The Joy of Salads

The quick answer:  To meet the national goal of 4-5 daily vegetable servings, eat a green salad most days. 


Food Math

I grew up in a large family where money, of necessity, was carefully managed.  Our folks were hardworking and prudent.  We drove older cars and took local vacations. Mom and Dad kept the wolf from the door.  Our clothes weren’t the latest style but we felt secure.  If we wanted any of those special things that revolve in and out of fashion, we had to earn them ourselves.  So out of my growing up I offer this bit of wisdom:  If money is tight in your home, be grateful.  Your poverty just might force you to buy unprocessed food and cook it yourself. 

Driving home from the grocery store I asked this question:  What do I pay, on average, for a pound of food?  So I weighted the groceries and calculated the cost.  We paid $2.22 per pound.  My horseback estimate of our average cost is $2.50/lb.  In a minute I’ll estimate the annual cost to feed a family of six.

At Word of Wisdom Living we’re cost conscious.  We really believe that it’s cheaper to buy natural food and prepare it yourself, than to buy the modern American diet (MAD) of processed foods.  It takes more time to cook meals from scratch, but that’s how you put the love into your meals.  This extra work requires that all the family participate.  A meal shouldn’t be about mom slaving alone in the kitchen; rather it can be a daily lesson in family teamwork. 

I did a little math for a family of six (two adults, two teens, two children, in total the equivalent of 4.8 adults):

  1. The family eats 95 pounds of food a week—all prepared my mom and her team.
  2. The family spends $1016 a month for that food.  (This assumes food at $2.50/lb.)
  3. The annual cost is $12,191, but you can spend a lot more if you’re not organized. 
  4. The key to provident living is to eat more natural foods in season that cost around 1 $/lb. and less meat, dairy, and processed foods that cost 3-8 $/lb. 
  5. Two exceptions to #4:  First, enjoy nuts—though they cost more, eat a daily serving.  Second, take the beautiful wife out to dinner now and then. 

A word about natural foods in season:  Last summer I analyzed the produce section of a Smart & Final store.  Of about 100 different produce items, all but two could be purchased for under 1 $/lb.  (Avocados, for example, cost more.)  I was so impressed with this food value that I vowed to mention Smart & Final in a post.  I just did, but not to exclude Sprouts or Whole Foods, TJ’s, produce stores like Growers Direct, or the ubiquitous farmers’ markets. 

The Vegetable Challenge

Of your 15 or so daily servings of food, try to make 4-5 of them vegetables.  That’s the guidance of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is congruent with the canonized scripture on diet called the Word of Wisdom.  After a year of observation we’ve learned this:  it’s hard to eat 4-5 daily vegetable servings.    If you exclude French fries and the ketchup they’re dipped in, the average American eats about 1 daily vegetable serving.  Just one!

Here’s the key to reaching 4-5 daily vegetable servings:  Eat a green salad most days.

Green Salad

Growing up, dinner usually included a salad.  We are a variety: Waldorf salad (apples, celery, walnuts); potato salad (a lot of work); carrot and raisin salad (really healthy except for the mayo); macaroni salad with canned shrimp (my favorite); and a relic of that time—Jello salad, usually with a can of fruit cocktail. 

The beautiful wife grew up eating green salads so that became our standard.  Over time the salads were improved by replacing pale iceberg lettuce with dark greens, like spinach, romaine, arugula and broccoli.  That’s the new wisdom for greens:  the darker the better.   Greens cost more in the winter but year around a salad of dark greens is the best nutrition value you can find.  Last night for dinner we enjoyed a super nutrition bargain: the last of the Black Bean Soup with a spinach salad.  Simple, cheap, healthy, and green.

For more on the benefit of greens, check the YouTube lecture by University of Iowa professor Dr. Terry Wahls.  Wahls successfully reversed her MS by turning to a diet of plant foods with lots of greens.  It’s called Minding Your Mitochondria.

