Let us Eat Lettuce
Allison Mignery, Guest Writer
Physical Activity & Nutrition Supervisor
Mecklenburg County Health Department
Ahh, lettuce! Cool, colorful, crisp, and super-healthy. Iceberg lettuce is the most common type used in salads and sandwiches, but there are certain types of lettuce such as Romaine, Looseleaf and Butterhead (Boston or Bibb) that have a leg up on their Iceberg cousin. The darker the leaf of lettuce is an assurance of higher nutrient content and antioxidants, which help to fight cancer and heart disease. In general, most lettuce is made up of water; however, it also contains vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and fiber.
Most lettuce is eaten raw, so consider removing any browned, slimy, or wilted leaves before you eat it or prepare it. For all lettuce types, you should thoroughly wash and pat dry the leaves to remove any dirt or lingering insects. In addition to their most common use in salads, you can also braise, steam, sauté and even grill certain lettuce varieties to create a wonderful and different dish. Try halving a head of Romaine lengthwise, brush on some extra virgin olive oil, and grill until they soften and turn golden brown.
Salads and lettuce have always had a delicious partnership. Salads are often associated with dieting, but they can be healthful and satisfying even if you’re not watching your waistline. With vegetables at their core, salads are great sources of vitamin C, folate and fiber. The most colorful combinations of salads—spiked with tomatoes, carrots, cabbages or bell peppers—also deliver vitamin A (as beta carotene). Choose no-chop veggies like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower florets, pre-cut celery and sugar snap peas for ease when making salads. Stock up on canned beans such as garbanzo beans and kidney beans. After a quick rinse with water, they’re ready to use in your salads. Once you've put together a nutrient-rich salad, the trick is not to make it a high-fat one by adding on buttery croutons or a high-fat dressing. If you follow the rule that vegetables should make up the core of the salad, then eating plenty of salads can be beneficial to a balanced and healthy diet.
Great salads deserve a great dressing, but remember to dress, don’t drown your salad. If you’ve been using three or more tablespoons of dressing per two cups of salad, try cutting back on the amount you use. A good rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon dressing for each 2-cup serving of salad greens. Experiment with reduced-calorie salad dressings to cut back even more. One quick and easy tip is to keep the dressing on the side to control how much you will be using. Dressing often slides off damp salad greens and collects in the bottom of the salad bowl, so you’ll get more flavor with less dressing if the salad greens are washed and thoroughly dried.
Identified by WebMD, here are six tasty, store-bought dressings, all with 8 grams of fat or less per 2 tablespoons:
Hidden Valley Ranch Light
Ken's Steakhouse Lite Raspberry
Wishbone Red Wine
Wishbone Raspberry Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Newman's Own Lighten Up! Light Balsamic Vinaigrette
Newman's Own Lighten Up! Low-fat Sesame Ginger
Or you can try making your own salad dressing. This Citrus Vinaigrette recipe is quite easy, low in calories and very tasty.
The Best of the Light Salad Dressings, 2005 WebMD, Inc., http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-best-of-the-light-salad-dressings. Recipe is courtesy of Vinaigrette Recipes: http://www.vinaigretterecipe.com/recipes/CitrusVinaigrette.htm.
Growing Lettuce in the Edible Landscape , Don Boekelheide
Allison Mignery is a Registered Dietitian nationally and a Licensed Dietitian in North Carolina. Allison is employed with the Mecklenburg County Health Department’s Health Promotion Team in Charlotte, NC, where she works closely with Mecklenburg County’s Park and Recreation Department and Cooperative Extension to help build and sustain community gardens in the area. Allison’s series To Your Health shares recipes and articles focused on good health.
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