Vegetables deliver different kinds of nutrients so its important to eat a variety. A simple and powerful way to categorize vegetables is the method used by Dr. Terry Wahls in her book The Wahls Protocol. She divides vegetables into the following three categories:
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Sulphur-rich Vegetables
- Deeply Coloured Vegetables
This approach will ensure we get as many essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients from our diet as possible.
Take Food Prep to the Next Level
Preparing a salad base that includes veggies from all three categories takes food prep to the next level and gives you a head start when making healthy breakfasts, lunches and inspired dinner-time salads.
What you choose from each category will vary by season, and depends on what is available where you live.
The idea is to select one or two veggies from each category. Start by veggies that when chopped stays fresh in the fridge for 2-3 days. Chopped kale, shredded cabbage, sliced red onion, and diced peppers are the type of vegetables that stores well.
Some veggies are superstars and belong to two categories. Kale is a dark leafy green and a sulphur-rich vegetable. When picking a vegetable that checks two boxes, select the category you will count it towards and continue choosing the rest.
When you are ready to serve or eat the salad it’s time to add the more delicate toppers that don’t store well cut up. Tomatoes and avocados are best added before serving. You can also add berries such as strawberries and blueberries and seeds for an extra nutrient boost and crunch. My favourite seeds on salads are hemp seeds and sunflower seeds.
Vegetables by Categories
Let’s continue with a closer look at the three groups of vegetables with plenty of examples to get you started. Keep these vegetable categories in mind when grocery shopping, visiting your local farmer’s market and planning your meals.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens are packed with nutrients and fibers needed for healthy gut function. Generally the darker the leafy green, the higher the nutrient content. Diversity is important so be sure to include a variety of dark leafy greens into your salads, smoothies and cooked greens.
Here are some common dark leafy greens:
- Bok Choy
- Swiss Chard
- Collard Greens
- Romaine Lettuce
- Water Cress
Sulphur is an important nutrient in many of the vegetables with think of as nutritional superheroes like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, onions, and garlic. Sulphur is an essential component for many crucial functions in the body such as detoxification, reduction of oxidative stress (inflammation) and a healthy immune system.
Here is a list of some of the most common sulphur-rich vegetables:
- Brussels Sprouts
Deeply Coloured Vegetables
A vegetable’s colour reveals to a large extent the nutrients it delivers. When we talk about deeply coloured vegetables I am referring to those that are pigmented all the way through like beets, carrots, and peppers. We could further subdivide this group by colour, but for the purposes of this grouping, all deeply coloured vegetables are one group.
- Cabbage, red
- Sweet Potatoes
Make the Salad Base
- Select at least one or two veggies from each category. If a vegetable hits two categories, Choose the one you’ll count it towards. My salad in the photo above includes kale (leafy green), oak leaf lettuce (leafy green), asparagus (sulphur), red onions (sulphur), red peppers (deeply coloured). I also added cucumber since they add crunch and store well for a few days.
- Be sure to wash and dry the veggies well before chopping. It is important that the vegetables are properly dried so they store well. A salad spinner or a towel will quickly dry the vegetables.
- Chop or tear the greens into bite-size pieces. Slice onions, tender asparagus spears, peppers, cucumber, or the veggies you are using. Mix or layer cut veggies into family-size containers, or single-serve jars. If the jars are for a lunch to go, be sure to leave an inch or two at the top so more delicate toppers and proteins can be added later.
- Add a piece of brown paper towel to the jar to absorb any excess moisture. Doing so seems to keep the salad fresh longer, let me know if you agree. Store in the fridge for approximately 3 days.
Dress the Salad
- When its time to eat or serve your salad empty salad base into a bowl. Make a single serving or family size salad.
- Now it’s time to add the toppers. Toppers include veggies and berries that don’t store well. I added sliced cherry tomatoes, sliced strawberries, and avocado slices. Fresh herbs, nuts, and seeds are also great toppers, I added hemp seeds to my salad.
- Drizzle with olive oil and your fave vinegar, or a homemade dressing.
Take Your Salad To Go
- Here are some suggestions if you’ll be bringing your salad jar to work or school. Before leaving home empty the jar into a temporary bowl. In the bottom of the jar add your dressing which can be as simple as a drizzle of olive oil and your vinegar of choice. This keeps the dressing from making your greens soggy.
- Add the salad mix back along with the more delicate toppers, nuts, seeds, and protein such as diced chicken or chickpeas before securing the lid. When you’re ready to eat, stir up the dressing from the bottom of the jar, or empty the salad onto a plate or bowl.
Whether you eat your salad at home or take it to go, the salad is now brimming with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and fiber.Print
Take food prep to the next level with this Triple Power Salad Base. Thinking of your vegetables in three distinct categories is a powerful way to make sure you get the variety needed to cover the bodies need for vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and other phytonutrients. The 3 categories are dark leafy greens, sulphur-rich and deeply coloured veggies.
Use the vegetables available locally, by season and what you can find in your grocery store. The goal is to select one or two veggies from each category (see blog post for lists). If a vegetable checks two boxes just decide which category you will count it in. My recipe is just an example of what I made in the month of May, I was able to get kale, oak leaf lettuce and tender asparagus from my local farmer’s market. The peppers and red onions came from the grocery store along with the cherry tomatoes, avocado and strawberry toppers.
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 head dark green or red lettuce
- 1/2 red onion
- 8–10 thin asparagus spears
- 1/2 cup sliced cucumber
- 1 red pepper
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 avocado
- 3 strawberries
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- GREENS: Wash and dry kale and lettuce, or any other greens you are using. Chop the greens and place in bowl.
- SULPHUR RICH + DEEP COLOUR: Slice red onion into thin slices. Trim asapargus spears and slice into 1/2″ pieces and cut red pepper into strips or bite-sized pieces.
- STORING: Place all chopped vegetables in glass or stainless steel containers or mason jars. Line and/or top with brown paper towel if storing for more than 2 days.
- TOPPERS: When it is time to serve the salad, or when getting the salad ready for a lunch to go, add the delicate toppers such as avocado, berries, tomatoes and hemp seeds.
- DRESS: Drizzle olive oil and vinegar on top and toss, or at the bottom of the jar taking the salad to go to avoid soggy greens.
TIP! Serve with grilled chicken or chick peas.