Mason jar salads are everywhere on the internet… and now it’s time to put them in your own refrigerator! Your mason jars need to be wide-mouthed with tight-fitting lids in order to keep your salad fresh. For an entrée salad, use a larger mason jar (more room for deliciousness.) If you only want a side salad, use a smaller jar.
The absolute key is to put wet ingredients in the bottom of the jar, while keeping your greens dry at the top of the jar. Always start by pouring your dressing of choice into the bottom of the jar. This first step will make or break your salad.
Pause before pouring in your favorite dressing. Thick, creamy dressings are delicious, but can skyrocket the calorie content of your salad to that of a cheeseburger! A simple oil and vinegar dressing really can be delicious. Olive oil with red wine vinegar, or balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper will enhance, not hide, the freshness of your salad.
If you must have your ranch, thousand island, or blue cheese, be sure to enjoy it in an appropriate two tablespoon portion. Be very mindful of the sugar content in prepared and bottled dressings. As always, avoid the words “low-fat” as they equal “added sugar.”
Next up are the veggies! Vegetable additions to your salad are seemingly endless: beets, bell pepper, black beans, broccoli, carrots, chickpeas, cucumbers, tomato… the list goes on and on!
When layering a mason jar salad, put “hard” vegetables like carrots, bell pepper, or cucumber on top of the dressing to act as a barrier. “Softer” veggies like avocado, tomato, or sprouts should go on top of the hard veggies.
Salads aren’t just for vegetables – why not try adding fresh berries like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries? Fruits would go on top of the “softer” veggies as you continue to layer your salad.
Now it’s time to add the protein. It’s especially important for diabetics to include a little protein with their salads. Grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon, or steak are all delicious and versatile salad additions. If you aren’t a meat eater, add some extra garbanzo beans, or cubed tofu to your salad.
You can also add extra protein and healthy fats by sprinkling seeds or nuts on top of the meat. This not only increases the nutrition factor, but adds texture and crunch!
Finally, add in the greens. Choose your greens wisely. While iceberg lettuce is high in water content, it is low in actual nutrition. It’s low in calories and can help fill you up, but your body does not get much in the way of fuel. There are a few varieties of salad greens that pack a more nutritious punch.
Perhaps the most widely advertised lately is kale. Kale is all-the-rage, with its high levels of vitamins A, C, and K. It can be difficult to digest, however, especially if you aren’t used to eating it often.
Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse in any number of recipes, but most especially when raw and enjoyed in salads. Vitamins A, C, and K, iron and fiber. While usually regarded as a simple garnish, watercress is another delicious and nutritious salad green option, with over half your daily recommended amount of vitamin C in a 2.5 cup serving!
Arugula is another of those “garnish” greens, but it can be so much more than that! It’s bright, peppery flavor really goes a long way in adding zip to your salad, and it’s an excellent source of fiber, protein, and a host of vitamins and minerals.
We’ve made our way to good ole’ romaine lettuce. This popular salad green contains vitamins A and K, but not in the levels of our other greens choices. The same goes for red and green leaf lettuce varieties, and butter lettuce – they’re mild tasting and very versatile, but not quite as nutritious. Try enhancing those lettuces with a little spinach, kale, or arugula to increase flavor along with vitamin and mineral content.
The combination of dressing, veggies, and protein can be random, or can allow you to “theme” your salad. For example, guacamole at the bottom of your jar, bell pepper, onion, black beans and tomato for your veggies, and grilled chicken as your protein. Spinach and arugula for greens, with some chopped cilantro added in = southwest mason jar salad!
Once you’ve crammed in the greens, be sure to seal the jar tightly. Store your jars of salad goodness in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. (Good luck trying to make them last!)