Traditionally, salads have been conceived as a large plate of rabbit leaves served with some bland chicken and tomatoes. Thankfully, that day is long gone and if you’re struggling to create salads to enjoy, then this article will coach you on how to make salad taste better with top tips from professionals to help you think beyond the leaves. Is the chicken caesar salad the only one you can conjure up? Are you sick of eating leaves all the time? Perhaps chicken is the only protein you’ve added to your salad! Want to be the envy of all your colleagues with vibrant salads just in time for summer?
Well, read on as we say goodbye to bland soggy salads and say hello to colourful, creative, delicious and healthy salads that will leave your family and friends in awe of your salad assembly skills. In order to achieve a balanced meal, the below sections are broken down based on the 3 macronutrients. By choosing 1 or more ingredients from each section, you’ll be well on you way to nutritionally satisfying salad recipes that will keep your satiety levels high and your belly full for longer. Who says salad has to be boring!
When choosing protein sources, they should ideally be complete sources of protein, i.e. containing all 9 of the essential amino acids. Fortunately, meat, fish and eggs are complete protein sources. Additionally, opt for lean cuts with no visible traces of fat or skin. Some of the healthiest sources of protein include:
- Beef strips
- Chicken breast
- Tuna steak
- Turkey breast
Tip: Try marinading your meats and cooking them before adding them into your salad. This will provide a delicious taste to your dish!
Since many people don’t eat meat, fish or eggs, below is a list of alternative protein sources:
- Cannellini beans
- Kidney beans
Tip: Chickpeas are not a complete source of all 9 amino acids, pair them with complete proteins, e.g. quinoa, tofu.
Some people neglect to include a source of fat in their meals, and this includes salads. Don’t fear fat, remember that eating fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat! After all, it is an essential macronutrient that is necessary for healthily bodily functioning. You generally only need a small portion of fat-based foods to meet your daily requirements.
Below are a list of foods containing healthy unsaturated fats to add to your salad:
- Cashew nuts
- Chia seeds
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
Tip: Canned tuna does not count as oily fish, so opt for fresh tuna where possible.
When it comes to choosing carbohydrate sources to add to your salad, there’s an abundance of choices. From breads to pasta and grains, and let’s not forget fruit and vegetables too! All of these are excellent for adding bulk to your salad to keep you full and not reaching for a chocolate bar an hour or 2 later. Additionally, they will increase your fibre and energy intake for the day too!
- Ezekiel bread
- Honey and spelt bread
- Pita bread
- Soda bread
Fruit: The majority of people enjoy at least a few types of fruit, so why not add your favourite ones to your salad for some added crunch, flavour and get 1 of your 5 a day in too! Some suggestions include:
- dried fruit
Vegetables: Another ingredient to count towards 1 of your 5 a day of fruit and vegetables, so don’t be afraid to bulk up on vegetables. These also are a source of flavour, texture and nutrition for your scrumptious salad. These are a great addition to the base of your salad. Examples of vegetables to add include grated or chopped:
Roasting your vegetables is another method to shake up how you add vegetables to your salad. Try chopping and roasting some:
- brussel sprouts
- red, green and yellow peppers
- runner breans
- sweet potato cubes
Of course, no salad ingredient list would be complete without incorporating at least some leafy green suggestions. Some people go through phases of being stuck in the inevitable food rut, and as such, they consume the exact same leaves or salad mix which nearly drives them to the point of wishing they could go out to the lawn and chew on the grass instead, just for something different! Did you know that there are 16 types of lettuce alone?
Incorporating a mix of these into your salad will liven up your plate:
- Butter lettuce
- Curly endive
- French crisp
- Iceberg lettuce
- Lambs lettuce
- Little gems lettuce
- Oak leaf lettuce
- Spring mix
Tip: Preparing your fruit and vegetables in different ways can lead to a completely different dish and introduces some variety, e.g. grated carrot, carrot sticks, carrot cubes, roast carrot.
The choice of dressing you choose can often make or break your salad. If you pick a nice dressing, it could be the tastiest meal you’ve ever had. However, if you don’t enjoy the dressing and you’ve sprinkled it all over your salad, you might even end up throwing the whole salad out!
Additionally, the dressing you choose could be harbouring an exorbitant amount of sugar, fat or calories. Creamy dressings, such as thousand island, ranch and caesar dressing and oil dressings, such as olive oil, can be rather high in calories, with the likes of thousand island dressing providing a whopping 190 calories per 2 tablespoons! If you start adding too much of these sauces, don’t be surprised to discover that your salad could amount to as much calories as a burger meal!
