Salad Secrets – How to Build a Better Salad

Are you salad savvy?

Do you know how to build a better salad?

Salads are synonymous with ‘healthy eating’ yet most salads are not as healthy as they could be. Choosing lettuce low in nutrients, adding no real protein and covering it in a creamy dressing that can be high in unhealthy fats are all ways to sabotage your healthy intensions.

A salad can be the super star of any meal if you know how to build a better salad.

Its All About The Base

Set the iceberg off to sea and start your salad base with dark leafy greens. The darker the better.  Below is a nutrient comparison* of the 4 most popular ‘lettuces’ based on a 2 cup serving size, but don’t be afraid to think beyond the lettuce leaf.

Dandelion greens, watercress, beet greens, arugula, endive, radicchio are all fabulous nutrient dense options in place of or in addition to common salad greens. None of these on hand? Use quinoa, barley, lentils, chick peas, or brown rice as a protein and fiber packed base.

Kale – 412%* Vit A, 268% Vit C, 1368% Vit K, 10% Folate, 12% iron
Spinach – 112% Vit A, 28% Vit C, 362% Vit K, 30% Folate, 10% iron
Romaine  – 164% Vit A, 38% Vit C, 120% Vit K, 32% Folate, 6% iron
Iceberg  –   14% Vit A, 6% Vit C, 44% Vit K, 10% folate, 4% iron
*percentage of daily requirement

The Main Event – Protein

Ever eaten a super healthy salad for lunch and feel hungry an hour later? I am willing to guess you didn’t add a heaping source of protein to that salad.  Our bodies need protein and any meal without protein will leave you feeling unsatisfied and searching for snacks soon after eating. Any good salad worth its weight as a meal must contain protein, but it doesn’t have to be meat. Go for cottage cheese, beans or nuts and you are on your way to building a better salad.

Steak                                     7 grams per oz
Chicken breast                     9 grams per oz
Salmon or canned tuna        6 grams per oz
Shrimp – 15 grams per          6 medium shrimp
Pork loin or tenderloin         7 grams per oz
Ham                                     6 grams per oz
Egg                                      6 grams per egg
Cottage cheese                  15 grams per 1/2 cup
Cheddar, Feta, Blue Cheese           7 grams per oz
Almonds                                 8 grams per 1/4 cup
Lentils, Edamame                   9 grams per 1/2 cup
Black Beans, Chick Peas        7 grams per 1/2 cup

The Fruits

Go beyond cucumber and tomato and add a variety of fruits to your salad for gorgeous colour and amazing nutrients.  Think dried or frozen, as well as fresh.

Dried Cranberries, Apricots
Green Apple
Pomegranate seeds
Orange slices

The Vegetables
Get out of your salad rut by adding different vegetables to your usual salad. Ask for a side of cooked broccoli, corn or asparagus if you are eating out and at home, throw yesterdays leftover grilled peppers and zucchini on top of your salad base. Go for colour and variety when you are adding vegetables too.

Red Cabbage
Red, Yellow,Orange and Green Peppers

The Extras

Pile on as many of these extra’s as you can. You can even skip the lettuce altogether and have a variety of grains with seeds, nuts, and your favourite salad toppings such as tomato and cucumber. The grains and nuts add fiber, protein and healthy fats to your salad, turning it into a meal and not just a side dish.

Wild Rice
Sunflower Seeds
Sprinkle of Hemp or Chia seeds

The Dressing

There are better options out there, read the labels. Making your own dressing is always the first choice but sometimes having a bottle on hand is more practical. For those times, shop in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and look for yogurt based creamy dressings for full flavour caesars and ranch without the fat and go for extra virgin olive oil and vinegar as a base.

Dijon Dressing – balsamic vinegar, garlic, dijon mustard, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil
Cilantro Dressing – orange juice, apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, fresh cilantro
Creamy Dressing – honey, greek yogurt and lemon juice for a creamy option
Lime Dressing – honey, lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, cayenne pepper
Peanut Thai Dressing – peanut butter, grated ginger, soy sauce, honey, red wine vinegar, sesame oil, extra virgin olive oil

What is in your favourite salad?

  • Rogene Robbins

    We’re salad lovers at my house. Right now I’s thinking about spinach, strawberries, walnuts or sliced almonds, feta cheese dressed with a good vinaigrette. You could add a little cooked chicken breast, but I usually don’t. We also like kale with chopped apple and unsalted sunflower nuts dressed with lemon juice and EVOO.