Salute Your Salad

Salads may be touted as that stereotypical dish that women on a date choose while the men scarf down a juicy, rare steak, but now’s the time to squash that stereotype and spear so-called rabbit food with your prongs proudly.

Like a healthy version of a tall latte with a pump of vanilla syrup, drizzle of caramel and extra shot of espresso, a salad is a food you can customize and make your own. It’s almost like saying, “Caesar? Caesar who?” when you throw on a handful of this and a splash of that. Be wary, however, of the unhealthy salad (cue suspenseful music, please); a sad truth: yes, an oxymoron: no.

On a quest where I don’t have to worry about beef-love-induced cardiac arrest, beer bellies and the lingering smell of sauerkraut after a Coney dog, I searched through fields of greens, bleu cheese crumbles and plump cherry tomatoes to find out what makes salad a power meal, how you can ruin a salad and how to make a hearty dish of crispy greens with the works.

Vitamin, Mineral, Vegetable

No one wants to sound like a broken record, but here it is: Salad is good for you. But why can’t people give you a more in-depth reason besides “you should eat your vegetables”? Because they’d still be explaining salad’s health benefits long after you finish the last cucumber slice! Here is a mere appetizer of reasons why you shouldn’t pass on your greens.

Fiber: You’ve seen the Fiber One commercials, instilling how fiber is an important part of your diet. Eating a fiber-rich meal lowers cholesterol levels and helps control weight by making people feel fuller. Try getting your fiber the natural way—no hard-to-open wrapper or artificial flavor—with a delicious and nourishing salad.

Antioxidants: Dark green and orange veggies contribute to higher blood levels of antioxidants (vitamin C and E, folic acid, lycopene and alpha- and beta-carotene), which protect your body from free radicals, thus lowering your risk of disease and cancer.

Fat: You read that right! “Good fats,” or monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocado and nuts, help your body absorb phytochemicals, which protect against cancer and heart disease. Plus, consuming olive oil has been linked to reduced mortality.

So, think twice when you consider skipping the salad course. Eating a salad with the right ingredients is your insurance for a healthier and longer life.


Sinister Salads

A salad loaded with bacon, croutons, fried chicken and drenched in creamy ranch is the picture of temptation and deception. It’s what I’d like to dub the “everything on a bed of lettuce illusion.” You figure, “What the heck? A salad’s a salad; I’ll toss in whatever I want.” But that throwing-caution-to-the-wind mentality will get you nowhere. Don’t fall prey to sinister salads! Take action by following the advice below.

A half cup of croutons can contain as many as 100 calories, and bacon bits are loaded with fat and artificial ingredients. If you want that extra crunch, try adding seeds or nuts; the omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart and nervous system, and the fiber helps your digestion.

Adding meat to make your salad a wholesome meal with plenty of protein is a good idea—with the right meat. Fried chicken strips and processed sandwich meats will turn your herbivore delight into a carnivorous catastrophe. Try skinless, grilled slices of chicken, and remember, say baloney to bologna!

Cheese makes me melt on the spot. I always say bring on the feta! Gorgonzola! Oozing waterfall of bleu! Cheese is a great source for calcium and protein, but don’t be too generous with your servings. Half to one ounce of any cheese is just enough.

Oily and soggy leaves drowning in your salad bowl isn’t the most appetizing image. Besides keeping an eye on serving size when it comes to dressing—two tablespoons can land you 100 to 200 calories—try fresh lemon or lime juice, salsa, jam, yogurt or hummus for substitutes. Think you’re home-free with reduced-fat salad dressing? Think again! To compensate for flavor by taking away fat, sugar and salt are added, upping the amount of calories in your thousand island. It’s better to go with the regular stuff in moderation or make your own.


Lettuce Eat

It takes no time to make a salad, but don’t miss out on these local creations. Grab these delicious bowls on the go or share the green on a lunch date.

The Loco-if-you-don’t-try-it Salad

Latinos Y Mas

2030 S Pine Ave, Ocala

Want to have a salad that’ll put some spring in your salsa step? Then try the South of the Border Chicken Salad: romaine and iceberg lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, red onions, roasted corn, black beans, shredded Monterey Jack, cheddar cheese and tortilla chips topped with grilled chicken and served with chipotle dressing.

The Fit to be Served on Mount Olympus Salad

Genesis Heaven & Health

304-C SW Broadway, Ocala

Hailing from California, owner Mark Ramirez opened a tranquil little juice bar downtown where you can dine in to enjoy your freshly made feast. From the Sensational Salad menu, consider the Hercules, a salad with crisp romaine lettuce, organic carrots and spinach, feta, their famous homemade hummus, tabbouleh and tahini yogurt sauce.

The Simply Stellar House Salad

Stella’s Modern Pantry / 20 SW Broadway St, Ocala

I was tempted to dub Stella’s house salad the “it’s the only salad on the menu, but I love it salad,” but that seemed a tad excessive. The house salad is composed of mixed greens, sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, marinated onions, Greek olives, pine nuts, shaved parmesan, homemade croutons and house dressing. I like to add artichoke hearts, as well!


Getting the Skinny from Skinnytaste

Gina Homolka, author, recipe developer and photographer of, has blogged about original, family-friendly, low-fat recipes since 2008. Gina’s recipes have been featured in national magazines, and she recently received Fitness Magazine’s 2012 Fitterati Blogger Award for Best Healthy Eating Blog. In a brief interview, Gina shares her salad tips and avocado-themed recipes.

