When done right, a salad can be a complete, hearty, and nutrient-dense meal -- and a perfect addition to your daily diet during pregnancy. The great thing about a salad is that you can pack in a loaded combination of your favorite foods, which also gives you a variety and multitude of different essential vitamins and minerals. In pregnancy, ideally, you should be getting a daily dose of the following:
- Vitamin A & Beta Carotene
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B12
- Folic Acid/Folate
- Essential fats
Don't let the long list scare you -- many food items contain several of these nutrients, and when you create a wholesome and hearty salad using the ingredients below, it's possible to get amounts of all of them in one meal! For more info on the daily recommended amounts and the foods that provide these nutrients, check out this handy grid from the American Pregnancy Association.
Building the perfect, tasty salad isn't rocket science, but it does take some experimenting. Below, I've grouped together the most common and delicious different categories of salad ingredients and toppings. Choosing one or more items from each of these groups will help you create a salad that tastes good and fulfills a good percentage of many of the recommended daily nutrition requirements.
Building the Perfect Pregnancy Salad
For best flavor, texture, and consistency, use a base green, like spinach, kale, or a lettuce variety, then add in smaller amounts of greens like arugula or cabbage. Larger leaves work best when they're chopped in smaller pieces, or for cabbage, shredded.
- Baby spinach
- Red/Green leaf, butter, bibb lettuce
- Cabbage - green, red, bok choy, brussels sprouts
Choose a couple of items to boost the amount of protein in your salad. Anything cooked will be better cooled in a salad.
- Chicken or beef, chopped or shredded
- Hard boiled eggs, chopped
- Cooked beans
Adding additional vegetables or fruit to your salad will help bulk it up, adding fiber, vitamins, and even fat (avocado). Raw veggies will give your salad more crunch while roasted veggies will boost flavor. Fruit will offer a nice sweetness to balance the savory flavors.
- Avocado, chopped
- Roasted beets
- Zucchini, raw or roasted
- Roasted sweet potato, cubed
- Onions, raw, sauteed, or caramelized
If you're looking for a good punch of flavor, try adding one or two of these items to your salad.
- Citrus fruits
- Green or red onions
- Sharp cheese
Crunchy bits in a salad add the perfect texture to round out the perfect salad. A salad without crunch just isn't a good salad! Just one item from the crunchy list is all you need, but choose as many as you like!
- Roasted Soybeans
- Raw veggies
- Crumbled bacon (also a source of protein!)
- Whole wheat croutons
Salad is about texture and taste, which is why adding something chewy to your salad is a good idea to complement all the crunch. One or two from this list will do it.
- Dried fruit
- Whole grains - quinoa, bulgur, cracked wheat, rice, barley, wheat berry, millet, spelt, rye berry
Dressing can be as simple as adding olive oil or squeezed lemon. But for a little more flavor, while keeping it equally simple and healthy, try these combinations. Keep in mind the oil to vinegar ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar.
- olive oil, fresh lemon juice
- olive oil, balsamic vinegar
- olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey
- olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, lemon juice, minced garlic
Building your own salad gives you lots of choices, which can be a lot of fun to play around with. Personally, my favorite combination is a kale and spinach base, chopped mix of cabbage, chicken, cubed raw zucchini, roasted sweet potatoes, green onions, sunflower seeds, diced avocado, topped with a olive oil, lemon juice, honey and shredded ginger dressing.
Do you have the perfect salad combination? Share with us in the comments!