Sick of boring, lifeless iceberg lettuce? Meet kale. Loaded with vitamin A, K, C, folate, calcium, potassium, iron, fiber, and protein, this all-star superfood is extremely versatile. You can sauté it, juice it, roast it into kale chips, or just eat it raw. Kale salads are a complete upgrade from the typical taste-less greens, cheese, and croutons many of us are used to at the salad bar. Not only is it ten times more nutrient-dense than other forms of lettuce, it’s infinitely more flavorful, too.
If you’re a kale newbie, it might take a few tries to get accustomed to the slightly bitter taste and gritty texture of kale. With a few basic steps, though, you can become a kale whiz in no time. The most important step? Massaging. Massaging raw kale in olive oil or dressing is the key to making this leafy green more tender and palatable. Here’s how to create your kale salad base:
What you’ll need
- 2 heavy handfuls (2-3 cups) of organic raw kale leaves
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
What you’ll do
- De-stem the kale leaves from the stem by simply placing your index finger and middle finger (in the shape of a claw), and “claw” down the center of the leaf to de-stem while simultaneously pulling the leaf away from you with your other hand.
- In a large bowl, combine the de-stemmed kale leaves with the remaining ingredients.
- Lightly pour an additional 1 tsp. of olive oil onto your hands to coat.
- Using a massaging action (similar to kneading bread dough), start to tear the leaves apart and massage.
- Continue massaging for about 2-5 minutes or until the leaves are softened, the leaves will also turn a more vibrant green.
- Use this as a salad base or add toppings of your choice for a complete meal in a bowl.
The base of your lunch to go is the massaged kale salad topped with goodies such as roasted or steamed vegetables, fresh or dried fruits, proteins (vegetarian or animal based), healthy fats, and dressing.
Carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, millet, brown rice, wild rice, beans (starchy-protein), corn and peas (starchy veggie).
Fruits such as strawberries, pears, banana, papaya, mango, grapes, raspberries, apples, etc.
Veggies such as carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, snap peas, peas, radish, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
Healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, hemp seeds, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, truffle oil
Proteins such as tempeh, beans, quinoa and lentils (starchy-proteins), hemp seeds, nuts/seeds, nutritional yeast (not a “protein”, but loaded with plant-based protein). Vegetarian friendly (ovo-, pesca-, lacto-): farm fresh eggs and wild-caught fish. Animal proteins: quality sources only.
Put it all together: Take two cups or so of the raw massaged kale salad and add the following on top: a healthy fat + protein + carbohydrate. Easy as one, two, three.
How to store: The best way to store your kale salads is in a simple Tupperware container. I recommend that you make a large batch of massaged kale salad for the week ahead, store it in Tupperware, and keep in the fridge until it’s time to take a couple of handfuls out, put it in your lunchbox Tupperware and add the toppings of your choice to make a complete meal. If you have dressing, I suggest storing it in a separate container and pouring over the kale salad right before serving.
Enjoy your new nutrient-dense lunch to-go! Bring it to work, on a picnic, or even while working at home.
McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and owner of plant-based food blog Nutrition Stripped. Nutrition Stripped makes healthy eating deliciously simple with plant-based, gluten free, and whole food recipes. Connect with McKel on Nutrition Stripped or contact her for one-on-one nutrition coaching services. Nutrition Stripped on Instagram, Facebook,and Pinterest.