In most cases, you’re often better off making your own homemade sauce, which for many recipes, can take just a matter of minutes! For example, there are endless greek yoghurt based dressings that you can make at home. Or alternatively, you can opt for the reduced-fat versions of your favourite calorific sauces.
Regardless of whether you’re tracking calories in your dressings or not, there should never be a dull day in the dressings department, check out the below list of dressings for inspiration:
- Balsamic vinaigrette
- Bleu cheese dressing
- Caeser dressing
- Extra virgin olive oil
- French dressing
- Honey mustard dressing
- Lemon and herb sauce
- Peri-peri sauce
- Ranch dressing
- Salad cream
- Sesame ginger dressing
- Thousand island
Tip: Instead for foregoing my favourite dressings due to the calories, I swear by these delicious Skinny Sauce – Virtually Zero® Calorie, sugar free, fat free sauces which would put even the sharpest tongue to the test to distinguish the difference between the original and the low calorie version!
As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please note that you, the reader’s interests are my top priority, and I only recommend products that I have either tried and tested or thoroughly reviewed and consider good enough for myself to buy.
Very similar principles apply with toppings too; they can also significantly contribute to calorie content of the meal, but at the same time, they may be just the icing on the cake in terms of taste, texture and appearance. Don’t forget that we primarily eat with our eyes, so little tricks such as adding appetising toppings to make the salad appear more vibrant and tasty will often result in us enjoying the meal more.
There are a range of toppings that you can choose from to garnish your salad:
- Cheese: cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, goats cheese
- Dried fruit: apricots, coconut cubes, raisins, sultanas
- Fruit: apple slices, mango cubes, pomegranate
- Herbs: basil, mint, parsley
- Meat: bacon bits, diced chicken, shredded beef
- Nuts: pistachio, pine nuts, walnuts
- Seeds: chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
- Vegetables: grated carrot, spiralized carrot, spiralized zucchini
- Wholegrains: barley, quinoa
- A protein source should accompany all salads and will leave you feeling fuller for longer
- Sources of healthy fat should be added in limited quantities to a salad
- Adding a variety of different fruit and vegetables creates texture, flavour and adds variety to your dish
- Making your own homemade dressing can reduce the amount of sugar, fat and salt while minimising calories
- When choosing dressings, caution should be taken as some of them are high in sugar, fat and salt
- Adding salad toppings can provide extra flavour, texture and nutrition to the salad
- Alternating how the food is presented can add variety to the appearance, flavour and texture
Eating salad shouldn’t be a monotonous or bland experience, and shouldn’t have to consist primarily of just salad leaves. I hope with the above list that you are well-equipped to transform your lifeless lunch into one that people would pay you to make!
Now that you know how to make salads, why not invest in some time and money saving gadgets from healthy eating kitchen gadgets – small utensils which will shred your ingredients in seconds and turn your salads into mouth-watering, delectable meals that you can whip up in minutes. These truly are a game-changer in terms of making life easier and your salads more appetising and even Instagram worthy!
Do you enjoy salads or are you turned off by the thought of eating rabbit food? What is your favourite salad and dressing? Have you ever made your own salad dressing? Please share your thoughts and comments below!
Gray, K., 2018. 10 Easy Ways To Add Protein To Your Salad. [online] Insider. Available at: https://www.insider.com/high-protein-salads-2018-10
Link, R., 2019. 8 Simple And Healthy Salad Dressings. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthy-salad-dressing#section1
McGrane, K., 2020. 13 Nearly Complete Protein Sources For Vegetarians And Vegans. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/complete-protein-for-vegans#11.-Pita-and-hummus
Steen, J., 2020. 12 Easy Tricks To Make Salad Not Just A Boring Bowl Of Veggies. [online] Huffingtonpost.com.au. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/01/15/12-easy-tricks-to-make-salad-not-just-a-boring-bowl-of-veggies_a_21655408/?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAGjMScPcyJS_yQftcaRShTznSu5vScpb94jRz0FJGEA0sq35tey4zSGnY5CGvJI6PQU1JzQmMPhJBCvoAVKX4nlftOle11tkw_CfX5Dx43IGU9jZcGptgfuhEiIOc0-YrEdSvn_Znit_DTQCze1oNqmqpJYyMf2wnmQIp61DI4l4
Streit, L., 2018. Top 20 Healthy Salad Toppings. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthy-salad-toppings#section21
Watson, M., 2020. 16 Lettuce Choices To Make Your Favorite Salad Even Better. [online] The Spruce Eats. Available at: https://www.thespruceeats.com/varieties-of-lettuce-4065606