If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time it should be no surprise to you how much I love salad. I eat one almost daily. And it’s not because I feel like I have to; it’s because I really enjoy them. Salads are such a tasty way to eat lots of nutrient dense foods in one meal. Sure, you can eat all those things separately, but it’s just more fun in a salad. Today I’m sharing one of my favorite salad combinations. I’m calling it Superfood Spinach Salad because it is full of super healthy ingredients.
The label “superfood” is a term used to describe a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially good for health and well-being. If you look up superfoods on the internet or read about them in books you will find varying lists. But I’m happy to report that most of the ingredients in this salad make it on almost all superfood lists.
Spinach makes the perfect base for this salad. The quinoa and mushrooms add some texture and “meat.” The toasted sliced almonds add a nice crunch while the red peppers and Parmesan cheese provide a lot of flavor. The salad is topped with a simple balsamic vinegar dressing that brings it all together really well. Add more or decrease any of the ingredients to make it just the way you like it.
This salad would be great as a side dish but it also works well as a main dish. The spinach itself, along with the almonds and Parmesan cheese provide protein. The olive oil and almonds provide healthy fat and the quinoa, almonds, and spinach provide the fiber that keeps you full. It really is a delicious and filling salad. My husband even commented on how full he was after eating it as our meal the other night.
Here are just some of the health benefits each ingredient provides. There are too many to list them all so I’ll share just a few for each.
Spinach: Spinach is a great source of vitamins and minerals (too many to list, in fact.) It’s low in calories, high in fiber and heart healthy. I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t heard how healthy spinach is for you. The best part is that 1 cup of spinach is only 10 calories.
Mushrooms: Mushrooms add flavor and “meat” to dishes all for only about 20 calories a cup. Mushrooms help make salads more filling without all the extra calories. They are also very high in selenium, which is great for thyroid health.
Almonds: The combination of healthy fat, protein, and fiber in almonds squash hunger and cravings and helps prevent spikes in blood sugar and insulin. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, they are heart healthy, and may help lower cholesterol.
Parmesan cheese: This cheese has a higher protein and calcium content than other cheeses. Plus, because of its strong flavor you can use a lot less to flavor your dishes. Parmesan cheese also has less lactose than many cheeses making it a good option for those with a sensitivity to dairy.
Quinoa: Full of protein and fiber, quinoa is a whole grain that is heart healthy, may help lower cholesterol, and aids in digestion. Quinoa is a great meatless protein choice because it’s the only whole grain that is a complete protein (meaning it is made up of all the essential amino acids.)
Red Bell Peppers: High in vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, red peppers are great for eye health and your metabolism. In fact, red bell peppers have the highest concentration of vitamins of all the colors of peppers. Best of all, one cup of peppers is only 29 calories.
Olive Oil: Full of satiating heart healthy fats, olive oil helps lower cholesterol, decreases your risk for heart disease and helps your body absorb vitamins. Extra virgin olive oil is rich in disease fighting antioxidants and other nutrients and can actually aid in weight loss.
For this salad, I like to cut up the spinach into small pieces, making it easier to eat. So, I guess it’s really a chopped superfood spinach salad. I make almost all of my salads chopped salads because I think it makes them easier to eat. Plus, when all the ingredients are chopped you get a little bit of everything in just about every bite.
6 cups baby spinach, packed
1 small red bell pepper, diced
4-6 mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp garlic powder
pinch onion powder
1. Combine your dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together well.
2. Chop spinach into small pieces. You want to be able to eat your salad with a spoon.
3. Toss the spinach with the pepper, almonds, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, and quinoa.
4. Add the desired amount of dressing and toss again.
Serves 2 as a main dish and 4-6 as a side dish.
1. To toast the almonds, put them on a cookie sheet and toast them on broil for 3-6 minutes, until just turning brown.
2. To cook the quinoa, rinse 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer for about one minute. You want it to be rinsed really well. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Once boiling, stir in the rinsed quinoa. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to sit, with lid on, for 10 minutes. Take off lid and fluff with a fork. It should make about 3/4 cup cooked quinoa. You can add all of that or save the leftovers for your next salad. You can make the quinoa ahead of time and add it cold to the salad or you can add it while it’s still warm.
Real Food Tips:
- Buy raw almonds and toast them in the oven. This saves you calories and the unhealthy oils you find in roasted almonds.
- Buy block Parmesan cheese instead of pre-shredded. I promise you the taste is so much better! And for the love, don’t get the stuff in the green can! It does NOT taste like freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- Both spinach and peppers are on the dirty dozen list; if your budget allows they are the most important ingredients to buy organic.
Here’s a printable version for you:
- Salad Ingredients:
- 6 cups baby spinach, packed
- 1 small red bell pepper, diced
- 4-6 mushrooms, sliced
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup cooked quinoa
- Dressing :
- 2 T balsamic vinegar
- ½ tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 T olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ⅛ tsp garlic powder
- pinch onion powder
- Combine your dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together well.
- Chop spinach into small pieces. You want to be able to eat your salad with a spoon.
- Toss the spinach with the pepper, almonds, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, and quinoa.
- Add the desired amount of dressing and toss again.
2. To cook the quinoa, rinse ¼ cup uncooked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer for about one minute. You want it to be rinsed really well. Bring ½ cup water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Once boiling, stir in the rinsed quinoa. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to sit, with lid on, for 10 minutes. Take off lid and fluff with a fork. It should make about ¾ cup cooked quinoa. You can add all of that or save the leftovers for your next salad. You can make the quinoa ahead of time and add it cold to the salad or you can add it while it's still warm.