By Karen Welby ~ Run With Nutrition
Growing up, my salads consisted of iceberg lettuce with some carrots on top. My family had a “meat and potato” focus, so our salads were never very creative. I was convinced that I could never survive the day with only a salad for lunch; especially, while training for middle distance races in college.
Photo from Food Emrace
With up to 2 hours of track practice per day, I needed wholesome, nutritious meals to fuel and replenish my body. In college, I was more creative than I was at the family dinner table, but not much. I still had the mindset that a salad was not a sufficient meal and I needed to prepare for my workout and refuel afterwards with meat, potatoes and pastas. As I’ve learned more about nutrition, I now know that it is it okay to just eat a salad – as long as it’s topped with the right stuff!
The salads I eat now are filled with nutrients, including proteins, carbs, fiber and healthy fats. The best part is these nutrients come from whole foods, which refers to food in its natural state such as whole grains, fruits and veggies.
My healthy salad for runners includes: spinach leaves, chick peas, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, fresh fruit- usually strawberries or blueberries, chopped carrots, sliced cucumbers, avocado- sliced into small pieces, and some red onion. This is my ideal salad but again, you can add more toppings such as mushrooms, egg whites, chicken, kidney beans, celery, and some cheese. As a runner, you can probably use the fuel (calories), so pick any dressing you enjoy. Homemade dressings are best, but if you’re choosing a store bought dressing, try to pick one that has a limited ingredient list and has absolutely no hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup.
The best part about having a salad is that you can make it huge - and load it with nutrients to your liking. Eating a large salad will require many bites, which means it’s pretty hard to scarf down quickly, compared to eating something like a slice of pizza. When you slow down your eating time, your brain actually has time to register that you’re filling up your stomach, triggering the “I’m full” feeling at the appropriate time.
It took some time, but I learned why I never considered salads a complete meal. My “old” salad was probably only 70-100 calories and contained minimal nutritional value. It did not provide NOT adequate fuel to run repeat 600s at practice, let alone run them at goal race pace!
What nutritious toppings do you add to your salads before and after a run?
Karen Welby has been running competitively for over 14 years. She ran Track & Field throughout high school, then continued running middle distance events(400m & 800m) at Lehigh University, where she was named captain her senior year. She has experience in collegiate Track & Field coaching, personal training and holistic health coaching. For more about Karen’s integrative health and fitness coaching programs, visit Run With Nutrition. She can be found on Twitter (@coach_karenw), Facebook (Run with Nutrition) and Pinterest (coachkarenw)