When thinking about choosing the perfect healthy meal, a salad ticks all the boxes. They are normallylow-fat, low-sugar and low-salt and contain plenty of fibre. Most should also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, so if you add in some protein, you've got just about everything you need for a healthy meal.
Salads may start to lose points when it comes to making them exciting and tasty, but using a little imagination can help to change that. After all, salad is a fantastic accompaniment to almost every meal, or a delicious meal on its own.
Salads really can be exciting, and to prove our point we've drawn up a range of tasty, low-fat ideas to brighten up any plate.
1. Go for colour : coloured fruits and vegetables look amazing, and also contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
2. Mix up the greens: iceberg lettuce isn't the only thing you can use for the base of your salad. There are all kinds of tasty, nutritious alternatives available. You could instead use spinach, kale or a mix of dark, leafy lettuces.
3. Experiment: to make your salad look extra tempting, get out the mandolin to add some style as well as substance to your salad, and have some fun in the process.
4. Try adding some fruit too: strawberries, avocado, kiwi fruit, grapes and apples all offer bright colours to make your salad look extra tempting, plus great texture and taste.
5. Don't forget the protein: salad can be the ultimate healthy meal with some chicken, lean steak or ham, oily fish or prawns added in, or alternatively you could stick to the vegetarian option by using feta cheese, tofu, chickpeas or kidney beans.
6. Try some carbs instead: adding brown rice or pasta can offer a huge fibre booster to your day.
7. Remember texture: a great salad is a crunchy salad, so try using croutons, walnuts, pickled silver skin onions and toasted hazelnuts.
8. Try seeds too: seeds are a great source of healthy omega oils, and eating a handful in your salad is a great way of getting them into your diet. Adding pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds provides a great omega cocktail, and grinding them up helps maximise their healthy potential.
9. For winter salads: add some warm goat's cheese over the top of your salad.
10. Don't forget the spices: a few chopped chillies will give your salad a great kick, while adding in coriander, basil and parsley provides even more flavour.
11. Buy your salad fresh and eat it soon afterwards: only buy the amount of salad you would use in a week, as salad is at its best when it is fresh. Any remaining vegetables can be frozen and used later for soups and casseroles.
12. Buy locally if you can, or even grow your own: if you're partial to a carrot the chances are it will be fresher and taste better if it was grown down the road. Maybe you could try growing some of your own.
13. Dress it all up : the final flourish should be far more than olive oil or salad cream (although both are excellent dressings in themselves). Think about vinaigrettes, such as balsamic, basil, dill or citrus or even raspberry. French dressing with mustard, sweet honey dressing, a light Caesar dressing or even just plain old lemon juice - the variations go on and on.
14. Above all think outside the bowl : salads aren't just about lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. The list of ingredients is endless and the sky's the limit. Just choose the ingredients you enjoy and use your creativity because there are no rules.