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Healthy Eats and Repeat

Highlighting Food, Recipes, and Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle

May is National Salad Month!

May is National Salad Month! What a month to celebrate! Think of all the different types of salads: the classic with leafy lettuce, bound salads like chicken salad, main dish salads, and even those with fruit. To keep with the spring theme I have going (check out Spring into Green (Asparagus)!) and to celebrate National Salad Month, lettuce is the perfect pick.

Just like asparagus, lettuce is a vegetable full of healthful nutrients. Amounts do vary with the type of lettuce, but the darker the leaf, the more nutrients the leaf has. That said, lettuces are a good source of vitamins A and K and folate. And bonus: they are low in calories, usually 10 calories per cup or less, and contain no fat (until you add it). Yes, lettuce is nutrient-dense vegetable!

Since you probably have no trouble eating lettuce in some form, the fun of eating lettuce will come from the variety. Lettuces come in different colors (look for red leaf lettuce) and different textures (romaine and Boston Bib have more crunch than leaf lettuce).

Whether you munch on lettuce like a rabbit or stick to a few leaves on your sandwich, consider the following to get the most out of your lettuce at home:

  • Buy: Look for leaves that are firm and have not begun to wilt or feel slimy. For heads of lettuce, look for those that are compact and firm.
  • Price: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fresh, unpackaged lettuce costs $1.95 per pound on average (before you cut off any unusable parts). When 1 pound of romaine lettuce yields around 6 cups of cut greens, it is definitely affordable! And since 1 cup of raw lettuce is a serving of vegetables, you can serve 6 people for $0.33 each!
  • Store: Lettuce is perishable and should be used quickly. To keep lettuce fresh:

1) store unwashed in plastic – such as the plastic bag you likely bought the lettuce in,

2) store in the coolest part of your refrigerator towards the back, and

3) use within 1 week.

*Note* Keep lettuce away from apples and pears in your refrigerator. Ethylene gas in those fruits will speed up the decay of the lettuce.

  • Prepare: Tear or cut leaves into the size you desire and rinse under cold water. Dry leaves with a clean paper towel. Wet leaves do not allow dressings or other ingredients to cling to them.

*Note* Be careful of cross-contamination with lettuce and raw meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Since you rarely cook lettuce, make sure you use different cutting boards for lettuce and raw meat so you do not make yourself sick.

  • Eat: Lettuce is a very versatile vegetable. It is mild in flavor but adds crunch to recipes. It can be eaten raw as a base in salads, as a topping on sandwiches, or used as the wrap in lettuce wraps. Even look for recipes that grill lettuce as part of salads and sandwiches.

I am a fan of lettuce because of its quick preparation time and how many ways it can be used. I like using lettuces in main dish salads, like in the Asian Chicken Salad recipe below.

Asian Chicken Salad (serves 4)

In this recipe, the romaine lettuce is used as the salad base, along with green cabbage. Although the chicken is cooked, be sure to keep the other uncooked ingredients separate to prevent cross-contamination. Serve it family-style along with crusty bread for a full meal. And add a fruit salad on the side to really celebrate National Salad Month! Try this recipe and tell me what you think!

4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups shredded green cabbage
1/2 cup shredded radicchio
1/2 cup shredded carrot
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup mandarin oranges
1/2 cup Chow Mein noodles
1/4 cup slivered unsalted almonds (optional)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (or another white vinegar)
1 Tbsp less-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger (or 1 tsp fresh minced ginger)

1. Toss lettuce, cabbage, radicchio, carrots, and green onions in a large bowl. Sprinkle with oranges, Chow Mein noodles, and almonds, if desired.
2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl to coat evenly.
3. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet and cook 4 minutes. Turn chicken and cook 4 more minutes or until thoroughly cooked.
4. Meanwhile, combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
5. Add half of dressing to cooked chicken in skillet; stir to coat. Reserve remaining dressing. Continue cooking 2 more minutes to heat through.
6. Remove chicken from skillet and place on salad. Serve with reserved dressing.

Nutritional analysis per serving (without almonds): 330 calories, 18g fat, 560mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 29g protein

Nutritional analysis per serving (with almonds): 370 calories, 20g fat, 560mg sodium, 18g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 30g protein

WEB HIGHLIGHT: Check out more information on lettuces through the University of Illinois Extension. Besides information on nutrition and preparation, learn to grow your own!

WORD HIGHLIGHT: Cross-contamination: The spread of bacteria and other disease-causing organisms from 1) raw and uncooked foods (often meat, poultry, fish, and eggs) and/or 2) unclean objects (used dish clothes, used cutting boards) to cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

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