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Fall in Love with Autumn Salads

The colder weather has arrived and it instantly turns from salad to soup season on menus and in kitchens alike. But, as I’m sure you could’ve guessed, salads are actually good for you all year round – and it doesn’t hurt that they require minimal, if any, cooking or prep time. You revamp your wardrobe for fall so why not revamp your salad selection a bit too?

Eating seasonally means both the taste and the nutrient content are at their peak. It’s also more wallet friendly – if it’s in season then it’s plentiful, and probably on sale.

Before we get to the makeover, let’s do a make under. Greens don’t mean an automatic health halo; not when so many salad staples are more of what I would consider “salad sabotagers.” Croutons, candied nuts and creamy bottled dressings, oh my! Also guilty: sugar-soaked dried fruit (looking at you, dried cranberries), breaded or fried chicken, excess cheese or any “crunchy” chips or noodles. Leave the salad sabotagers off your plate -- regardless of whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall.

A seasonal salad isn’t only about add-ons. It starts with the greens. There’s nothing wrong with lettuce or spinach, but microgreens are at their peak right now -- so I’m a fan of Simple Truth’s spring mix with herbs. Other greens in season for the fall: endive, radicchio, frisee, watercress and kale.

Now for the autumn add-ins; here are a few of my favorites:

  • Apples: Fuji, Honeycrisp, Gala, Pink Lady…options are endless (over 7,000 types of apples worldwide), but adding sliced apples to greens brings a sweet crispness -- and an extra serving of fiber and vitamin C.
  • Pomegranate seeds: Sweet and tart, these little seeds are colorful and crunchy. They have been touted as a superfood for their anti-cancer and heart-health benefits.
  • Squash: Slicing up roasted butternut squash or pumpkin can make for a hearty, starchy addition to a salad -- a great alternative for crouton/bread junkies.
  • Pumpkin seeds: Halloween might be over but pumpkin season is in full swing. Add some crunch with the seed of the season. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc – essential for immunity. Roast a batch yourself or try Simple Truth’s raw version.
  • Beets: The dark red/purple root vegetable is so sweet, I think it’s the epitome of “dirt candy.” The antioxidants responsible for the bright hues (which can be golden or candy-cane striped as well) have super anti-inflammatory and detoxifying benefits. So, in the words of Michael Jackson…“Just beet it!”

Building off the seasonal add-ins, if you’re having a salad for lunch or dinner (or breakfast, to each their own), you want to add some more substance in there. I recommend:

  1. At least 2-3 veggies: Simple Truth mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, and onions, to name a few.
  2. A protein: Simple Truth chicken, steak, fish, shrimp, tofu or hardboiled eggs.

Last but not least: dressing. What goes in the salad and what goes on it are equally important. As you probably know, dressings can be a hot mess between the artificial sweeteners and thickeners and unpronounceable chemicals to keep things from separating -- because God forbid we actually had to shake a little bottle, right?

Skip bottled dressings altogether when possible, and reach for a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. A tablespoon or two might be all you need on an already flavor-packed salad, or it can be your base. You can’t go wrong with lemon juice, garlic and mustard but if you want to get creative and add some seasonal zing – and who doesn’t – open up your spice cabinet. Those warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and fresh ginger complement fall produce perfectly; what better way to dress up your salad?- Carolyn Brown MS, RD

About Carolyn Brown:

Carolyn Brown, MS RD is a NYC based nutritionist. She works in private practice at Foodtrainers,  specializing in weight management and general healthy living. Carolyn received her undergraduate degree from Tulane in New Orleans and her Masters from New York University with brief stays in Colorado and Italy in between. She is a weekly contributor to WebMD’s Real Life Nutrition blog and has been quoted and written for many websites, television programs and other publications including CNN, FOX,, CBS news, Glamour, WebMD and the New York Daily News. Carolyn's favorite activities are snowboarding, running and yoga and favorite vice foods are her dad's homemade pizza, and pretty much anything with dark chocolate. Follow Carolyn on twitter for more nutrition nerdiness: @onesmartbrownie. 

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