5 Nutrition-Packed Salads

FOR A HUNGRY RUNNER, salad is easy to dismiss as little more than filler – something to hold you over until the main course arrives. But with the right ingredients and a bit of creativity, you can throw together all-star salads brimming with fresh flavours and hearty enough to serve as a meal. These power salads can provide all the carbs, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed to run well. “Salads are great meal options for staying lean,” says Ilana Katz, a sports nutritionist. “They keep you feeling full, which means you’re less likely to over-eat later on.”


Quick Hummus Salad

Easy to assemble and rich in vital nutrients for runners, this deconstructed hummus is perfect for weekday lunches. Chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, provide protein, carbs and plenty of insoluble fibre. “The fibre in chickpeas can improve the health of your GI tract,” Katz says. Walnuts (and other nuts) provide crunch and protect against heart disease. Harvard researchers found that people who eat nuts regularly are 29 per cent less likely to develop the disease. Nut-eaters are slimmer, too. A synergy of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals is likely behind nuts’ potent health benefits.

In a bowl, toss 2 (415g) cans drained and rinsed chickpeas, 2 shredded carrots, 1 diced red capsicum, 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes, 1 cup chopped parsley, 1/2 cup diced red onion, 3/4 cup diced feta, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and 1/2 cup golden raisins. Divide 8 cups mixed salad greens among 4 plates. Top with chickpea mixture and tahini dressing. Serves 4.

Kilojoules per serving: 2590
Carbs: 53g
Fibre: 15g
Protein: 18g
Fat: 39g
Note: The nutrition data for each salad is calculated with dressing.


Chicken-Pizza Salad

This combo is ideal when you’re craving pizza flavours but don’t want a high-kilojoule pie. Unlike traditional pizza, the mix of carbs and protein in this dish makes it a smart choice for kick-starting recovery. Shaved zucchini is a juicy alternative to lettuce. Along with capsicum, the two vegetables deliver plenty of vitamin C, which, according to a study published in the journal Nutrition in 2012, may help lower heart rate and perceived exertion during exercise. Soft cheeses, such as goat cheese and fresh mozzarella, contain more moisture than their hard counterparts and are lower in kilojoules. “They infuse salads with bone-building calcium,” says Katz.

Brush 2 whole-grain naan flat-breads with oil. Bake or grill until golden and crisp. Chop into pieces. Using a peeler, shave 3 zucchini into thin ribbons. Toss zucchini with 3 cups shredded cooked chicken, 115g diced fresh mozzarella, 1 sliced yellow capsicum, 1/3 cup sliced kalamata olives, 3 cups rocket, and 1/2 cup torn basil. Top with naan pieces and tomato dressing. Serves 4.

Kilojoules per serving: 2430
Carbs: 39g
Fibre: 6g
Protein: 44g
Fat: 30g


Ceviche Salad

Latin meets Asian in this fresh-tasting salad for sushi lovers. Ceviche is a method of “cooking” sushi-grade seafood in acidic juices, delivering deliciously tender results (runners who prefer a more traditional cooking method can simply grill or pan-fry the fish instead). By choosing salmon you’ll load up on ultrahealthy omega-3 fats. A 2011 Saint Louis University, US, study suggests that higher intakes of these anti-inflammatory fats can reduce muscle soreness after strenuous exercise. Nutty tasting black rice is loaded with the same anthocyanin antioxidants found in dark fruits like blueberries. “These antioxidants neutralise free radicals that can damage cells and delay muscle recovery,” says Cara A. Marrs, a sports dietitian.

Combine 1/3 cup each lime juice, lemon juice and orange juice. Add 450g sushi-grade salmon (cut into 1/2-inch cubes) and marinate in the fridge, stirring twice, for 6 hours (or cook salmon over medium heat in a skillet for 5 minutes per side, or until opaque). In separate saucepans, prepare 1 cup black (or brown) rice and 1 cup frozen shelled edamame according to package directions. Remove salmon from marinade. Toss with edamame, 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes, 1 diced avocado, 1 cup diced mango, 1 cup chopped cucumber, 2 sliced spring onions, 1/3 cup coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve on beds of rice. Top with toasted sesame seeds and lime-sesame dressing. Serves 4.