Traditional Salad Dressing

Enjoy your salad with a dressing made from healthy oil.  In our view, olive oil is healthy oil but refined soybean oil, commonly used in commercial dressings, isn’t.  In olden times, vinaigrette salad dressing made of olive oil and vinegar (in a 3:1 ratio), plus salt and pepper with any other seasoning, was kept on most tables.  Substituting lemon juice for part of the vinegar improves the taste for some.  If the tartness of vinegar bothers, add a little honey.  Because oil and vinegar don’t mix, the dressing is shaken to create a temporary emulsion when serving. 

There was real food wisdom in the vinaigrette tradition.  Researchers have discovered that some plant nutrients, like carotenoids, are fat-soluble.  These nutrients are more bioavailable if served with a little fat.  So be sure to include a dressing made from healthy oil with your salad.  For a Basic Vinaigrette Recipe, go here

Please comment. We talked about cabbage salad in the post, The Joy of Coleslaw, and shared a recipe.  In the next post we’ll share a pattern recipe useful for a variety of salad combinations.  Please share your favorite green salad recipe, or healthy salad dressing.

Need a reminder? Download our Healthy Change. Print and fold, then place in your kitchen or on your bathroom mirror to help you remember the Healthy Change of the week.

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Reader Comments (8)

I love to make homemade ranch dressing:

1 C. plain yogurt
1 C. mayo
2 chopped green onions
1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 T. parsley flakes

Stir together and add a splash of milk to adjust consistency. So fresh!

March 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBree

Hi Skip! I bookmarked an article a while ago that listed 50 foods under a dollar a pound. It's helpful, and a good reminder about how much money I can save if I think ahead and soak/cook beans instead of canned beans or buy produce when it's in season and freeze it after minimal prep work.

March 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

i find I crave salad more if I have delicious homemade dressing, pine nuts, and feta on my salad. And with each of those a little goes a long easy.

March 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranna

Saw that dr. Wahls vid. awhile back and was truly impressed with her story.

I've been reading and loving Walden, and was delighted to discover that Thoreau, though not familiar with the official, "Word of Wisdom" lived it.

A couple of quotes from his chapter, "Higher Law"
"I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man; wine is not so noble a liquor; and think of dashing the hopes of a morning with a cup of warm coffee, or of an evening with a dish of tea!

"I believe that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his higher or poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food, and from much food of any kind."

He of course embraced simplicity and frugality and I find it fascinating to read how he applied those ideals to his diet.

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLC

I have found green smoothies to be the easiest and tastiest way to add greens to my diet. I can't believe how much better I feel now that I drink two a day.

You need to rotate the greens you use every couple of weeks to avoid alkaloids building up in your system so I switch between spinach, kale, romaine, baby greens, and parsley. My go-to recipe for one 16 ounce smoothie is to blend together:

1 cup greens
1/2-1 banana
1/4-1/2 c of one or two other fruit (berries, peaches, mango, pineapple, oranges, apples)
1 cup water

At first I wasn't crazy about drinking something green but they taste so good that now they even look good to me! You can also make savory green smoothies with tomatoes, cucumber, celery, and bell peppers instead of fruit. (I haven't tried that yet but I'm sure I will this summer when everything is fresh.)

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkpp2

Hi Skip! I tend to lean toward more fruit than vegetables in my diet, but working to improve. Love a good salad, and consider myself to be a great salad maker. I'm wondering about some of the "regulars" that land in my salads...are they considered fruits or vegetables when it comes to diet?

Bell peppers



March 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Just learned of your blog today after reading the Daily Herald in Provo. Have you ever researched coconut oil? I started using organic coconut oil on bread in place of butter, and it is delicious and very good for you! It is a good fat and is good to use on your skin as well.
I would like to learn how to make sourdough bread with all whole wheat flour. How do you make the starter and do you have a recipe for the bread?
Pat Conover

March 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat Conover

Pretty! It was a really wonderful post. Thank you for your information provided.

May 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCheap Jerseys

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