by Erum Gulmann

I started my blog Total Salads to document my personal journey to try and put healthier and more varied food on my family’s table. I had gotten into the habit of almost always preparing a side salad at dinner using lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes tossed with homemade vinaigrette. Although it was delicious, it started to get rather repetitive. I have had an interest in food for as long as I can remember, and I love writing, so starting a blog as a motivation to come up with more creative salad ideas seemed obvious.

As with many things in life, it is easy to start a blog but not always so easy to stick with it. The Internet is littered with some great blogs, which have slowly fallen to the wayside because people often don’t realize that writing a good blog and producing compelling original images is extremely time consuming. For example, an article published in a professional online magazine will have a writer, an editor, a photo stylist, a photographer, a marketing executive, and a web designer. As a blogger, you need to wear all of these hats.

There are various stages which all bloggers go through: from the excitement of publishing your posts, to wondering if anyone other than your mother is going to read your blog; from the euphoria of brimming with more ideas than you could possibly write about in a lifetime, to having such bad writer’s block that you wonder whether you should keep blogging at all. To deal with the ups and downs of blogging, it’s crucial to be connected with other bloggers in your area so you can be part of a community of like-minded individuals who understand the waves of joy and frustration you go through.

As a blogger, you should think of your blog as your brand. Your blog’s unique power lies in the fact that it is a reflection of you and what you believe in. Choose a niche that you are passionate about and then stick with it. In my case, writing about salads may not be as ‘sexy’ as writing about desserts, but promoting healthy eating as part of a regular lifestyle is something I am committed to on a very personal level. I want people to make Total Salads their first stop whenever they need a great salad recipe or would like to know which restaurants serve the best salads.

These days a lot of people suffer from auto-immune illnesses (or are on the verge of suffering from them), and making a healthy diet a regular part of your lifestyle can help control these illnesses. There is more and more research into our digestive systems and how the health of our gut is closely connected with the health of the rest of our bodies. Cooked food is good but it should be balanced with raw fruits and vegetables as well. Eating at least one salad a day is a great way to ensure you get that balance.

Salads have an undeserved reputation for being boring and leaving you hungry, but I love being able to show people that it doesn’t have to be that way if you understand how to balance your ingredients and flavours. You can make salads the main attraction if you remember a few simple things:

  • Throw out your jars of ready-made salad dressing. Most contain additives that your body doesn’t need. Homemade salad dressings are easy to make and can be extremely versatile. Once made, they can be kept for several days in your refrigerator (vinaigrettes can last for up to a week and dairy-based dressings can last for up to 3 days).
  • Think carefully about which oil you use in your dressing. I only use extra virgin olive oil in my salad dressings because it is cold-pressed and unprocessed; unlike many other oils, which undergo extreme processing techniques to make them fit for human consumption.
  • To make your salads more filling, add some form of protein to it. These can include beans, cheese, nuts, seeds, and grilled/roasted meat. Add enough so that you get a piece of protein in each bite.
  • Incorporate grains such as quinoa, brown rice or couscous into your salad to give it more bulk.
  • Learn which produce is in season and use it in your salads. Eating in accordance with the different seasons mean that you will be consuming food at its prime and your diet will be varied throughout the year. Seasonal produce is often less expensive than out-of-season produce because it is more abundant.
  • Break the rules. A salad doesn’t have to have lettuce in it. Some of my favourite salads are made with roasted vegetables tossed with fresh herbs, toasted nuts and a dressing. If there are certain foods you love, make sure you add them into your salad.
  • When you want to make a salad look attractive, sprinkling pomegranate seeds or chopped nuts on top is all you need. Guests will love it!

If you need inspiration, you can find a lot of tried and tested salad recipes on my blog I even have some great healthy dessert recipes, like a delicious Chocolate Mousse made with avocados and bananas (you’ve got to try it to believe it!).

It is also worth getting a powerful blender to make homemade green smoothies. There are many brands out there, but I use the Nutribullet which makes easy work of liquidising foods which a conventional blender doesn’t tackle quite so well, including spinach leaves, whole nuts, ginger, carrots and apples.

Smoothies are a quick and easy way to get fresh fruits and vegetables into your body, and are better than fresh-pressed juices because smoothies retain fiber from the ingredients you use. If you need ideas for what to put into your smoothie, I regularly document my smoothie recipes on Instagram (@totalsalads). (Hint: I always start with a large handful of fresh spinach leaves!)

When I started my blog, I only posted salad recipes that I made at home. However, as my blog developed, I began forming partnerships and connections with businesses that are aligned with my brand. Now my blog also features restaurants and products that I feel would be interesting and useful to my readers. This has been great for my followers, my blog, and the businesses that get featured. I have also been hired by businesses to develop healthy recipes for them.

It’s no secret that consumers increasingly trust bloggers more than advertising agencies. For most bloggers, their blog is a personal reflection of themselves and their beliefs. Many bloggers weave anecdotes from their personal lives into their posts, so when you read a blog you often feel like you are chatting with a friend.

A lot of businesses are realising the power of bloggers and will spend time and resources trying to target bloggers who they believe reflect their products. As a blogger, your integrity and honesty are your currency. If you decide to partner with a business, the first thing you need to do is to think about whether this is a product that you would genuinely recommend to your family and friends. If you can honestly answer ‘yes’ to that question, then partnering with that business could be a wonderful match for everyone concerned.

There will be times when you may have to turn away from opportunities because they do not align with your blog’s values. You will also encounter businesses that are not willing to pay for your work. Just remember that there are businesses out there that are serious about working with bloggers, so hold out for those opportunities.

My favourite thing about blogging is being able to inspire people from all over the world to eat more healthily. I use a programme that shows me which countries my readers are living in, and am always amazed when I look at those statistics. Whenever I learn that my blog has motivated someone to improve their diet or lifestyle, that gives me the biggest smile!