Body Food

Romaine Calm: You Can Still Eat Salad Without Your Favorite Lettuce

May 9, 2018
Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Don’t let E. coli put the kibosh on your favorite nosh. 

Yes, five people in our state reported sickness from E. coli, part of the widespread national outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona. And lettuce sold in sealed bags and tubs may be extra risky. 

But there are still plenty of ways to enjoy salad sans romaine. 

So romaine calm about the E. coli scare and reboot your salad routine with these tips from UW Medicine dietitians. It just may be an opportunity to change out your Caesar salad habit for something even healthier.

Diversify your foliage 

You should do for your salad what you would do for your stock portfolio (if you had a stock portfolio). 

“Choose other leafy greens like spinach and kale and introduce yourself to other kinds of lettuce you haven’t tried before,” says Charlotte Furman, registered dietician at University of Washington Medical Center. “Red and green leaf, arugula, radicchio and even iceberg are all lettuces that aren’t part of the E. coli scare.”

The sun does not rise and set on romaine. If you really don’t like other lettuces as much as romaine, you can always blend multiple leafy greens so that no one flavor prevails.

Baby your greens

If you find the texture of some greens challenging—kale, anyone?—registered dietician Judy Simon from the Nutrition Clinic at UW Medical Center-Roosevelt has a trick up her sleeve. She recommends massaging kale leaves with a little bit of sea salt and lemon to soften them.

She also suggests buying baby versions of greens like spinach and kale. “The baby leaves are just as nutritious but way more tender than their tough guy older brothers,” says Simon.

Eat a rainbow every day

Roy G. Biv” is your friend in the vegetable business. The pigments that give your fruits and vegetables the colors of the rainbow represent a variety of phytonutrients like beta-carotene, folate and resveratrol that are good for you.

Adding a variety of colored vegetables to your salad takes it up a notch in terms of artistic presentation and nutrition, too. Beets, tomatoes, red cabbage, orange peppers, carrots—the more variety in color, the more variety in nutrition. It’s a win-win.

“A salad is not all about the lettuce. It’s really just a palette for vegetables. So if you’re not crazy about the greens, eat more of the other colors of the rainbow instead,” says Furman.

Add protein for a full meal deal

Since you’re changing your salad around anyway, it’s a good time to try something new, says Simon. 

True, everyone is tired of hearing about superfood quinoa—it’s a fiber, it’s a seed, no, it’s a protein!—but it’s still darn good atop some greens. So are flax seeds, garbanzo beans, salmon, nuts, sunflower seeds, edamame beans and anything else that adds protein, texture or crunch to your lunch. 

“By putting a protein on top of some greens, you’re turning your salad into a full meal,” says Simon. “And it’s an easy, balanced, delicious meal, too.”