This month is National Nutrition Month®, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, with a focus in 2016 to “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.”
This year’s anthem is particularly appealing to me as it melds the importance of eating right with two key benefits we don’t often associate with nutritious eating: “flavor” and taking the time “to savor” our meals. Too often, eating right is looked upon as bland and boring. And let’s face it, with our go-go-go way of living it’s easy to forget to stop and smell the roses… or in the case of eating, to be present in the moment and savor your food (and the people you share it with). I believe that all of these components can easily go hand-in-hand… and should be the mantra of our daily dietary discourse.
Our family is what many folks would call “healthy” eaters… lots of organic fruits and veggies, fish, lean poultry, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. We work to reduce our intake of salt, sugar and processed foods… to eat as “clean” as we can. Because, let’s face it… it does require some work; what I call “maintaining a healthy balance between sacrifice and moderation.” However, even with all we do to maintain a healthy lifestyle… we are far from perfect. I’d venture to guess that we’d probably get a good report card for our dinnertime dining endeavors, given that we have traditionally taken the time to savor healthy meals together, as well as for our healthy breakfast routines (though often a bit on-the-go and most always solo pursuits). Our lunch routines, however, might not always garner such accolades.
Lunch, falling in the middle of the day when so many of us are still running and on-the-go, is the meal I’d say our family could use a little rebooting in. We can easily fall into scavenging (not really focusing on a true meal but, instead, nibbling throughout the afternoon until satiated); “working-in” lunch rather than setting aside a dedicated time for lunch (which really equates to working through lunch as we nibble our meal through meetings or in front of a computer); or the classic “grab-and-go” (running to the nearby taco truck would fall into this category!)
All of these approaches are less than optimal as they compromise the control we have over what we eat. And… none really embrace any time to savor what’s eaten. To truly embark on a journey of nutritious eating (one that encompasses the benefits of flavor and the time to savor means that we need to control the reins. Taking control of what we eat, where we eat, and how we eat is really the foundation to developing nutritious eating habits.
In thinking of how to achieve an easy, nutritious and flavorful meal that doesn’t require a scavenge or a quest, that keeps prep to a minimum, stays fresh in the fridge for several days, and is so readily available and portable that the time we allot for lunch might even include time “to savor” it, I came up with this power salad... an easy, flavorful, nutritious solution to the midday quagmire.
Featuring Stemilt’s Artisan Organics apples, for a fresh, subtly sweet, crunchy pop of flavor, coupled with the added fresh bite of sliced fennel, Easter radishes, Italian parsley, and celery; the sweet pop of golden raisins and maple-sweetened walnuts; protein- and fiber-packed tri-colored quinoa and French green lentils (Lentilles du Puy); a light lemon-honey mustard vinaigrette; and topped with a hearty mound of nutty arugula… it’s a “power” lunch for sure.
The addition of Stemilt’s apples (most any crisp, in-season variety you favor would be excellent) not only lends that fresh, sweet crunch that makes a great salad great, but also provides a good pop of soluble fiber which aids in healthy digestion, a nice dose of immunity-boosting Vitamin C, and a rich mix of heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering antioxidants . Along with tri-colored quinoa (simply because the red and black varieties seem to hold up a little better in salads than the white/golden variety… and are more visually pleasing) and French green lentils, this little power salad is packed not only with great fiber but also great protein. Quinoa is favored for its role as a complete protein source… unique in that most other complete protein sources are animal-based.
Then, of course, there are all the little flavor profiles (like fennel, radish, parsley, etc.) that meld so beautifully with this salad’s three key ingredients; each of which provides a unique, distinctive pop of flavor that gets your attention in every good way and balances so beautifully with the sweet crunch of fresh apple and the welcoming base of quinoa and lentils. Complementing the sweet note of apples are golden raisins and just a handful of maple-sweetened, chopped, toasted walnuts. Together with an easily whisked vinaigrette that adds a perfect note of bright flavor, this salad only gets better after a little sit so all those flavors can mix and mingle a bit… perhaps, a life lesson in and of itself.
Take a new spin on the power lunch with this nutritious, flavorful and savor-friendly salad. Maybe even sit a bit and share it with a friend! Your buddy will thank you… and so will your body!