It’s Salad Season – Fresh Tastes by Bev

By Bev Laumann, Author of A Taste of The Good Life: A Cookbook for IC & OAB


With Easter just around the corner and the gray cotton clouds replaced with a crystal blue sky, I am SO thankful for some warm weather! If like me, you have fibromyalgia, then you know what I mean. Cold can be a double whammy, making the muscles ache and the bladder cringe. And naturally, when I’m feeling bad I sit around nursing my sore bladder with a heating pad. Boy does the lack of activity put on the pounds! Spring is such a welcome respite for the body as well as the spirit.

The southern half of California warms early in the season so by April I’m already well into my spring mood swing: in the mood for new clothes, garden flowers ….and weight loss. And just when my thoughts for dinner turn to low-calorie food, the markets oblige with an abundant harvest of fresh salad greens and vegetables for the table! This is a great time for main-dish salads featuring grilled chicken breast and seafood, or side-dish salads instead of cooked vegetables.

Before the heat of summer sets in there are good prices on cool-season vegetables like cabbage, spinach, radicchio, broccoli, radishes and celery… so this is a great time to try out new salads and dressings!

Since an IC diet limits my intake of vitamin C-rich fruits, I like to make sure I get plenty of vitamin C from vegetables. Luckily for me bell peppers are not only high in vitamin C but also are high on my list of favorite veggies. I like to add them to stir-frys, salads, eat bell pepper strips for snacks, and use grilled red bell pepper as a tomato-substitute in sandwiches (try a grilled red bell pepper and melted mozzarella sandwich! ) Fresh green peas (another source of vitamin C) add interest to salads too.

To add a sweet note to a basic green salad, try tossing in some chopped slightly under-ripe pears just before serving. Want a nutty flavor note but can’t tolerate most nuts? Try pine nuts (pignolia). Adding bits of cheese to salads is also a traditional approach to enhancing the flavor of the greens and there are some cheeses that many IC patients can eat. Try strong-flavored feta or delicate mozzarella cheese bits for an added flavor dimension. Chevre cheese is worth a try too. (It’s another soft, unripened cheese ICers may be able to tolerate).

The acidity of vinegar, sour cream, buttermilk, or citrus fruit adds “bite” and a distinctive flavor to most salad dressings but alas, they may be too acid for our bladders. Not a problem…we can add zest to our salad creations with fresh herbs and flavored oils. Chances are, you won’t even miss the vinegar. Sprinkle some dried basil and oregano over your moist greens and toss with a half-teaspoon or so of olive oil. Want to avoid the oil but like the flavor of olives?— Try Lois’ trick: pour the liquid from a can of black olives over your salad.

Salads give you uncomfortable bloating and gas? An IBS flare-up? Here’s a useful tip from the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD): Making a sudden and dramatic increase in your fiber intake can cause gas formation and all the unpleasant symptoms that go with it. But if you gradually increase your fiber intake, allowing your intestinal flora time to adjust, you may avoid the gas.

A fresh green salad is a much tastier way to get fiber and vitamins than metamucil and supplement pills. The USDA and the American Dietetic Association both recommend eating a wide variety of vegetables. They also advise people to eat at least three servings of them a day. But what exactly is a “serving” of vegetables? Well, there actually is a “standard” serving size for vegetables: a serving is defined as half a cup of cooked vegetables or raw non-leafy vegetables, or one whole cup of leafy vegetables.

This delicious salad dressing recipe was sent to me by fellow ICer and cooking enthusiast, Toni Wickhart. Toni tosses in Marie Callender’s Garlic Salad Croutons with the greens when she uses this dressing. If you can’t find Toni’s favorite croutons or your bladder doesn’t like them, try my homemade version below.

Toni’s Feta Cheese Salad Dressing

– makes about 1-1/4 cups

  • 1 cup IMO (an imitation sour cream, usually found in the dairy case)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 Tbsp. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1/4 tsp. minced or powdered garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. onion salt (or onion powder)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried Italian herbs (usually a mix of oregano, basil, thyme and marjoram)
  1. Blend all ingredients together and chill. Good over Romaine lettuce with thin cucumber slices and croutons. Note: Because IMO is made from tropical oils, it is fairly high in saturated fat.

Bev’s Homemade Garlic Croutons

  • 1 whole French bread loaf (without preservatives)
  • 4 Tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Melt the butter and stir in the garlic and salt. (Don’t let butter boil). Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Cut the French bread into one-inch cubes with a bread knife or other serrated-edged blade. Place bread cubes in a large bowl. Pour melted butter over the bread and toss until the butter is evenly distributed over the bread.
  2. Lay bread on a large baking sheet (you can use two sheets if need be). Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F. and place sheets of croutons in the oven. Bake until golden brown, watching carefully to avoid burning. This takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container. (These will keep several days if stored in and airtight container in the refrigerator. If stored at room temperature they are best used the same day but can also be saved for the next day.). By the way, these are great as toppers on soup or crumbled over baked potatoes too.