Shake It Up: Mason Jar Salads
If you’re like most smart & savvy women, you already know how to make healthy and nutritious choices.
But, here’s the catch: just because you “know” doesn't mean that you “do.”
Somehow your good intentions get tossed out the window because of life. Busyness. Lack of a routine. Never-ending to-do lists.
The “not-doing” leads to eating foods that aren't ideal or skipping meals and then fighting cravings all day long … leaving you moody, depleted, and desperately searching for something to save yourself from your blood sugar roller coaster.
And then … in comes the guilt (with a capital G).
Why can’t I just eat healthy? Why do I always end up scrambling in spite of the fact that I know what to do?
You pretty much feel like crap all around. Not fun. And, not necessary.
The good news: It's the perfect season to usher in new and nourishing routines. One of my personal favorites?
Mason Jar Salads.
The best part? You don’t need an official recipe or a list of complicated ingredients. All you need is a little bit of organization, plus a hint of imagination to create what I call Mason Jar Magic.
Wouldn't these beautiful jars make you giddy with delight as you’re darting out the door and have a meal to take with you? Personally, I LOVE opening up my refrigerator and seeing these ready-to-go salads all lined up just waiting to be eaten.
Here are some easy guidelines to make mason jar salads happen for you:
We’ll stay away from the complicated rules, but there’s an art to creating the perfect mason jar salad so that you don't end up eating a soggy mess. (Hint - it’s all about the layering.)
Mason Jar Size: Use a wide mouth mason jar that’s easy to fill … and easy to dig into. The pint size is perfect for an individual salad and is deceptively bigger & more filling than it looks. If you pack it with nutrient-dense ingredients, it should keep you full for hours. For larger salads, use the quart size.
Dressing: Wet ingredients go on the bottom. If you keep the mason jar upright, the dressing will not mix with the rest of the salad until you’re ready to eat it. You can also use hummus or pesto instead of traditional salad dressing. Anything else with a marinade should stay close to the bottom as well.
Hard Vegetables: Veggies like carrots, cucumbers, peppers, celery, onion, zucchini and cooked beets can be layered on top of the dressing because they are not as absorbent.
Softer Fruits & Veggies: In the middle, place the more absorbent veggies like avocado, tomatoes, berries or citrus fruits. (If using avocado, add a squeeze of lemon to prevent browning.)
Grains, Beans, Nuts, Seeds & Proteins: These nutritional powerhouses stay fresh closer to the top. The nuts and seeds seem to maintain their crunch if placed right below the top layer. (Note: beans can also go near the bottom, but I prefer to keep the protein layer up top.)
Greens: Last but not least, fill the remaining part of the jar with as much leafy green goodness as you can possibly fit in. (And bring some extra greens if you’re inspired. I do!)
Storing: Make sure to screw the lid on as tight as possible so that your salad can last up to 4 days. Before putting your meals in the fridge, peek into the environmentally friendly glass jars, smile at your colorful creations and pat yourself on the back for getting organized for the week!
Eating: When it comes time to eat your gorgeous salad, you can either shake it up and go for it straight from the jar, or pull out a bowl and do what my client calls “the flip.” You turn the mason jar upside down into a dish and end up with the greens on the bottom and all the other ingredients on top, including the dressing.
While I'm really hoping that you use your imagination and not get stuck in the idea of having to follow a recipe exactly, here are a few ideas meant to inspire:
Raid the fridge for leftovers (or intentionally make extra). My personal favorite is to roast lots of veggies at the beginning of the week, make some extra protein and cook a batch of quinoa or other grains. Then, when it comes time to filling all the jars, mix & match to create a variety of perfectly balanced lunches to keep things interesting all week long. (No two salads are alike, so you can kick lunchtime boredom goodbye!)
Pick a theme. Think Mediterranean, Mexican, Asian-Inspired, Italian and then build your salad with all the flavors and ingredients accordingly.
Deconstruct a salad you already make. As an example, I took my Colorful Kale Salad and then layered all the ingredients instead of mixing them together. When I was ready to eat it, I turned the jar over and boom - fresh salad that stayed crisp until lunchtime.
Get ideas from other dishes. I used my Zucchini Pasta with Pesto & Cherry Tomatoes and layered the pesto on the bottom, then added zucchini noodles and lots of tomatoes. To make it more of a salad, I also put in other crunchy veggies (carrots, red pepper). My husband snatched it out of the fridge for dinner that night! Forget about lunch. He shook it up and ate it right away! (All I got was an empty mason jar.)
If it isn’t obvious yet, this is an easy to make and simple way to turn all that “knowing” into “doing.” Just be sure to have some fun creating!
Now, it’s your turn: What are you inspired to munch for lunch? Post your “most-wanted” mason jar salad ingredients below.