How to Build a Healthy Salad
How to Build a Healthy Salad
November 19, 2016    POSTED IN  Eating BehaviorHealthy EatingNutrition Articles

Salads are quick, tasty, and a simple way to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet. However, not all salads are created equal and it can sometimes be difficult to create a salad that is both healthy and satisfying. For instance, plain low-calorie salads are often flavorless and unsubstantial while some chicken Caesar salads can pack on as many calories as two cheeseburgers.

To create a healthy salad that is both an adequate meal and tasty is easier than you think. Follow my 5-step guide to create the perfect salad every time:

Step 1: Start with a generous base of leafy greens

Leafy greens are full of healthful nutrients including vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, calcium, and fiber. Aim for no less than 2 cups of leafy greens per salad. Arugula, romaine lettuce, spinach, and butter lettuce are all excellent choices.

Step 2: Add some color with fruits and veggies

A variety of color in your salad means a variety of nutrients that will keep you feeling young and energized. Aim to choose at least two additional colors to each salad from fresh fruits and/or vegetables. Tomatoes, apples, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, artichokes, and blueberries are all wonderful options.

Include at least two additional colors to each salad from fresh fruits and/or vegetables.

Step 3: Always include a protein 

Protein will keep you satisfied but not drained. Aim for at least 3-4 ounces of cooked meat or seafood, ½ cup of beans or legumes, or two whole eggs. Black beans, lentils, edamame, wild salmon, hard-boiled eggs, and chicken are all great protein choices.

Step 4: Flavor with healthy fats

Fat adds flavor, keeps you feeling full, and is needed for the absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. Aim for 1-3 tablespoons of healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olives. Dressing your salad with a vinaigrette or healthy oil based dressing is another great way to add healthy fats to your salad. Check out my recent blog post on simple homemade salad dressings.

Step 5: Keep additional toppings to a minimum 

Additional toppings such as cheese, dried fruit, and croutons add flavor but can quickly add up to an excess in calories and sugar too. Aim to keep a minimum of 1-2 additional toppings per salad and no more than 1-2 tablespoons of each additional topping.




Renee is a Registered Dietician and Nutritionist practicing in Chicago.