Spinach Salad – Nutrition Made Simple

So how does one emerge from the holidays and their aftermath without completely running the nutrition tank on empty? With party after party, it’s certainly easy enough to overdo it on rich foods that are full of sugar, fats, and salt…and within days the effects on our bodies can be felt inside and out. I know that many families, like mine, use the holidays to indulge in some of their less healthy, but favorite family recipes. Well, after a couple days (or weeks) of those rich foods, I found myself going a little crazy on a spinach salad at my sister-in-law’s house the other day instead of filling up on the various tasty, high-fat and carb-heavy offerings available. Now, being pregnant and vegetarian, I am well aware of my daily nutritional needs, and when I go to fill my plate, I’m not happy unless there is a fair amount of green covering it. But this salad was so delicious and so simple that I was thinking about it well into the next day. (Luckily, there were leftovers!)

So here’s the recipe:  baby spinach leaves, chopped roasted red pepper (in olive oil), and some crumbled feta cheese. That’s it! Add a vinaigrette, if you so desire, but, honestly, the oil from the roasted red peppers is more than enough to dress it up, especially if you buy (or make) the kind that is seasoned with a couple garlic cloves.

Granted, I am a huge lover of spinach, and I use it in salads all the time, incorporating all kinds of things, like hard-boiled eggs, onions, tomatoes, berries, sunflower seeds, walnuts, etc. But this one is simple, pretty, and delicious, and it will likely become a new staple on my table.

Tips on fresh spinach:

  1. Unless you can get locally-grown spinach, go for the pre-washed bagged kind. It’s so easy to just pull a handful of it out anytime you want a quick salad.
  2. If you are already a big fan of spinach (like me), don’t bother splurging on the baby variety. The full-grown version is not quite as sweet and tender, but it’s delicious, nutritious, and much more affordable. But if spinach is a new flavor that you are acquiring, or if you are serving it to guests, the baby leaves are probably worth the extra cost.
  3. Baby spinach requires little preparation, but you may want to remove the stems and thick spines from some of the larger leaves of other varieties.
  4. Buy organic, if possible. There’s a lot of surface area on those leaves for pesticides and other chemicals to penetrate.
  5. Never let your spinach go bad. It’s a nutritional powerhouse, and there are so many other uses for fresh spinach that there’s no reason to let it spoil. You can add it to soups, dips, pasta sauces, etc. Just be careful when adding it to something like eggs — a lot of moisture is held in the leaves, which needs to be removed before cooking anything with a delicate moisture balance.
  6. Nutritional information of raw spinach – this food is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Niacin and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.*
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