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How to Upgrade a Bagged Salad Kit into a Full Meal

Store-bought bagged salad kits are the pinnacle of modern supermarket convenience. They have many advantages: they are carefully curated, super-efficient time-savers, they come complete with dressings, they eliminate the need to plan a meal, prepare a dressing and wash, dry, or chop veggies. They also represent a great opportunity to discover new ingredients. On the other hand, if you've ever tried one you know that, on their own, they are not enough to keep you full for more than an hour. The ingredients are limited by their shelf-life constraints and fragility. I like to fondly call these packed kits 'bags of potential'. So how do we unlock that potential? 

Amp Up the Volumeleafy mix

If you pour the contents of the bag into your big salad bowl and the size of your salad disappoints you, there are a few solutions to that problem. As we eat with our eyes first, it is important that the meal will be appealing. What's more, usually there's more dressing than needed, so let's make the most out of it instead of throwing half the bag away. Here's a list of ingredients you can add to your bowl to enlarge the salad:
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Shredded carrots
  • Kale
  • Baby spinach

Congratulations! You can check fibers off the list. You can also check fats off the list if you like the dressing (it contains fats), or you can add some nuts for an extra boost.  Now let's move on to protein.

Add a Dose of Protein

Protein is what will keep you full for more than an hour. Here are some ideas for a protein dose:
  • Baked\fried tofu rolled in cornstarch (for extra crispiness)
  • Teriyaki chicken
  • Satay marinated chicken
  • Pork in lemongrass
  • Black beans
  • Red beans
  • Rice
  • Shrimps
  • Turkey
  • Beef crumbles

You can cut your protein of choice into strips or little cubes, whichever butters your toast. Don't forget to add seasoning for extra flavor! Opt for fresh herbs for best results. 

Don't Be Afraid of Carbs

Carbohydrates do belong in salads, let's start with that. A salad can be healthy, tasty, and nutritious all at the same time, while keeping you full, happy and satisfied for a few good hours. You should always enjoy eating, and in the long run, trying to avoid carbs will only make you hungrier and hungrier. You need them just like you need protein. So what are the healthy choices?
  •  Pita crunches (homemade is always the best choice)
  • Croutons
  • Tortilla strips
  • Bagel chips
  • Garlic bread
  • Pasta
  • Some fruits: blueberries, green apples, and pears are a good match for a salad. 

Control the Taste

3 wooden salad bowls full of salad
You can alter the taste of the salad in so many ways! Spices, seasoning mixes, and dressings are a few ways, but the ingredients themselves play a big role in determining the taste as well. 
For example, if the following ingredients are in your bagged mix, it will probably taste somewhat sweet:
  • Poppy seeds
  • Tangerine
  • Maple bourbon
  • Honey pecan
  • Fruity vinaigrettes
  • Dried cranberries
  • Fresh fruits like apples and pears. 

If you'd like to balance out the sweet with some savory, you can add some salted bacon, cheese, fresh bell peppers, or fresh onions. 

On the astringent or bitter side of the taste scale, look out for these ingredients:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Endives
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi

If you'd like to balance those out, you can add shrimps, cherry tomatoes, grilled salmon or steak, mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, dried tomatoes, rotisserie chicken, and lentils, or any other sweet ingredient from the previous list. 

Finally, let's revisit the reason we bought a bagged salad mix in the first place. We did it to save us the time and trouble of all that cooking, didn't we? This doesn't have to change. While homemade, homegrown, and fresh produce is the best choice, we know that it's a privilege only a few can afford. Don't hesitate to use canned beans, bought chicken rotisserie or any dried, bought herbs. We mentioned how you should always enjoy eating your meal, and that is also true to the process of preparing it. 

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