Let’s Have a Salad

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Ward Alper is a type 2 diabetic and chef who lives and eats decadently in Portland, Maine. Since his diagnosis more than five years ago, he has refocused his recipes and eating to support his diabetic health. In this article, Ward shares how he makes salad the starring role at the table.

In 2008 after my diagnosis and receiving “the pamphlets,” I thought that I had figured out that the best way to keep my carbohydrate count down and not to be hungry was to eat lots and lots and lots of salad. Two months into this regime my eyes started turning back in their sockets at the vaguest thought of a salad.

Even as a chef, I had not started thinking creatively about salad. Sure I made a different dressing for each meal (or sometimes when I was lazy used Ken’S low-carbohydrate dressing). I added things to the salad to make it a little different, but I did not look at salads the same way I looked at protein. I must have a zillion recipes for chicken, fish, meat, pork, and even eggs, but I looked at salads totally differently. They were more of starter to a meal or at very best a side dish used to fill in the blanks. No wonder I was bored!

Salad: The Starring Role at the Table

Thing is that I do have a zillion recipes for salads as a meal and as a side dish. I just had to adjust my thinking a little. I need to admit to you that when I travel, most of my meals are the same old boring protein and side salad dinners. It gets me through a trip to restaurants that think vegetables are little more than a garnish. But now salads can have a starring role at my table. Let me share just a few with you:

  • Avocado Salad: This is a snap to make. Chunked, creamy avocado, chunks of ripe tomatoes, onion (optional), black olives and a simple dressing of lemon juice (and zest), oil, salt and pepper. Add some cheese for protein and you have a light lunch or a terrific side dish.
  • California Italian Salad: Similar to the avocado salad but using artichoke hearts instead. Rumor has it that artichokes are just terrific for us. The change in dressing is to use a red wine vinegar in place of the lemon. The artichokes seem to like the sharper vinegar. Here, too, I like to add some cheese for protein. My favorite is shards of Granna Padano, but feta works really well and is easier to find.
  • Cauliflower Salad: Cauliflower started off as JUST a substitute for potato. But I soon discovered that the taste and texture turned this into a better dish than plain old boring potato salad. I have two versions: the standard mayonnaise and an Alsatian (German/French) version using vinegar, oil and bacon.
  • Spinach Salad: This old war horse of a dinner salad takes on new life with the additions of toasted walnuts, bacon bits, eggs, and canned tuna. Sprinkle the spinach with grated Parmesan cheese and use a low-carb dressing like Ken’s Caesar to spark up the flavor. There is something so hearty about this salad I do it as a meal even on the coldest days of winter. (An even heartier version of this dinner salad, using steak and a simple lemon dressing, is below.)
  • Vegetable Salad: Who says a salad needs greens (lettuce or spinach)? Not me! I prepare a salad of broccoli, snow or snap peas, carrot, celery, tomato, and radish. Radish is one of those really overlooked veggies. It is crisp and has a little kick. There are tons of textures and flavors. Pick your favorite dressing (mine is Ariston balsamic vinaigrette or a sherry wine and lemon) and chow down.
  • Vegetable and Cottage Cheese: I remember crying in the parking lot of the “stupidmarket” because I realized that the old standby of fruit salad and cottage cheese was now not a good choice for me. I realized I could change up the fruits to ones with fewer carbohydrates, but psychologically it did not sit well with me. Using a BIG assortment of low-carbohydrate, high-fiber veggies made it work for me. If you have NEVER done this kind of salad before, try it. You will be amazed how good it is and, moreover, how creative you get to be.

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy, BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Steak and Spinach Salad recipe!

Get more nutrition tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.