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5Ws+1H: How It's Done: Salad can be heathy, adaptable meal

Mar. 12—Salads can make for a healthy meal, but they are easily adaptable to satisfy almost any craving.

Heather Winn, Cherokee County OSU Extension Office family and consumer science educator, said a salad is a mixture of food arranged on a plate or tossed and served with dressing.

Winn said salads can have many variations — anything from shrimp to chicken to vegetables. When it comes to creating a nutritious salad, Winn said people should start with greens.

"The darker lettuces do offer more vitamins or nutrients than the iceberg lettuce," Winn said. "Iceberg lettuce tends to be mostly water, but the darker the greens, the more healthy it is for you."

After the greens, Winn said any kind of vegetable — spinach, green beans, carrots, radishes, and more — can be added. Vegetables add color and offer more flavor.

For those with a sweet tooth, Winn said fruit is a good option, which can include strawberries, blueberries, raisins, etc. A more savory and protein packed salad can include one with meats and cheese. More protein can include anything from tuna to shrimp to eggs to turkey.

"Depending on what foods you have, if you do chicken strips or you do some sort of battered and fried chicken or fried shrimp that's going add some calories because of the fried food on it," Winn said. "But at the same time if you don't have a lot of that it's still going to be a healthy salad."

Nuts and seeds can also be mixed into to add a crunch and other nutrients. Some common additions include sunflower seeds and walnuts. Winn siad salt and pepper can also add "a little zing" to the meal or side.

After the salad is built, the dressing can then be selected. Consumers should be wary when incorporating salad dressing, as 1 tablespoon can add 50 to 80 calories.

"Probably one of the biggest things we do to our salads that make them less healthy is the salad dressing," Winn said.

To keep unwanted calories from creeping in, Winn said people can put the dressing on the side, so the amount of dressing is controlled. Lower fat dressings are also available, while homemade mixtures are also an option.

When it comes to storing a salad, Winn said she normally doesn't keep anything for more than three days. Keeping the salad in a vegetable bin and making sure the items are completely dried off after washing can also help to prolong the lifespan.