Forget breakfast—these salads will make lunch your most important meal of the day! Celebrity chef Seamus Mullen shows how to DIY the perfect salad.
Not everyone believes the decades-old saying that breakfast is most important meal of the day — including Seamus Mullen, chef and author of "Real Food Heals: Eat to Feel Younger and Stronger Every Day." "I think breakfast is the most oversold meal of the day," he says. "I think the most important meal is the first meal you have, whether you have it at 9 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon."
Enter the big-ass salad, or BAS, Seamus' favorite way to power up for the rest of the day. He recently stopped by our Stronger podcast to talk about the difference healthy eating made in his life (and to sing the praises of the BAS), and we just had to ask for a few of his favorite recipes. Here you'll find 10 of Seamus' favorite salads for fueling up — and we bet they'll soon be staples in your weekly meal plan too.
1. Arugula With Salmon and Avocado BAS
Every BAS is packed with veggies, and this one packs in peppery arugula, crisp radishes and creamy avocado along with cucumber to make it refreshing and delicious. You'll also get plenty of protein from the salmon. Mullen recommends buying wild-caught salmon whenever possible for its eco-friendly benefits, plus omega-3 fatty acids to help fight inflammation. Top it off with a bit of sunflower seeds for added unsaturated fats and minerals, and you've got yourself a satisfying and heart-healthy meal.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Arugula Salad With Salmon and Avocado
2. Green Eggs and Kale BAS
A filling, nutrient-dense salad that comes together in just five minutes? Sign us up! This BAS is perfect when you're busy, and it packs in plenty of filling protein from the eggs, which are one of Mullen's favorite salad toppings. "Eggs are the perfect food in many ways. They not only have a lot of nutrients you need, they have a good balance of nutrients," he says. Whole eggs also add a bit of healthy fat to your salad via the yolk, which helps you absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A and K found in kale. And using Champagne vinegar in the dressing makes the meal feel quite fancy — even if you're eating this on the go.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Green Eggs and Kale Salad
3. Chicken BAS With Mushrooms, Kale and Yuzu
Mixing up the greens can totally transform the flavor of any salad, and Mullen loves to include seaweed — like nori — to add Asian-inspired flavor. In addition to being low in calories, nori is a great source of iodine, a mineral your thyroid needs to function properly. Hearty mustard greens add earthy bitterness, while a citrusy yuzu vinaigrette keeps this salad feeling light and fresh. Pulled rotisserie chicken packs in the protein. This salad works best if you make the chicken the night before — one of Seamus' favorite ways to make meal prep more convenient.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Chicken With Mushrooms, Kale and Yuzu Salad
4. Sweet Herb and Avocado BAS
Sweet, crunchy, creamy, earthy — this salad has it all. Avocado and sunflower seeds provide texture and healthy fats to your salad, while adding fresh cilantro, basil and mint to an otherwise-boring baby kale base amps up the flavor. Fresh herbs are not only delicious, they are also among the most concentrated sources of antioxidants. Just half a cup of basil provides nearly all the vitamin K you need for the day. This salad also gains a touch of natural sweetness by including prunes in the vinaigrette, which will help to keep you regular because of the fiber.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Sweet Herb and Avocado Salad
5. Coconut-Lime Arugula BAS With Fresh Herbs
Mixing greens with fresh herbs is also the easiest way to make a fresh-tasting Asian-inspired salad. From bold arugula to satisfyingly crunchy cabbage slaw to bright and flavorful cilantro, mint and basil, this one packs in a copious quantity of leafy greens. Pickled carrots add healthy probiotics, which promote good digestive health, while the coconut-lime vinaigrette adds a tropical twist (and a serving of heart-healthy fats, thanks to the coconut oil). Make this for lunch and you'll feel like it's summer already.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Coconut-Lime Arugula Salad With Fresh Herbs
6. Bacon and Egg BAS
Mullen eats his BAS as the first meal of the day, and this one proves that starting your day with lunch doesn't have to mean missing out on breakfast. Adding eggs and bacon to this salad lets you enjoy your favorite morning flavors. This salad is loaded with protein and plenty of veggies — plus sweet persimmon — to keep the salad from feeling too heavy.