Kilojoules per serving: 2270
Carbs: 64g
Fibre: 10g
Protein: 39g
Fat: 16g


Steak-Peach Salad

Meaty steak, juicy peaches, crunchy granola, and a cocoa-chilli-infused dressing may seem like an unusual combination, but they provide an irresistible mix of textures and flavours that balance each other perfectly. With one gram of fat per 15g, flank is one of the leaner steak options, and it’s rich in muscle-building protein and iron. “Iron helps red blood cells transfer oxygen to muscles, so inadequate intakes can lead to fatigue and poor performance,” says Marrs. Granola stands in for croutons, adding crunch and more nutrients than the traditional salad topper. Searing peaches (high in fibre, vitamin C, and vitamin A) on the grill amplifies their natural sweetness.

Grill 450g flank steak until desired doneness. Let rest 5 minutes, then thinly slice. Brush 6 pitted peach halves with oil and grill, cut-side down, for 3 minutes over medium heat. Flip and heat 1 minute more. Cut into wedges. Divide 6 cups baby spinach among 4 plates. Top with equal amounts of steak, peaches, 1 chopped cucumber, 1 sliced red capsicum, 1/3 cup chopped mint, 85g soft goat cheese, 1 cup granola, and 1/3 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes. Drizzle with cocoa-chilli dressing. Serves 4.

Kilojoules per serving: 2575
Carbs: 45g
Fibre: 9g
Protein: 35g
Fat: 35g


Shrimp-Quinoa Salad

Rich in complex carbs and easy to digest, quinoa is the perfect addition to any salad the night before a long run. Toasting the gluten-free grain before cooking lends it a nutty flavour. Shrimp is low in fat and kilojoules but provides plenty of protein and selenium. A 2012 study from the United Kingdom found that this antioxidant can help protect against cell-damaging oxidative stress linked to exercise. One of spring’s first crops, asparagus provides vitamin K (key for bone strength), while carrot juice is packed with beta-carotene, which may increase brain functioning.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup quinoa and toast 4 minutes, or until beginning to pop, shaking pan often. Add 2 cups vegetable broth. Simmer covered for 12 minutes, or until tender. Set aside to cool, then fluff with a fork. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add 450g peeled shrimp. Cook 3 minutes, or until underside is pink. Turn and cook 2 minutes, or until opaque. Remove shrimp. Add 1 bunch asparagus (chopped into 5cm pieces) and 3 cups sliced mushrooms. Cook 3 minutes, or until tender. In a bowl, toss quinoa, shrimp, veggies and 1/3 cup chopped almonds. Drizzle with carrot dressing. Serves 4.

Kilojoules per serving: 1690
Carbs: 39g
Fibre: 7g
Protein: 27g
Fat: 16g


Tomato Dressing

Slice 1 tomato in half. Grate down to skin (discard). Whisk with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar, 1 minced shallot, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Health kick: Lycopene in tomatoes may help lower blood pressure.

Tahini Dressing

In a blender, puree 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons tahini, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon each cumin and smoked paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Health kick: Olive oil contains antioxidants that protect your heart.

Lime-Sesame Dressing

Whisk juice of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons light sesame oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Asian chilli sauce and 2 teaspoons honey.
Health kick: Lime juice is brimming with vitamin C, which studies show may help runners avoid the common cold.

Cocoa-Chilli Dressing

Whisk 1/4 cup canola oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and chilli powder.
Health kick: Cocoa has compounds that may help control cholesterol.

Carrot Dressing

Whisk 1/2 cup carrot juice, 1/4 cup almond or walnut oil, 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar, zest of 1 lemon, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Health kick: Almond oil is rich in heart-healthy vitamin E.

Related Articles