“Salad bars are like a restaurant’s lungs. They soak up the impurities and bacteria in the environment, leaving you with much cleaner air to enjoy.” — Douglas Coupland
There’s a joke about how, sadly, no diet says french fries are a good idea. Likewise, there is no sensible diet that says fresh vegetables are a bad idea. It simply never hurts to get more veggies in.
Salads are the easiest and best way to eat vegetables. Each mouthful can be a fresh crunch of exploding flavours. It’s hard to go wrong with them.
Good Food Bowl
I eat a variation of this simple salad recipe as my go-to lunch and dinner at home. It’s sometimes called a Buddha bowl, goodness bowl, rainbow food – use whatever sounds nicest to you. I call it the Good Food Bowl. I pile it with raw and a few lightly cooked items. The wide colour spectrum is half the delight, and how I choose what goes into mine: green, red, orange, yellow, purple, etc.
My basic Good Food Bowl – feeds 1 person:
- handful green leaves
- ½ head broccoli, thick stalks removed, cut into florets, steamed for 3 minutes over pot of boiling water, with lid over colander
- 1 tomato, chopped, or a few tablespoons of homemade salsa (recipe here)
- 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
- ½ red capsicum/bell pepper, chopped, with white bits and seeds removed
- ½ yellow capsicum/bell pepper, chopped, with white bits and seeds removed
- 1 carrot, grated
- a handful of sweet corn
- juice of 1 lime/lemon
- a dollop of hummus (recipe here)
- few olives
- few capers (my current crush, though it comes from a bottle: gives a gentle but decisive kick of tartness)
Pop everything into a bowl, chew thoroughly (I had to train myself to do this…) and enjoy!
Change it up
There are endless variations. I see what’s on its last legs in the fridge/pantry, and eat that first.
- Other vegetables: add or substitute kale, mustard greens, spinach, cauliflower (steamed), green beans, peas, asparagus, white or purple cabbage, or whatever is available locally and seasonally.
- Any vegetable can be added raw except for potatoes, which need to be steamed or boiled.
- I don’t mix fruit and veg, but pomegranate and pineapple can be added to veggie salads without problems.
- Also: I know tomatoes, cucumbers and avocados are technically fruit, but they are commonly treated and eaten as vegetables as they mix so well.
- I add l-2 teaspoons of nuts (almonds, cashews, pine nuts) or seeds (sesame, pumpkin, sunflower) to my evening bowl. This helps with the body’s repair work at night. Serious athletes (that would be not me) have it for lunch too.
- If I’m extra hungry, I add quinoa, a high-protein ancient South American pseudo-cereal that functions more as a seed (it also tastes great cold, so cook a large batch and have over a few days). Cooked whole grains (wild rice, rice noodles, wholewheat pasta, couscous, bulgar wheat) can also be added, especially for colder climates. As can cooked legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas), though these are better had as sprouts.
- Alternatives for hummus: ½ avocado, cubed or mashed with lemon juice; artichoke hearts; baba ganoush; a tablespoon of plain tahini; handful of sprouted chickpeas or other pulses. Note: more than one of these at a time makes the meal too heavy for me, but I would definitely add one to give it some heft and/or creaminess. Without it I feel hungry an hour later, unless I’m having mashed potatoes after the salad.
It’s hard to think of someone who delighted in eating as much as Julia Child. Her memoir, My Life in France, captures her exuberance and delight with all things French, especially the food. Nora Ephron partly based her film Julie & Julia on this.
“I want to make this clear: it’s not the ingredients in plants, it’s the plants. It’s not the beta-carotene, it’s the carrots. The evidence is very clear that plants promote health. You eat more plants, you eat less other stuff, you live longer.” Watch Mark Bittman’s TED talk about What’s Wrong With What We Eat: