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Life Kit: How to make better salads


Ninety percent of adult Americans need to eat more vegetables, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An easy way to do that is to toss those veggies into salads. Reporter Kyle Norris has been doing just that in his home kitchen.

KYLE NORRIS, BYLINE: I chop up this half a bell pepper. It's red for some bright pop, and I love the crunch and the taste. Pretty.

ESTRIN: And he's collected a few tips for NPR's Life Kit about how to make everyday salads better.

NORRIS: Salads can be nutritious, a fun way to eat vegetables and great for hot weather because you don't need to cook anything to make a salad. And they're customizable. This may sound obvious, but don't put things that you don't like to eat into your salad. That's what chef Jay Guerrero says.

JAY GUERRERO: It's always start with the thing you want to eat.

NORRIS: Find inspiration by what's in season - maybe asparagus or strawberries or tomatoes or squash. Guerrero says you can even start with something unexpected, like shredding up some barbecue chicken and adding a few potatoes.

GUERRERO: But then I also have some, like, red onion to provide, like, a bite. And then maybe I'll put in some radishes to give me some crunch.

NORRIS: He says use a creamy dressing and sneak in more vegetables like shredded cabbage, and suddenly you have an entire meal. As you add ingredients, go for variety with texture and flavor. As a kid, Guerrero's dad made the same salad every day. It's a salad you'll find in plenty of Filipino households.

GUERRERO: The sweetness comes from the green beans and also from - a little bit from the tomatoes as well. And then you have salt from your fish sauce and, like, that kind of deep umami flavor from the fish sauce.

NORRIS: Throw in a hard-boiled egg, and you have a solid salad with different textures and tastes. To add texture to your salads, try nuts for crunchiness. Guerrero loves candied nuts. For sourness, add things like sauerkraut or kimchi. And for bitterness, try mustard or dandelion greens. Annette Sacksteder is a naturopathic physician who gives this tip to her patients.

ANNETTE SACKSTEDER: If you look at your plate, I want to see your plate every meal, even breakfast, be at least a half vegetables. So that could be salad and other vegetables.

NORRIS: She gets her salad inspiration from the rainbow.

SACKSTEDER: It's kind of a cliche, the colors of the rainbow, but it's actually a great way to think about it. So you've got greens. But then I like different shades of greens. I'm looking for some reds, looking for some purples, also maybe some white.

NORRIS: Those rainbow colors find their way into what Sacksteder calls her bowl of life salad.

SACKSTEDER: And it is a deep dive into texture and color and flavor and crunch.

ESTRIN: It's got lettuce, spinach, rainbow chard, radishes and a handful of cilantro and parsley. And sometimes, she adds grated carrots or beets or cabbage. You can make your salads taste good with salad dressings. Bottle dressings are all right, but Sacksteder says they can be pricey and high in sugar. Try making your own vinaigrette by combining a fat with an acid, something like olive oil or canola oil, along with lemon juice or vinegar. And the 3 to 1 rule is a good place to start. That means use three parts of the fat to one part of the acid and try mustards, spices and herbs along with salt and pepper to switch things up. Put that dressing into your salad and use a big bowl and toss it with your hands. And one final tip from Sacksteder - if you want some support upping your veggies, find a salad buddy to share ideas and recipes with.

SACKSTEDER: Doing things in community and to do it with support and encouragement can really make a difference.

NORRIS: For NPR News, I'm Kyle Norris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kyle Norris got her start in radio as a Michigan Radio intern. Her features have appeared on The Environment Report, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The Splendid Table, World Vision Report, Justice Talking, and The Health Show.
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