I love salad. Huge surprise, right? Registered Dietitians need two things to be official, a license from the American Dietetic Association and a love of salad. The problem is, I like my salads the way I like my baked potatoes…toppings, toppings, and more toppings. I rarely eat baked potatoes since I can’t help but smother them in butter, sour cream, and salt. When it comes to salad though, I like to play around with a variety of healthy toppings and dressings to create a masterpiece that tastes as good as the calorie dense ones found in restaurants. Not an easy task.
If I ordered taco salad at a fast food place or mexican restaurant, it would most likely be the only thing I needed (energy wise) to eat for the whole day…okay, maybe two days. The problem with eating high calorie, high fat foods (aside from weight gain) is that they leave you feeling stuffed, bloated, and ready for a nap. Creating my own super satisfying version has helped me to not crave the full fat, full salt, too-full-feeling restaurant version.
Not everyone shares my love of the a good salad. My husbands face looks like he stepped on a Lego whenever I announce that it’s “Big Salad Night” in our household. He is the resident salad hater and is not shy about saying it. My taco salad, however, has become a staple in our dinner menu rotation and he has come to love it. I load it with turkey taco meat, black beans, veggies, a super simple low-cal dressing and a small amount of tortilla chips for that salty crunch. I made it one night when we had company and our cheese-loving relative said, “Wow, I just realized it doesn’t have any cheese and it I don’t even miss it.” In it’s infant stages, my taco salad did have cheese until I realized it really did taste amazing with or without it.
As with many of my recipes, I add a secret ingredient to the taco meat. Zucchini keeps the ground turkey from becoming dry as it cooks and provides an additional veggie. If the kids are not salad eaters, it’s easy to make hard or soft shell tacos with what you already have prepped for the salad. Just be sure to lock up the tortilla chips after your create your masterpiece!
Lite Taco Salad with Salsa Ranch Dressing
DIY Taco Seasoning (large batch)
- 1/2 cup chili powder
- 1/4 cup ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 3 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 medium zucchini, grated or finely chopped
- Cooking Spray
- Romaine Lettuce, chopped
- Tomatoes, chopped
- Yellow, Red, Orange Bell Peppers, chopped
- Green Onions, thinly sliced
- Black beans, drained and rinsed
- Avocado, sliced
- Tortilla chips
- Light Ranch Dressing (I like Hidden Valley or Bolthouse)
In an air tight container, mix DIY taco seasoning spices. This is a large batch recipe and can be used as a seasoning for future salads, tacos or fajitas. Many variations of homemade taco seasoning can be found on Pinterest and have less sodium and more flavor than store bought packets.
Over medium-high heat, spray a large skillet with cooking spray and add ground turkey, onion, zucchini, and 3-4 tablespoons of the DIY taco seasoning. Brown the turkey mixture until fully cooked, approximately 8-10 minutes. Turn heat to low when the turkey is fully cooked and keep warm while you prep the salad and dressing.
On a large plate, layer vegetables and top with 1/2 cup turkey taco meat, 1/4 cup black beans, 1/4 avocado, and 6-8 tortilla chips per serving. Toppings that are low in calories can be added in any amount but high calorie toppings should be limited. Mix 1 tablespoon of light Ranch dressing with 2 tablespoons of salsa per serving. ENJOY!