Dos and Don’ts of Salads

Dos and Don’ts of Salads 


By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD 

A delicious salad can be an incredibly satisfying meal, but there’s nothing worse than a soggy, boring one.  

What’s more, salads can either be vehicles for nutritious toppings or a base for highly processed foods and unhealthy dressings. 

In other words, what you put in your salad makes all the difference. To learn how to build a satisfying and healthy salad, and avoid common salad mistakes, follow these simple tips! 

Tips for Building a Healthy Salad 

  1. Start with a base of non-starchy vegetables. 
    Start your salad with a base of leafy greens, like romaine, spinach, or arugula, but don’t stop there! You can add other non-starchy vegetables, like carrots, cucumbers, onions, radishes, jicama, and bell peppers, for some extra flavor and crunch.  
    These foods are high in water, low in calories, and full of fiber that will leave you feeling satisfied. 

  1. Make it more filling by adding protein and fat. 
    If you want to make a complete meal out of a salad, don’t forget to add a source of protein or healthy fat. For example, add grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, fish, or legumes, and use a dressing made with olive oil or blended avocado.  
    You can also sprinkle on raw or dry roasted nuts or seeds, or some shredded cheese, to finish it all off. These foods will help bulk up your salad and hold you over until your next meal. Healthy fats will also help you absorb more nutrients from the salad. 

  2. Add a source of complex carbs, like fruit or grains. 
    Including carbohydrates in your salad is just as important as filling it up with veggies, proteins, and healthy fats. Nutritious carbs can help give you a long-lasting boost of energy, but you’ll want to be sure to choose complex carbs over refined, sugary ones.  
    Good carbohydrate options to add to a salad include unsweetened dried fruit, fresh fruit, quinoa, brown rice, or farro. 

  3. Make your own dressing or choose one with healthy ingredients. 
    Most store-bought salad dressings are loaded with vegetable oils, sugar, and preservatives. Instead of purchasing one of these, try making your own with a base of olive oil, vinegar, and your choice of herbs and seasonings. 
    Or look for a healthier store-bought variety that is made without added sugar or preservatives, and uses olive oil, Greek yogurt, or tahini as a base. 

Salad Ingredients to Limit or Avoid 

Not all salads are created equal, and adding too many unhealthy toppings is a common mistake. 

Some less healthy toppings to limit or avoid include: 

  • Highly processed or fried tortilla chips, croutons, or sesame sticks 

  • Dried fruit that has added sugar or sweeteners 

  • Candied nuts 

  • Cured meats and bacon bits 

To build a healthy salad, stick to the tips above and fill it up with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nut or seeds, and other nutritious toppings.  

Note from Healthy For Life Meals: We include several delicious salads on our menu that are filled with nutritious toppings! Get started with one of our plans today to enjoy yummy salads and meals without the prep work. 

Stef Keegan