Purchase pastured bacon to keep this salad healthier and eco-conscious, recommends Mullen. "I believe [pastured meat] is more nutrient-dense than if you're going to get something raised in a feedlot," he says. "When you have animals feeding close to how nature intended them to feed, you're much more likely to get something that is, in fact, healthy for you."
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Bacon and Egg Salad
7. Kale and Chicken Caesar BAS With Quinoa and Pecans
Roasted chicken along with a soft-boiled egg makes this salad seriously protein-packed, while tricolor quinoa adds the healthy plant-based protein along with a higher dose of antioxidants than you'll find in plain white quinoa. Pecans add crunch and make this salad feel luxurious, but make sure to measure your portion and treat them like a garnish to avoid overeating. "Nuts and seeds have lectins in them, which are inflammatory proteins. Too many of them is not a good idea, at least for me," says Seamus. And even if you're not sensitive to lectins, you should practice moderation, since most nuts and seeds are high in calories.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Kale and Chicken Caesar Salad With Quinoa and Pecans
8. Persimmon, Pistachio and Turnip BAS With Mustard Greens
If you're always dreaming of autumn (come on, sweater weather), lunching on this salad may be the next best thing. Root veggies like turnips just scream fall, while seasonal autumn and winter produce like persimmons and kale give this salad a distinctly cool-weather feel. Fresh herbs add much-needed balance for all those hearty greens, manchego cheese crisps provide savory flavor and filling protein from the sardines makes this salad a meal.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Persimmon, Pistachio and Turnip Salad With Mustard Greens
9. Shaved Vegetable and Arugula BAS With Kefir-Chia Vinaigrette
One of the easiest ways to dress up a salad is to play with texture, which is why Seamus loves a shaved veggie salad that includes crunchy fennel, radishes, carrots, apples and creamy avocado alongside unconventional salad fare like rutabagas. The kefir-chia vinaigrette adds probiotics, dietary fiber and calcium to your salad, while wild-caught sardines add environmentally friendly omega-3 fatty acids. Serve this salad on its own as a (big-ass) meal, or leave out the sardines for a crowd-pleasing side dish.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Shaved Vegetable and Arugula Salad With Kefir-Chia Vinaigrette
Make Your Own BAS
Let's face it, almost no one has time to cook meat in the middle of the day. And using leftovers is Mullen's favorite way to make putting together a BAS simple and convenient. "Always make extra food. Always plan to have leftovers," he says. "Not just reheating and eating the same thing over and over again, but repurposing some shredded roast chicken or sliced grass-fed steak into your salad. I always have leftovers in some capacity in my refrigerator."
And don't stop at meat. Leftover grilled or roasted veggies work perfectly in a BAS (either reheated or served chilled), and a few leftover pieces of fruit from a smoothie can add some unexpected sweetness. So go ahead and whip up an extra serving of your dinner to incorporate into lunch and make your BAS prep (almost) instantaneous.
Substitutions Are Always Welcome
All of Mullen's big-ass salads have four major components: veggies (cooked or raw), a source of protein, a source of fat, and some texture. That means there are infinite ways to mix up the formula, and Mullen's recommends making every salad your own. "When you're cooking, be creative. You don't need to follow recipes to the letter — especially with a salad. If you don't like radishes, try turnips. If you don't like turnips, try adding some raw kohlrabi."
Add some smokiness to your salad with roasted corn kernels. Bring the crunch with raw cauliflower or broccoli. Put in a touch of sweetness with chopped apple. Can't eat nuts and seeds? Add texture with crushed, whole-grain crackers or even whole-grain pretzels. The possibilities are endless.
What Do YOU Think?
Which of these yummy salads are you most excited to make? And for longtime fans of the BAS, which additions are your favorite? Share yours with us in the comments!