First off, salads should not be relegated to pre-meal greens or low-cal lunches. Second, lettuce isn't mandatory. Toss together whole grain carb boosters, high-quality protein and an assortment of veggies, and you've got one nutritious, satisfying meal. Even a base of greens (any lettuce or bagged salad mix) can be jazzed up with canned beans, veggies and fruit, shredded coleslaw mix, precooked chicken and turkey, leftover beef and pork tenderloin, canned salmon, tuna, crab and shrimp, soy pepperoni, hard-boiled eggs, reduced-fat cheese, dried fruit and nuts. Add fresh and dried herbs and spices, and you send flavors soaring.

Out-of-the-Box Grain Salads

Since most whole-grain mixes on the shelves are sold with seasoning packets full of salt, use half the packet; or toss it and use fresh herbs and dried spices instead. When a mix calls for butter or margarine, substitute olive or canola oil.

Taboule Wheat Salad Mix (Near East)

Add to 1 cup prepared mix: 1/2 cup white (cannellini) beans, 1/3 cup each diced tomato and green peas, 1 tablespoon each lemon juice and crumbled feta cheese, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. 373 calories, 10% fat (4 g; 2.5 g saturated), 70% carbs (65 g), 20% protein (19 g), 17 g fiber.

>Brown & Wild Rice Mix With Mushrooms (Success Rice)

Use half the seasoning packet. Add to 1 cup prepared mix: 1/2 cup each precooked chicken breast and broccoli florets, 1 diced carrot, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley. 348 calories, 8% fat (3 g; 0.5 g saturated), 65% carbs (56.6 g), 27% protein (23.5 g), 7 g fiber.

Kasha & Bow Ties (Wolff's)

Add to 1 cup prepared mix: 1/3 cup each baby lima beans and diced tomato, 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmesan. 369 calories, 8% fat (3.2 g; 1 g saturated), 75% carbs (69 g), 17% protein (16 g), 7 g fiber.

Quick-Cooking Barley

Add to 1 cup cooked barley: 1/2 cup green beans, 1/4 cup each corn and minced red onion, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill. 240 calories, 5% fat (1.3 g; 0 g saturated), 83% carbs (50 g), 12% protein (7 g), 9 g fiber.

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