If you could choose only three ingredients to go in a salad, what would they be? Arugula, fresh shaved Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

What are healthy choices for salads?
I think of color when making a salad, combining fruit, vegetables and heart-healthy nuts. To make a salad a main dish, throw in some lean protein, such as shrimp or grilled chicken, or even grains, such as quinoa or farro.

What are unhealthy salad choices?Bacon? Fried chicken cutlets? I think everything in moderation works, but when watching calories, limit your dressing or make your own so you know what is going into it.

How can people make salads more interesting?Think color, texture, and play around using different lettuce varieties. 


Skinnytaste Avocado Cilantro Buttermilk Dressing

This creamy avocado dressing is low-carb, gluten-free, vegetarian and great over a grilled chicken salad.

Makes 1 1/3 cups

¾cup low-fat buttermilk

1small jalapeno

¼cup cilantro

1medium Hass avocado

1clove garlic

2tablespoons chopped scallion

Juice of 1 lime

1⁄8teaspoon cumin

¼teaspoon ground pepper

½teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in blender, and blend until smooth. For thinner consistency, add more buttermilk; for thicker, add less. Remove seeds from jalapeno for a less spicy dressing. Can be refrigerated for up to a few days.

Skinnytaste Grilled Chicken Avocado Mango Salad

Avocados shouldn’t get all the street cred. Mangos are an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamins, potassium and fiber. They also protect you against breast and colon cancer.

Serves 4

112-ounce grilled chicken breast, sliced (from 1 pound raw)

2tablespoons olive oil

2tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

1cup avocado, diced

1cup mango, diced (from 1 1/2 mangos)

2tablespoons red onion, diced

6cups baby red butter lettuce (regular baby lettuce can be used)

Whisk together first three ingredients for vinaigrette, and set aside. Toss avocado, mango, chicken and red onion together. Fill large salad platter with lettuce, top with chicken/avocado mixture and drizzle half the vinaigrette on top. Serve with remaining dressing if desired.

Visit for more recipes by Gina.



Fast Food, Healthy Food

Last November, the hit TV show The Doctors rounded up the healthiest and least healthy cities in the U.S. Of the 100 metro areas they studied, West Palm Beach, Florida, took the title as Biggest Salad Lovers. But West Palm Beach shouldn’t be the only recipient of a golden salad tongs trophy; perhaps all of Florida has a weak spot for their Greek and Caesar. Florida-based Crispers, a restaurant chain with salads as its star attraction, proves there’s more to Florida than oranges—especially when we incorporate oranges into a salad.

Founded in 1989 in Lakeland, Crispers’ primary goal was to become a healthy alternative in a sea of fast food joints. The typical burger and fries menu is replaced with non-greasy sandwiches, nourishing soups and satisfying salads.

“We provide a fresh alternative to the marketplace today,” says Crispers’ CEO Ron Fuller.

Salads are made fresh, fast and flavorful with ingredients coming from local providers whenever possible, depending on the season. Over the course of Crispers’ history, the company has expanded its menu with flatbread salads and became privately owned in July 2011.

“We’re now in the process of remodeling,” says Ron. “The Ocala location will be undergoing a new, exciting look and feel by mid-August.”

Ron allowed us a few recipes from Crispers’ menu for you to make at home.

No time for slicing and dicing? Order online at, and pick-up or dine-in at their Ocala location: 2604 SW 19th Avenue Road.

Polynesian Crab Stack Salad

Have leftover avocado and mango? Hungry for seafood? Stop being a crab and toss!

Makes 1-2 servings

1ounce lettuce

1⁄3cup carrots, shredded

1⁄3cup red cabbage, shredded

¼cup cucumbers, sliced

1⁄3cup avocado salsa (recipe follows)

¼cup red onion, sliced

1⁄3cup mangos, diced

1⁄3cup crab meat

Cilantro for garnish

Combine all ingredients in bowl. Serve with tortilla chips and dressing. (Crispers uses herb citrus.)


Avocado Salsa

An essential Polynesian Crab Stack Salad ingredient.

½avocado, diced

¼ cup tomatoes, diced

1teaspoon cilantro, chopped

Black pepper, to taste

Juice of half a lemon

Mix all ingredients in bowl and mix gently. Keep refrigerated.

Signature Summer Salad

Ron says this salad’s a customer favorite!

Makes 1-2 servings

1cup lettuce

¼cup mandarin oranges

1⁄3cup Gala apples, sliced

¼cup strawberries, sliced

¼cup red onions, sliced

21⁄3cup smoked turkey, torn

¼cup gorgonzola

Candied pecans for garnish

Combine all ingredients in bowl. Serve with tortilla chips and dressing. (Crispers uses herb citrus.)

Posted in Ocala Style Features

Share this post


What's New at Ocala Style

Read These Writers

Our area has an abundance of authors. Check out some...

‘Water Shapes Florida’

The new exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History...

Mastering Your Garden

The dog days of summer can be a good time...

Alligator Allegory

My grandparents were the first to build a home along...

Making Moves

Meet the Ocala-based casting director who has steadily been building...

From France to Ocala

Dr. Jose Gaudier will lecture about the Olympic Games Paris...