How to Build a Better Salad

Great tips on how to build a better salad. From lettuce options to rainbow inspired vegetables, You will never go back to a boring iceberg lettuce again!How to Build a Better Salad by

After indulging these past few holiday months, I am sure that I am not the only one ready for cleaner eating to lose a few pounds this new year. And spending the past two years sitting down behind the computer for my new cookbook, I am really feeling the need to revamp my diet, start moving more and not spend my days sitting down all day long. Unfortunately, I am not huge fan of salads. But I suppose that is because most salads out there are just plain boring. So why not take your salad and new year’s resolution to a whole new level. It’s time kick your salad up a few notches!


Let’s start with the base of the salad: the greens. Americans like their crunch and iceberg lettuce is commonly used in our salads. But iceberg lettuce has little to ZERO nutritional value. It also will not fill you up, which is one thing you need to feel when you are detoxing and eating healthy. Pick nutrition packed greens that are full of fiber. This is where color comes in. Greens that are deep green are better choices for your salad. But your salad doesn’t have to be just green. There are other wonderful leafy options in other hues that make great accents for your salad base: purples, reds and gold. And think outside of the head of lettuce. Brussels sprouts can be eaten raw, so why not chop them up or shred them for your next salad? Don’t like the bitter greens? Just mix in a few to your salad and add more each week.

  • spinach
  • kale
  • arugula
  • dandelion greens
  • endive
  • watercress
  • Brussels sprouts
  • radicchio
  • chard
  • collard greens
  • mustard greens
  • turnip greens
  • beet greens
  • bok choy
  • romaine lettuce
  • cabbage

Purple Brussels Sprout Salad by

More Veggies!

So your salad base is done, but that doesn’t mean your veggie intake is done. Let’s add some color with nutrition packed veggies. Just like the greens, you want to choose wisely and pick vegetables that are going to keep you satiated and give you energy for your busy day. Think color. Many of these vegetables come in an assortment of colors. For example cauliflower, it isn’t just white. You can also find it in green, orange and purple. Color means more vitamins and nutrition, so add the rainbow to your next salad and go beyond the standard tomatoes and cucumbers.

  • carrot
  • zucchini
  • beets
  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • string beans
  • celery
  • radish
  • mushrooms
  • snow peas
  • snap peas
  • bell peppers
  • cauliflower
  • avocado

Fresh Vegetables for How to Build a Better Salad by


As most dietitians will tell you, you should have a serving of protein every time you eat. Protein keeps you full and builds your muscles. Whether you are a vegetarian or omnivore, you can find your protein in countless places. So mix it up. This is where you can use up that leftover steak or the store bought rotisserie chicken. Even if you do eat meat, combine your protein choices to keep your salad from going boring on you. A bland salad will derail you from your new goal of eating well.

  • nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios)
  • seeds (sesame, chia, pumpkin, hemp)
  • legumes (garbanzos, black beans, red beans…)
  • lentils
  • meat (chicken, pork, beef, sausage)
  • seafood (salmon, tuna, shrimp, scallops, crab, more ideas here)
  • eggs
  • cheese (feta, goat, swiss, blue, more ideas here)

Protein Sources for How to Build a Better Salad by

Touch of Sweet

If you are one of those people that need a little something sweet with your meals, then this option is for you. Fresh fruit can give you some more punch in the vitamins, fiber and antioxidants department.

  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • blackberries
  • mango
  • orange
  • blood orange
  • grapefruit
  • pomegranate
  • apple
  • pear
  • pineapple
  • fig
  • persimmon
  • plum
  • peach
  • apricot
  • nectarine
  • papaya
  • melon
  • beets
  • raisins
  • currants
  • other dried fruits

Fruit Options for How to Build a Better Salad by

Other Salad Options

Cook your salad. When you are shivering in the winter, the last thing you probably want to do is to curl up with a cold salad. So why not have a cooked salad? Grilled or roasted vegetables make a delicious meal for lunch or dinner. This is also a great option if eating raw vegetables upset your stomach. Kale can be pretty tough to digest. By giving it a quick sauté to wilt, you will find it easier to eat.

Add heat of a different kind. If a plate full of rainbow colored vegetables isn’t enough to get you going, spice things up with the addition of jalapeño, serrano or other spicy peppers. Feeling lazy? A dash of hot sauce is a quick way to feel the heat!

Fill up with grains. To make your salad even heartier stir in 1/4-cup of brown rice, quinoa, cracked wheat or barley. It’s another way to make your meal hearty, add fiber and provide another source of energy. Quinoa also offers you an additional source of protein.

Add more flavor. Keep your senses happy with a salad bursting with flavors. Top your salad with fresh herbs like basil, mint, chives, cilantro and parsley. If you don’t have fresh herbs, then use a sprinkling of dried herbs. Flavored salts are another great place to kick up the flavor profile.

Mix textures. So you have all of these fabulous ingredients, now be sure to mix up the textures. Some crunch with a bit of tender. Even changing how you chop your vegetables can make your everyday salad a little different. Dice, slice, coarsely chop, julienne – these are all great techniques to make your salad different.

Add something fun. When you are dieting and restricting yourself all the time, your meals may feel bland and boring. I always like to add something fun to keep my salads interesting. Fun for me is salty and that means olives, artichoke hearts, heart of palm or capers. A few crumbled up tortilla  chips, pretzels or crackers can also do the trick.

How to Build a Better Salad by

Vinaigrette Basics

We certainly can’t talk about building a better salad without talking about what goes over your salad. I am a big fan of keeping it simple: some extra virgin olive oil with red wine vinegar and lemon juice. Done. Depending on how sour you like your vinaigrette, a 3:1 ratio of oil to acid is a great starting point. If you want to get fancy, you can experiment by adding other ingredients to your dressing. Mix a bottle to last you the whole week through, to save you on time. Or a quick drizzle of oil and vinegar will do the trick every time.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • champagne vinegar
  • apple cider vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • lime juice
  • dijon mustard
  • whole grain mustard
  • mayonaise
  • dried herbs (mint, oregano, rosemary, basil, parsley, cilantro)
  • spices (paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder)

How to Build a Better Salad by

So, there you go. You have all the tools to make yourself a salad that will ROCK!! And you will never want to go back to boring iceberg lettuce  again.

Did I miss anything? Share your tips and tricks to build a better salad and feel free to link to your favorite  salad recipe, too!

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11 Responses to How to Build a Better Salad

  1. Really awesome post Laura! This should be must-read for everyone. And of course your pictures are gorgeous. (I’d personally add tofu and tempeh in the protein category. xoxo)

    • Yes, of course tofu! How could I forget that?! Thank you, Nancy!

  2. In the heat we’re experiencing this summer, a salad is all I want. A bit of green, a bit of veg, a bit of meat, some nuts, a few sultanas, a few seeds and a light dressing. Makes me a happy person inside and out.

  3. Happy New Year, dear Laura! I too, need to have the same plan for 2015. Get physically active, eat foods that are high in fiber, to reshape our bodies to a fit one!

  4. Great advice, great post!

  5. Love the inspiration behind this and the photos are stunning!

  6. Fantastic tips here!! And gorgeous produce as well. Those purple brussels sprouts are just beautiful.

  7. Just pinned this so that I can keep up with it! Always looking for new salad ideas!

  8. EA-The Spicy RD at #

    Great post Laura and gorgeous photos! I hope you are feeling better 🙂

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