patent
pending
  

TowerPower

Blog produced by contributors on vertical gardening, health, and food!
(Register to become a contributor today)

Aiyo A. Jones is a fitness instructor, a homeschool father, and an avid gardener. One of his life's goals is to have his own farmland where he can grow food for the less fortunate and teach fitness and wellness classes. He currently resides in North Carolina with his wife and two children.

Aiyo A. Jones

The Protein Salad Diet

The Protein Salad Diet

As a fitness trainer, part of my job is to help people lose weight. People are generally good at exercising, but when it comes to diet many people fail. In order to lose weight, you need the right combination of exercise and good nutrition.

One type of diet I recommend to my clients is what I call the Protein Salad Diet. Instead of a wimpy, rabbit-food salad with nothing but iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and low-fat dressing, the Protein Salad is a heavy salad consisting of greens, protein and fat. This salad is so heavy (literally) you'll struggle to eat the whole thing. It has a good combination of leafy greens, fruit, and protein. You can eat this salad all day and get some great nutrition! It's a great meal for bodybuilders and those trying to lose weight.

The best part is, you can easily grow many of the ingredients yourself!

Easy plants to grow for your salads are highlighted in sections below.

 

 

Leafy Base

To start, you'll need a leafy base. Growing leafy vegetables are perhaps the easiest vegetables to grow. They sprout quickly and, depending on the variety, can produce a harvest in a matter of weeks. If you plan ahead and stagger start these leafy vegetables, you could have at least one salad a day for a week.


Leafy vegetables are best grown in the Spring and Fall as they are cool-weather plants. Growing leafy greens during the summer is possible, as long as they have plenty of water and a bit of shade. Since leafy greens have high water content, be sure to water them at least once a day.

 

Leafy Greens: Lettuce, spinach, kale, mustard greens, bok choy, Swiss chard, leaves of beets.

 

Peppers Growing in GT2

Fruit

Salads often have leafy greens and fruit, typically tomatoes and the non-sweet fruits like peppers and cucumber. If you want to eat these Protein Salads on a regular basis, I recommend growing indeterminate grape tomatoes. I once grew more than 70 grape tomatoes on one plant! If you do grow cherry or grape tomatoes, you’ll need to keep them trimmed so they don't get out of control.

If you want to make Mexican-based salads, grow some hot peppers. I've had a lot of success with growing Hungarian wax peppers in my Garden Tower 2. I planted my hot peppers on the top of the GT2 so I could stake them. Hungarian wax peppers taste mild when green, but hot when red. You could use them to make a Tex-Mex Protein Salad (Recipe below).

 

Fruits: Apples, avocados, berries, cucumbers, peppers, oranges, pumpkins, summer squash, tomatoes

 


Basil growing on top of GT2

Herbs

 

What better way to reduce high calorie dressings and flavor up your salad than to grow and add your own herbs?


Basil has been among my most successful herbs to grow. It grows fast and abundantly. It’s an ideal thing to add to a salad if you have a taste for something Italian. We've grown so much basil in our Garden Tower we’ve had to give it away!

 

Another herb that I've successfully grown is cilantro. If you have a taste for something Greek, Italian, or Persian, use cilantro to make a Mediterranean Protein Salad or Persian Salad (Recipe below).

 

Herbs: Arugula, basil, cilantro, thyme, oregano

 

 

 

Fat

If a salad has left you miserably hungry, it's because it had no fat. Fat will give your salad some substance and, believe it or not, fat actually signals your brain to make you feel full when a hormone called "leptin" is released.

Now, you're thinking, "But it’s fat!" But it’s not the fat that makes you fat, it's excessive carbs. I lost 12 lbs. in 8 days by reducing carbs and increasing fat and protein content in my diet. I didn't even need to lose any weight! This Protein Salad, depending on how you make it, will be naturally low in carbs. It’s perfect for you diabetics out there.


Fat Sources: Cheese, sour cream, whole-fat yogurt, olive/avocado/flaxseed/coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocados



Protein

Unlike fat, protein doesn't really make you full. Instead, it is used to maintain and build muscle in your body. In fact, protein is the building block of your body. If you were to strip away all the cells in your body, you'd be left with connective blocks called protein. Yes, you are simply a statue made out of protein.

Protein Sources: Red meat (yes, red meat!), chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, quinoa

 

 

How To Construct A Protein Salad


This salad is ideal for those who want to lose weight and for those who want to build muscle. The fat and protein will make you full for a lengthy period and also supply you with important vitamins and minerals. 


