Fall in Love with Autumn Salads

By: Carolyn Brown MS, RD

When cooler weather arrives, menus turn from salad to soup season. But, as I’m sure you could’ve guessed, salads are a great choice all year around – 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. I’m a fan of Simple Truth™ Spring Mix with Herbs and other greens in season for fall are 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, which is a great alternative for crouton and 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: This 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.

Building off the seasonal add-ins, if you’re having a salad for lunch or dinner (or breakfast, to each their own), you’ll 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 red flag for a healthy salad. There’s many things to look out for, from the artificial sweeteners, thickeners and unpronounceable chemicals to keep things from separating.

Skip bottled dressings completely when possible, and reach for a bottle of extra virgin olive oil instead. 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, open up your spice cabinet. Those warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and fresh ginger complement fall produce perfectly.