Inspired living

The beauty of simple salads

62552812 - garden salad in black bowl. top view, over slate.

Credit: 123RF

The act of processing food has been happening for thousands of years and is an activity that is uniquely human. For example, cooking our food is one type of processing — as is fermenting, grinding, soaking and chopping. However, there’s a big difference between modern food processing and traditional food processing.

Traditional processing has two functions: to make food more digestible and to preserve it for use during times when food is scarce. Farmers and artisans, including bread and cheese makers, distillers and millers, would process the raw ingredients into lovely foods that preserved their nutritional content over months and even years.

Unfortunately, in modern times we’ve substituted local artisanal processing with factory and industrial processing, which diminishes the nutritional content of the food, rather than making it more nutritious and digestible. Industrial processing depends on sugar, white flour, processed and hydrogenated oils, synthetic food additives and vitamins. It also skips the long, slow soaking and fermenting of grains into digestible forms. When these processes are skipped, there are terrible effects on our digestive systems.

Cutting out processed foods is one of the most important steps in improving your health. Learning to incorporate more traditional processing techniques within the modern lifestyle is a must. Here are some thoughts and tips to get you started.

Clean out the cupboards

Go through your cupboards and begin to do a serious cull. Throw out anything premade or processed, or that contains any ingredients that aren’t real foods. Ask yourself the question, could I make this myself? Throw out (and don’t repurchase) premade sauces, frozen meals, ice-cream, supermarket breads, confectionery, chips, premade biscuits and crackers, basically anything in a packet that’s not a single ingredient (or made from real-food ingredients).

Meal plan

Sit down and do a weekly meal plan each week. This will take you around half an hour to begin with but will get easier the longer you implement the practice. Include all meals from breakfast through to dinner. Look up recipes that use real foods.

If you need things like milk and bread and don’t want to make them yourself, consider sourcing the most minimally processed forms. Organic and wholefoods stores are great places to buy traditionally prepared sourdough and gluten-free loaves of bread that aren’t full of added preservatives and chemicals, for example.

Write a shopping list

Put together a shopping list of everything you’ll need to buy and the stores you’ll choose to shop in. I suggest favouring farmers’ markets, fishmongers, traditional butchers and organic wholefoods stores or online organic food-delivery services rather than the supermarkets. I only go to the supermarket for toilet paper and I stick to the outer edges where the fresh food and meats are found. The middle of the supermarket is where all the processed foods lie.


If you want to avoid processed foods, cooking is key! Learning to do the traditional processing work that the big companies are doing for you will help, and the kitchen should become a playground where you enjoy creating nourishing meals. My blog Supercharged Food has many tips on how to properly prepare food, including activating nuts and seeds, preparing breads and homemade nut milks, and making bone broths instead of processed stock cubes and cartons of stock. Plus, you can create your meals in a batch-cooking day if that helps to free you up during a busy week.

Invest in convenient tools

There are some brilliant processing devices that can help you enjoy eating a more traditionally processed wholefoods diet. For example, a good food processor, although a big investment, has the ability to grind grains to make flour and emulsify sauces, as well as cook whip, stir, sauté, chop and more! You’ll save a lot of money with an excellent food processor and will be able to avoid conventional processed food at a much larger scale.

Make salads

Green leafies and whole vegies are among the cheapest, most readily available unprocessed foods on the planet. They’re fabulous plant-based sources of non-haem iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, K and E as well as several B vitamins, and many greens are high in fibre and extremely rich in chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is incredibly alkalising, enables you to release stored toxins from the body, neutralises the pollution you breathe, oxygenates the body and also improves circulation by elevating your haemoglobin count.

This issue, I’m sharing two of my favourite summer salads. If you haven’t already, you’ll happily farewell processed bacon once you’ve had a taste of my vegan-friendly Caesar salad. Fried tempeh with tamari gives the exact hit of saltiness needed for a flavour boost. My Mixed Leaf Seeded Salad with Cashew Nut Mayo is also seriously simple but has huge flavour. When choosing your mixed leaves for this super salad, be sure to really go for variety and deep-green colours to get the maximum nutrient hit possible.

Simple Vegan Caesar

Serves: 4



  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 block tempeh, chopped into 2.5cm cubes
  • 3 tbsp wheat-free tamari
  • 1 Cos lettuce, washed, dried & torn
  • 1 small bunch shallots (spring onions), roughly chopped

  • Dressing
  • 3 tbsp almond butter
  • 2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 tbsp wheat-free tamari
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp sugar-free Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp filtered water
  • 2 tbsp flaxseed oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the tempeh for 10 minutes, or until golden. Add the tamari and heat until warm. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. To make the dressing, mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Place the Cos and shallots in a bowl and spoon over the dressing, tossing to ensure the salad is evenly coated. Sprinkle the cooled tempeh over the top and serve.

Mixed Leaf Seeded Salad with Cashew Nut Mayo

Serves: 2



  • ⅓ cup sunflower seeds
  • ⅓ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ⅓ cup sesame seeds
  • 2 cups mixed salad leaves
  • 1 avocado, peeled, stone removed & cubed
  • 2 tomatoes, julienned
  • 1 cup snow peas, sliced on diagonal
  • Black pepper

  • Cashew Nut Mayo
  • ¼ cup cashew nuts
  • 2 tsp apple-cider vinegar
  • Pinch sea salt
  • ¼ shallot (spring onion), finely diced
  • 3 drops stevia liquid
  • 4 tbsp filtered water
  1. Dry toast the seeds in a frying pan over medium heat until brown. Remove and set aside to cool.
  2. Place mayo ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Arrange salad ingredients in a bowl, reserving a few of the seeds to scatter on top.
  4. Gently stir in the mayo to evenly coat the salad. Add black pepper and reserved seeds, and serve.


Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes is a nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, wholefoods chef, Lifestyle Food Channel’s Healthy Eating Expert, blogger and author of the best-selling books Supercharged Food: Eat Your Way to Health, Supercharged Food: Eat Yourself Beautiful, Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian, Heal your Gut, Eat Right for Your Shape and Supercharged Food for Kids.

Lee’s food philosophy is all about S.O.L.E. food: sustainable, organic, local and ethical. Her main goal is to alter the perception that cooking fresh, wholesome, nutrient-rich meals is difficult, complicated and time-consuming. From posting recipes, her passion to share her autoimmune disease story and help others has snowballed and the blog has recently taken home the overall prize at the Bupa Health Influencer Awards as well as the best blog in the Healthy Eating category. She also runs a four-week online Heal Your Gut program.