1. Start with a base of 1 cup chopped leafy greens - lettuce, kale, chard, bok choy, etc.
2. Add protein - 1/2 cup meat, chicken, fish, egg, beans, nuts, or seeds
3. Add fruit - 1/2 cup chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
4. Add fat - 1/2 cup oil (olive/avocado/coconut)
5. Add toppings such as herbs, sour cream, cheese, etc.

Mix everything together. If the amounts I've given are too low, just increase them, especially if you're a hungry lion!

 

 

Protein Salad Examples

These are general guidelines. Play up the ingredients however you like!



Tex-Mex Protein Salad

2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce

1 cup meat, chicken, shrimp or black beans (if vegan)

1 cup chopped tomatoes and hot peppers 
Alternative: 1 cup of salsa (grow your own salsa garden)

1/2 cup sour cream or guacamole (if vegan)

1/2 cup shredded cheese or rice (if vegan)

1 handful of crushed tortilla chips

Photo Credit: https://eatrunwritelove.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/img_6851.jpg

 

Persian Protein Salad (no leafy base)

2 cups chopped cucumbers

1 cup meat, chicken, or chickpeas (if vegan)

1 cup chopped tomatoes and peppers (hot or mild)

1 cup feta cheese or olive oil (if vegan)

1/2 cup parsley or cilantro

1/4 cup onions or garlic

1 teaspoon of black pepper

 

 

 

Asian Stir-Fry Protein Salad


2 cups chopped bok choy

1 cup steak, chicken, shrimp, or edamame (if vegan)

1 cup chopped broccoli

1/2 cup chopped mild or hot peppers

1/2 cup rice or quinoa

1 minced clove of garlic

Pinch of salt

2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (to sauté)

2 to 3 tablespoons of additional olive oil to use as a dressing

1 or 2 tablespoons Asian sauce of your choice

 

 

Aiyo A. Jones

Beginning Urban Gardener

Beginning Urban Gardener

I’m from New York City, having little gardening experience. All I used to know about gardening was that if you planted a seed in the ground and watered it, then something was supposed to happen. 


Now, I’ve grown so much food, I've had enough to give away! 

 

Bowl of Banana PeppersBack in 2015, my wife and I purchased the Garden Tower II (GT2). My wife wanted to purchase this vertical container garden mainly because you can grow root vegetables in it. The GT2 has 50 pods to plant in and a vermicomposting system. It didn’t take much for her to convince me that we needed to invest in this product, so after getting our tax return money, we bought the GT2. 

To start growing, we purchased seedlings. Growing from seed hasn’t been my strong point, and we wanted some quick results. I had already done lots of research on growing plants, but I wanted to test some of the conventional gardening wisdom to see what was true and what wasn’t. Being willing to experiment on my garden was a big eye-opener.

For starters, we discovered that we didn’t need to spray our garden with anything, not even with organic sprays. I spent a few moments every morning inspecting the garden for pests and picking them off. I later discovered that wasps loved to eat cabbage worms! So, instead of looking at wasps as my enemies, I saw them as my allies. Whenever the wasps raided my garden, I just stepped inside the house and let them do their thing!

 

Comparing Garden Containers

Eggplant growing in GT2 next to eggplant growing in small container

2 large eggplant fruit next to 2 small eggplantsAnother discovery was seeing how important composting was for the plants. I did an experiment using eggplants in the GT2 and eggplants in conventional pots. The eggplants in the GT2 grew much larger and healthier than the ones in conventional pots.

 

The eggplant fruit produced by the eggplants in the GT2 were actually edible and nearly free of blemishes, whereas the eggplants in the conventional pots produced small, hard, and ugly fruits. The eggplants in the GT2 had access to compost, whereas the other eggplants did not.

 

 

Discovering Compost Critters

Perhaps the biggest discovery was the black soldier fly larvae. For a few days, I noticed that the compost contents were quickly reducing in size. Then I’ve discovered these maggots in my compost tube. After researching about them and seeing them in action, I fell in love with these guys! Unlike red wigglers or European night crawlers that eat veggies and fruit scraps, the black soldier fly larvae ate almost anything, including meat and cheese (two of which would usually be forbidden to add in a compost pile).

 

Success!

Because of my success with the GT2, I started a Facebook page called “The Back Deck Harvest.”  The page has a ton of photos of my experience with the GT2. I simply post what I’m doing in the garden. No silly memes, no articles, nothing but my work in my vertical garden.


The GT2 was a great investment. We have grown tomatoes, lettuce, eggplants, squash, peppers, basil, kale, mustard greens, bok choy, cilantro and parsley, and have even revived a few dying marigold plants I bought. We have eaten the fruits of our labor and have shared our fruits with others. We went from growing barely anything to growing a big crop of food on a small deck of 90 square feet.