by Emily DaCosta, Nutrition Intern and Jeanne Petrucci, MS, RDN
Mason jars are having their moment that extends far beyond 15-minutes of fame. Known for use in jamming, preserving, and pickling, these inexpensive glass vehicles are perfectly suited for a recent trend – jarred salads. Mason jar salads make packing lunch a cinch and their upright shape keeps ingredients separated enough to prevent your salad from becoming a soggy mess. They also store beautifully and are an easy solution to organizing your healthy lunch for the day – truly grab-and-go.
Steps to making the perfect Mason jar salad:
Start with a 1-quart, wide-mouth, glass Mason jar with lid
Layer #1: Start with the dressing – whether it is homemade dressing or your favorite store bought dressing, make it the first layer of your Mason jar salad. It is crucial that you keep the dressing on the bottom, away from the lettuce and other ingredients that have the potential to become soggy and wilt quickly. The suggested amount of dressing for your salad is about 2 tablespoons. A simple olive oil/vinegar dressing will do or if using store-bought, we like Annie’s brand of organic salad dressings.
Layer #2: Layer hardy raw sliced vegetables on top of your dressing. This blocks the dressing from reaching the more delicate ingredients toward the top of the jar. These veggies should hold up when marinating in the dressing, and keep the rest of your salad fresh and crisp. Examples: Cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, celery, cauliflower.
Layer #3: Place beans and other cooked vegetables on top of the raw vegetables. These vegetables are far enough from the dressing to stay fresh, but will not weigh down the rest of the salad if placed in the jar before the more light-weighted ingredients. Examples: Cooked mushrooms, beans, green beans, beets, left over steamed or roasted vegetables. Feel free to include fruits such as orange segments or berries.
Layer #4: Cooked grains are up next. Whether you are using quinoa, farro, brown rice or another whole grain, keep this layer towards the center of the jar and limit the quantity to ¼ cup.
Layer #5: If you are including protein in your salad, here is where it lives. This is excellent real estate for 4-6 oz. of leftover protein from the night before. No leftovers, no problem – use canned salmon or chicken. You can also include some crumbled feta cheese, tofu, and a few tablespoons of seeds or nuts.
Layer #6: Finally, the main event – this is a salad after all! Leafy greens of any kind will work, just be sure to shred the lettuce into bite-size pieces so you can fit it in and get it out of the jar. The leafy greens should occupy at least 1/3 of the jar. Examples: Kale, spinach, romaine, Bibb, chard, arugula.
Salads can stay refrigerated for several days before eating so make several salads at the beginning of the week. When you are ready to eat, simply invert the salad into a large bowl, toss and enjoy! We have never had much success eating the salad straight from the jar [a bit messy], but in a pinch you could make it work – just invert jar for a few minutes before eating.