I see patients nearly every day that explain they can’t eat salads because they don’t agree with their bellies. I can understand this. I used to think the same thing. Having dealt with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) myself (Thanks for that gene, mom!), I now know that, once well informed, it’s 100% manageable. That just because we carry the gene that makes us more sensitive to certain foods, doesn’t mean we have to suffer following every bite we take. We just take smarter bites!
When this situation arises in the clinic, I quickly put on my detective hat and start investigating:
1) When you say ‘salad,’ what does that mean to you?
2) Where did said ‘salad’ come from, and who prepared it?
3) What sort of ‘dress’ did said ‘salad’ have on?
While it’s possible that some folks are sensitive to leafy greens and some veggies, most of the time it’s not the veggies that cause the IBS symptoms of diarrhea or constipation. More often it’s the ‘chemicals’ either on the vegetables or in the dressing that’s telling your body “GET ME OUT OF HERE! I DON’T BELONG!”
1) What does salad mean to me? The produce! When I hear someone say salad, I want to know what color it is. What vegetables they’re putting in there and how many. What fruits might be dancing around in the sea of bright green. I also want to know what ‘extras’ they might be throwing on top. (Here’s looking at you bacon bits, cheese, croutons, sunflower seeds, chunks of ham and hard boiled eggs.) While some of these things are great, they can quickly overshadow the ‘salad’ or produce that should be the main attraction.
Tasty tip: Make sure the bulk of your salad is produce, protein toppings should be served as a ‘side dish portion’ and all those other tasty ‘extras’ should be added delicately, rather than piled on top or buried below.
2) Why does the origin of the salad matter? Well, that’s because not all salads are created equal. Picture it… If you walk into a fast food chain, and every time you order a salad, or any meal for that matter, IT LOOKS EXACTLY THE SAME! No matter if you’re in California, or rural West Virginia. The produce in that salad was more than likely picked several weeks ago, sprayed with propylene glycol to ‘preserve it’s freshness’ (yes, that’s antifreeze, which would probably better serve you in your car engine this winter), and has now been sitting in the fast food refrigerator for several days because, how many of us go through fast food and order a salad anyway? What’s a better option you’re wondering?
Tasty Tip: Plan ahead or pack something from home! Most other choices on the menu could be just as sketch. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how and when it was made and encourage the manager or owner to shop locally for produce is it’s within their means. Many people are simply unaware.
3) Ah-ha, the dressing! To many, the loveliest part of a salad; to others, and those of us with IBS, the deadliest part. While a nice big bowl of various colored produce is lovely, it can soon turn into a ‘I should have just had a pizza’ moment if we’re not careful about with what and how much we dress it.
To me, there’s something nostalgic about a simple garden salad with an herbaceous, peppery, and garlicy ranch dressing. But, the last time I picked up the bottle to read the label… YIKES! It looked like a chemistry experiment gone wrong. This sent me straight to the kitchen to perform an experiment myself. Looking back, every salad I used to eat with ranch dressing sent me, well… Not to the kitchen if you know what I mean! ; )
Tasty Tip: Always read your labels and if you’re eating out, don’t be afraid to take your own homemade dressing. Check out the recipe below if your inner child sometimes screams for ranch dressing too. Nobody’s going to judge what crazy things you might decide to dip in it! ; )
5 Tbsp dried parsley
6 tsp dried dill
6 tsp garlic powder
6 tsp onion powder
3 tsp dried basil
3 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt, or to taste
*Keep these mixed up in a jar for a quick sprinkle and go dressing or dip. Add 1T of mixture to the recipe below.
· 1/3 cup yogurt (Greek or regular) and ¼ cup milk or water
Or Dairy Free:
· 1/2 cup mayonnaise (homemade is best)
· 1 teaspoon olive oil
· 1 teaspoon lemon juice
· 1-2 tablespoons of milk or buttermilk (I prefer almond, cashew & found that just plain water works too)
The simplest form of dressing is oil emulsified with an acid solution.
Check out this awesome chart on the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/28/how-to-make-salad-dressing_n_7452178.html
I’m dying to know how you ‘get dressed’! Leave your comments below.