a variety of good vegetables, a solid serving of protein, healthy fats like avocado, and a nice dressing – is one of the best things you can eat for lunch or dinner. And it’s easy to make nowadays.
Even just two of these per week will have substantial nutrition and weight management benefits. And you’ll like it, man. Guaranteed, or I’ll give you double your salad back.
INGREDIENTS FOR YOUR “MAN SALAD”
This isn’t rocket science, I admit. (I know, in the UK “rocket” is a salad vegetable). But even though an awesome man salad is a simple thing, it’s just so rare to see a salad like the one described here.
Here’s your ingredient list and a few tips. This is fast/easy stuff to throw together at home, or a good salad bar will have it all there for you.
Vegetables: Your Base
I often have all of these in a single salad. In many cases, today’s food industry presents them in a form that vastly reduces the hassle historically associated with making a salad.
- Greens: Look for spinach or greener lettuces. Not Romaine and definitely not Iceberg, man. By the way, kale’s pretty good, especially in a pre-made mix with other greens. Buy pre-washed salad greens – no washing, no drying, no tearing lettuce.
- Peppers: Buy organic if available, since peppers are one of the “dirty dozen” where organic makes the biggest difference. Red, yellow and orange ones are a totally different experience than the green peppers of yore.
- Cucumber: English cukes don’t have wax, and thus don’t need to be peeled. Goodbye to another traditional salad-making hassle!
- Carrots: Get shredded, pre-washed carrots for zero work, or the pre-washed “baby” carrots that you just need to quickly cut into strips. No more washing and peeling here.
- Tomatoes: “Grape” tomatoes are a nice size to throw onto your salad.
- Sugar snap peas: Optional and I don’t always use them. But they’re also available pre-washed, and add more nutritional value and varied texture.
- Avocado! This is healthy fat, and helps keep you full enough. Here’s a video on the easiest and best way to cut an avocado.
Proteins: Key Ingredient to Make This a Meal Salad
Pretty much any meat protein can be good thrown on a salad. Maybe ribs would be weird, but other than that…
I put enough onto a salad that pretty much every bite has a protein plus vegetables. These in particular are really good.
- Chicken, of course. This can be chicken you cook, or a store-bought roast chicken. The latter, together with all the ready-to-eat vegetables described above, makes a man’s meal salad really quick to throw together. With leftover roast chicken, you can microwave a portion in barbecue sauce, salsa, teriyaki – and you’ve instantly got a different-tasting topper for another salad, dude.
- Steak. Leftovers, or a noble purpose for a freshly-grilled one. A lean cut of beef on a good salad – this is “health food” that tastes really good.
- Salmon, tuna or other fish TBD. Fresh, grilled versions are great. For lunch at least, even canned tuna can be OK, and gets you near the zero-work-required threshold.
- Even things like burger or chicken sausage are good on a salad.
- Plant-based proteins. This isn’t normally my thing. But the right combo of grains, nuts/seeds and legumes is a complete protein.
Dressing & Other Toppers
Now you can add a few things for extra flavor and some moisture.
- Dressing. Look for ones based on olive oil (more fat, but good fat) or canola, sunflower or safflower seed oil. Not soybean oil or so-called “vegetable oil” which has unknown components. Ideally, have sugar be <= five grams per serving. At the supermarket, there are usually 2-3 dressings that meet these criteria. Be reasonable in how much you use – enough to get some coverage of your salad, but not more than needed!
- Cheese. A little bit won’t kill you. Ground hard cheeses like parmesan add flavor and are pretty low-fat. Feta cheese, goat cheese and mozzarella are also good (the latter being higher fat/calories – don’t use a ton of it). A lot of cheeses are available in “crumble” form. So as with vegetables, you just open a container and put them on your salad. No cutting, re-wrapping or knife washing.
- Hummus. I know this sounds weird. But if you like hummus, a spoonful or two on one edge of the salad, combined into salad bites as you go, is great. It adds some healthy fat and protein, and lets you use a little less salad dressing while not leaving the salad dry. Try this. (And maybe try another of my weird inventions, the PB, J & Banana Burrito).
You now have in front of you a sizable, tasty salad with these great characteristics:
- No refined flours and very little added sugar (would come from dressing)
- Only good-for-you carbs, including lots of fiber
- Healthy fats
- Lean protein
- Filling – you won’t be hungry until It’s next time to eat
- Tastes good
MAN SALAD CHALLENGE
With only your thriving in mind, I challenge you to do this for the next 3 months, brother. Once a week, eat a salad like this for lunch. Once a week, have one like it for dinner. That’s it.
The bread/potatoes/pasta you’ll skip this way – reducing sandwiches or typical entrée side dishes — are at least 500 calories a week, maybe much more. With each 3,500 calories representing a pound gained or lost, this means you’d lose one-plus pound every seven weeks, or seven-plus pounds a year, just by adopting this habit. Or maybe it means you’re on your way to gaining that weight this year unless you do this, man. Either way, this is a good move.
The best part is, I bet you’ll come to enjoy these salads, both for their eating experience AND because you know you’re eating clean, which makes you feel good both physically and mentally.
“I’m strong to the finich, cause I eats me spinach.” (Popeye the Sailor Man theme — click to listen). *** I’m SORRY for this, guys. After more than 100 OlderBeast articles and 100 related rock quotes, I racked my brain but could not come up with anything on-point and legitimate. Hopefully a little nostalgia value from Popeye!
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