April 12th & 13th 2024

50 Mile | Marathon | TS Half

The Entree Salad

Kelly Newlon: founder/chef of Real Athlete Diets (RAD Boulder) Lifelong runner, lover of giant dogs and the mountains. Stephanie Howe: PhD in Nutrition & Exercise Physiology from Oregon State University. Stephanie owns her own Nutrition & Coaching business where she works with individuals of varied background on how to best eat for their specific goals. Stephanie’s doctoral research focused on the role of appetite hormones in elite female runners before and after different exercise intensities. Stephanie has been sponsored by The North Face since 2010 and by Clif Bar since 2012.

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I work with a professional athlete from Serbia. One day, he mentioned that one of his favorite things about living in the United States is how many types of lettuce we have. The answer caught me off guard and I proceeded to laugh. “No, really. You do not understand. The weather in Serbia is too hard for such soft things”. Cabbage and kale are about as close as he would get to lettuce on a regular basis. 

That conversation started a weekly trend of a newly created entrée salad and different bottle of vinaigrette each week. Before we get further down the rabbit hole with this, it is important to note that this athlete was not only raised on hearty Serbian food, but he is also 7ft tall and 275lbs. His daily caloric requirements are not insignificant. On the weeks he has two or three days between games, he will have the entrée salad. The importance of what accompanies the giant bowl of greens is vital, as is the timing of this meal. 

Lettuce is a cool weather crop and thrives this time of year. Both Stephanie and I were raised in the Midwest. The staple greens were iceberg, romaine, and sometimes leaf lettuce. As an adult in the food industry, there are always several types of salad greens in our fridge. As Stephanie is in France, she has her pulse on what is fresh and in season at the local markets. From the soft and delicate leaves of mache or cress, to purple and red bitter chicories, we both appreciate the many options available to create or gorgeous salad.

But let’s not forget that what makes the entrée salad an entrée, is that it includes lots of additional nutrient dense micros and macros. It is not simply a pile of greens. Protein, carbohydrates, fat, all the things are present. Once we understand how to create this, it is an easy game of plug and play. Stephanie will deep dive into this and advise on how to build the perfect salad, when we may need more than an entrée salad, and when is a sufficient time to enjoy one. 

We’ll use Salad Nicoise as a focus for Stephanie to break down the many layers of what makes this salad a viable entrée. 

Classically this salad does not have beans. I do add them as extra protein and carbs for my 7ft tall Serbian athlete, and as a substitute for vegan athletes. The beans could also be omitted from the salad and pureed into the dressing instead. Doing so provides a creamy thicker vinaigrette. 

I often see lettuce as a vehicle for additional foods with benefits. Lettuce lends a refreshing taste and texture to the palate, and pairs nicely with so many flavors. A good salad, especially an entree salad, should have some lettuce, but include more of the other goodies in it. That elevates the salad to a nutrient-rich bowl of goodness that tastes and feels good. And, provides your body with a lot of the micronutrients that are well absorbed with some good fat. As we’ve mentioned before, many of the micronutrients need fat for absorption, and it makes the salad taste even better. Sometimes when I build a salad, I start with the protein and grains first, then add the lettuce last. It helps me to focus on what’s IN the salad, and then add the greens last. 

To build your salad bowl- think of having five components. First, a grain or starch, such as quinoa, rice, farro, potatoes, sweet potatoes, gnocchi, etc. These give you a good base of easy to digest carbohydrates with a little more energy-density. Second, all sorts of vegetables- raw, roasted, sauteed, baked, etc. The sky’s the limit here, and almost any combination works. Choose colors, for a variety of nutrients. Third, the protein- fish, chicken, eggs, beans, lentils, hummus, tofu, tempeh, or a mix of these. I think grilled protein pairs well with salad, but any option works. Fourth- add some fat. This can be cheese, avocado, nuts/seeds, or vinaigrette. I usually pick a couple to add for an entree salad. Last but not least, the greens. Like Kelly mentioned, there are a whole host of lettuce and greens to choose from. Sometimes it’s fun to use a mix here too, to change up the flavor and texture. And voila, you have the beginning of a great meal. Amounts of each will vary depending on the individual, but they are presented in the descending order, from most volume to least here. Start with carbohydrates and vegetables and build everything else on top of it. You can mix the salad in a big bowl and then serve on individual bowls/plates.

Salad Nicoise

Makes 3 entrée salads or one large platter

1/2 pound boiled potatoes, cooled and sliced (any kind will do, but we like red potatoes)

½ pound cooked and cooled green beans (asparagus is also nice)

1 ½ cups fresh tomato diced

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions

1 cup pitted rough chopped olives (your choice)

3 hard boiled eggs (peeled and quartered)

1 pound cooked fresh tuna or salmon 

1 cup cooked white beans

3 tablespoons capers

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

5-6 cups salad greens of your choice

Vinaigrette

3 cloves fresh garlic minced

1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 cup olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

¼ cup canned white beans

Mix together the mustard, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk until it comes together. Set aside until the salad is ready to dress. Taste before using and adjust acid and salt as needed.

If too acidic or thick, add 1-2 tablespoons of cold tap water. 

If you choose to add beans, it is best to make the vinaigrette in a blender. 

To build your salad:

This will make approximately three entrée salads. They can be served all at once, or the components can be kept separately and utilized for up to three days. 

Lay a handful of greens down creating a bed. Carefully build your salad. Serving one large platter is also an impressive presentation. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the top. Garnish with capers, and fresh parsley.

Diet Nicoise salad with cucumber, tuna and eggs.

About the Author

Kelly Newlon: founder/chef of Real Athlete Diets (RAD Boulder) Lifelong runner, lover of giant dogs and the mountains. Stephanie Howe: PhD in Nutrition & Exercise Physiology from Oregon State University. Stephanie owns her own Nutrition & Coaching business where she works with individuals of varied background on how to best eat for their specific goals. Stephanie’s doctoral research focused on the role of appetite hormones in elite female runners before and after different exercise intensities. Stephanie has been sponsored by The North Face since 2010 and by Clif Bar since 2012.

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