The Chicken Ranch Salad that will actually help your digestion, not hurt it.
I used to think that if I ordered a salad while eating out, I was being healthy…
Growing up, we would go out to dinner at Applebees or Red Robin relatively frequently. Around high school I started ordering the chicken tender salad or the asian salad with crispy chicken and top ramen noodles, feeling like I was making a healthy decision because it was a salad.
As an adult in the health and wellness industry, I have compassion for that young girl.
Restaurants intentionally market “healthy meals” for their customers but still load them up with processed ingredients and add lots of unhealthy oils, sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fat so that people will like the taste and feel good about their decisions.
It’s pretty messed up, actually.
As I’ve learned about healthy eating as an adult, I now realize that those chicken tenders on top of my salad were more processed and unhealthy than nearly anything else on the menu. The dressings were laced with processed sugar, refined oils, gluten filled carbs, and fats that were negatively impacting my health. And the crunchy noodles were hardly something I could now accept as actual food.
Unfortunately, a handful of greens can’t combat the toxic load the rest of the salad had.
However, something I’ve loved being able to do now that I have a better understanding of real food is to create my favorite processed meals but with healthy ingredients.
There are ways to take a longtime favorite meal from our childhood and make it heathy.
I’ve done exactly that with this recipe- the Crunchy Spicy Chicken Ranch Salad!
There are a few key ingredients I prioritize when I’m whipping up a delicious, real food salad:
- Fiber- Lot’s of greens, 2-3 other vegetables, and beans are usually the base of my salads. High fiber = happy digestion = #healthgoals.
- Homemade Dressing- It’s easy to be tempted by a store bought salad dressing, but they typically come with lot’s of sugar, hydrogenated oils, and plenty of preservatives. No good. And making your own dressing takes about 5 minutes, so this is an easy change.
- Healthy Protein and/or Fat- It’s important that we aren’t just eating veggies if this is our actual meal. We need to feel full, and protein and fat help with satiety. But let’s shoot for healthy proteins and fat. Good protein options include (home-cooked and organic/wild caught) chicken, prawns, tuna, fish, beef, eggs, and beans. For healthy fats I like nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, avocado oil, olive oil, or goat cheeses (depending on your body’s ability to take dairy).
This recipe has all of these components-
Fiber: Cabbage, carrots, bell peppers. Could easily add black beans if you are up for it!
Dressing: This Spicy Ranch Dressing is the healthy ranch dressing I’ve been dreaming of. You will probably want to eat it on the daily and it takes less than 5 minutes to make.
Healthy Protein/Fat: We’ve got organic chicken for our protein + avocado and pepita seeds for our fat, keeping us nice and full until our next meal.
You know that nearly everything I eat has a digestive health component. The load of fiber in this Chicken Ranch salad will definitely help you with your digestion.
Give this recipe a try and see how delectable homemade, healthy salads really can be!
Spicy Chicken Ranch Salad w/ Toasted Pepitas Recipe
Recipe makes about 4 servings, takes about 30 minutes
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 tablespoon of avocado oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced
- 2 large carrots, shredded
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, diced (optional, omit if you don’t like spice)
- 1/2 cup pepita seeds
- 1 avocado, chopped
- 3/4 cups mayonnaise (I use Chosen Foods Mayonnaise because they only use avocado oil and other real foods)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- juice of one small lemon or 1/2 of one large lemon
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, thinly diced
- 2-3 tablespoons water to thin it out
- 1 squirt or two of hot sauce (I like sriracha), optional
- Salt to taste
Cook the chicken- You can use whatever method you prefer but this is what I do:
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Add parchment paper to a baking sheet. Place chicken on baking sheet and drizzle with avocado oil, salt, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Rub so that it’s even. Cook in the oven for 13-18 minutes or until cooked through (165 degrees). Set off to the side to cool.
- In a small pan over medium heat, add the pepitas. Cook until they are lightly brown and just start to pop, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add the cabbage, carrots, bell pepper, green onions, cilantro, and jalapeno to a large bowl.
- Add all of the dressing ingredients to a medium sized bowl. Mix well. Add more water as needed to reach your desired consistency. Taste and add more salt as needed.
Add the dressing and pepitas to the salad mixture and toss until well coated. Portion the salad into bowls. Cut the chicken however you want to have it and add to each salad bowl. Top with avocado and enjoy!
Let me know what you think of this Spicy Chicken Ranch Salad and if it helped your digestion!
Naturally Gluten and Dairy Free