There's no shame in eating a 'sad' salad. Here's why I'm OK with it, and you should be too.

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  • In January 2020, "The Bachelor" producer, Elan Gale, sparked a conversation around salads on Twitter.
  • Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Padma Lakshmi, and Jamie Oliver joined in, seconding Gale's notion that the public can be doing better when it comes to salad making.
  • Yes, there are plenty of ways to spruce up a salad, but there's also nothing wrong with enjoying a simple — and yes, "sad" — salad.
  • Sometimes, I eat a plain salad for lunch, and I'm totally OK with that. It shouldn't bother anyone else, either.
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Excuse me! I'd like to make a case for "sad" salads. 

In an age where fast-casual restaurants specializing in salads are popping up all over cities, busy eaters with money to spare have been opting for souped-up delivery or to-go greens. Restaurants like Sweetgreen and Chop't have elaborate menus offering vibrant salads that are sure to be better than what most people want to spend time prepping at home.

Personally, it pains me to spend $13 every day on my lunch. Maybe that comes from my sack-lunch-laden childhood and the fact that my mom rarely let me buy from the cafeteria. Regardless, buying a salad every day isn't in the cards for a lot of us. So, we buy our ingredients at the grocery store and make salads ourselves. 

This is one version of my plain salad, and I'm not upset about it.
Rachel Askinasi/Insider

I could prep a salad that's just as sophisticated as the ones on restaurant menus, but I often choose not to do so; that's when I end up with a simple salad that costs me a fraction of the price

But, because grain bowls and Sweetgreen-X-celebrity-chef-collab salads are all the rage, mine gets labeled as shameful. I didn't think too much about this until I saw a larger conversation around sad salads unfold on social media.

It all started in January 2020, when I saw a discussion sparked by a Twitter thread from "The Bachelor" producer Elan Gale that I interpreted as the internet coming for anyone whose salads are "dull and flavorless."

Loads of people in the Twitterverse joined in and echoed Gale, including companies like Whole Foods and celebrities like Jamie Oliver and Chrissy Teigen.

Ultimately, I think that the author and TV producer's advice is great for anyone who wants a tastier salad but doesn't know how to get there.

That being said, I also think it's OK to eat a "dull and flavorless" salad every now and then.  

I thought back to a time a few months ago, when I was eating a salad I would have called "plain" in my office during lunch. A coworker walked by, looked down and said, "Oh my gosh, that's one sad salad." I knew what they meant: There wasn't much happening in my rectangular, repurposed takeout container. I had packed it with romaine lettuce, a little baby spinach, a diced red bell pepper, a diced tomato, and pieces of cucumber. No dressing. 

True, this salad wasn't sexy. It was lackluster, subpar, and void of protein. But, in my eyes, it did the job.

I can certainly appreciate a beautifully seasoned piece of lettuce and the explosive flavor profile citrus can bring to a bowl of greens, but sometimes I just don't want to expend the energy on making a fancy salad, and that's perfectly fine.

When my produce is close to going bad, I try and use it quickly.
Rachel Askinasi/Insider

If I'm making myself a salad for a workday lunch, it's probably because I have some food in my fridge nearing its last days

So, my approach to late-night meal prep is something of a Hail Mary: A pepper is close to going bad? Chop that baby up and throw it in. A cucumber is losing its firmness? Into the bowl, it goes. How's that container of beans smelling, still good? My salad will have beans that day.

Most of the time, I'll drizzle my salad with some olive oil — and maybe lemon juice if there's any around — when I get to the office. Sometimes, I just don't feel like bringing my own dressing into the office, and I go without any at all. Sue me.

The day my coworker called me out for my naked medley of vegetables, I had also brought two hard-boiled eggs to work with me for a mid-morning snack. I ate them shortly before going for my salad; if my eggs were in the salad, though, would it still have been considered sad? According to Gale's Twitter thread, "Your salad is only going to be as boring as you allow it to be."

After spending a long while contemplating the notion of sad salads, I've come to one conclusion: The only person who can decide whether my salad is 'sad' is me

Did I feel sad while eating my salad? Did I long for some basil and the complex flavors of goat cheese? If both answers are yes, then I should have put some more effort into it. But if I ate my salad and it tasted fine, filled me up, and made me feel good about eating veggies instead of my many other lazy-lunch options, then I consider that a win. 

So, before you comment on my salad, think about the fact that I'm not asking you to eat it. Leave me and my plain lunch be.

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