One of my favorite salads is a taco salad! I love having salads for lunch and dinner because it’s a great way to get a bunch of veggies in and you can customize them just how you like them. This salad is one of my go-to salads during the week as it only takes a few minutes to put together if I have already prepped my brown rice at the beginning of the week. I also love making my own creamy dressing, but standard ranch dressing works great with this salad too.
2 cups leafy greens
½ cup canned black beans
½ cup cooked brown rice
¼ medium avocado
¼ cup corn
¼ cup salsa
2 tbsp. creamy dressing
1 package dry ranch mix
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayo
1 clove of garlic, minced
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. lime juice
½ small jalapeno, seeded
Directions: To make dressing, blend all ingredients together, and store in refrigerator before you make your taco salad. To make taco salad, simply combine all ingredients together in a medium bowl including the dressing.
For my salad base, I like to use romaine lettuce or a dark green or red leaf lettuce. The general rule with lettuce is that the darker it is the more nutritious it is. The second rule of thumb is that the more closed the head of lettuce is, the less nutritious it is. For example, a head of iceberg lettuce is very tight in a ball compared with a red leaf lettuce that is more open. When the leaves are open they have to create more phytonutrients and antioxidants to protect itself from the sun as well as insects. A few varieties that are even more nutritious include arugula, radicchio, and spinach.
Romaine and other dark lettuces are great sources of vitamin A and folate-both of which are crucial during pregnancy. Vitamin A is essential for all cell growth and differentiation and is especially important for lung development and maturation. Folate helps prevent neural tube defects and is needed to help prevent anemia as it is necessary for red blood cell formation.
Black beans provide a wide range of health benefits. They are rich in complex carbs as well as protein, which help stabilize blood sugars and keep you satisfied longer. This is especially important if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The high protein content of beans also makes them a great option for vegetarians and vegans as ½ cup of beans provides the same amount of protein as an ounce of meat. They are also surprisingly rich in antioxidants and a great source of fiber, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, folate and potassium. Beans are also inexpensive and take no prep time if you buy them canned.
Corn is a good source of B vitamins including pantothenic acid, thiamine, niacin, and folate. The darker the corn the more nutritious it is, so steer clear of white corn and choose the darkest yellow corn you can find. The yellow color comes from the lutein and zeaxanthin in the corn. Lutein and zeaxanthin are phytonutrients that are needed for optimal eye health and development-both for you and your growing baby.
No taco salad is complete without an avocado on top! Avocados are a definite “superfood” in my book. They contain more antioxidants than red cabbage, broccoli, grapes and even bell peppers. They are a surprisingly good source of fiber with 6grams of soluble fiber in half of a medium avocado, which aids in digestion. They are full of good fats that improve the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, like DHA, choline, and lutein. To ripen an avocado you can put it in a paper bag on the counter with a banana to shorten its ripening time. To keep a cut avocado from browning you can pour olive oil or lemon juice over the flesh and put in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.