Building a Healthy Salad

A healthy salad.

Salads are a great way to include more nutrient-dense foods into your diet, as well as add additional color, texture and flavor. Mixing and matching ingredients is a great way to develop new combinations so you don’t get tired of eating the same thing every day. Next time you're at home or eating from a salad bar when dining out, follow this guide to assemble your new favorite salad. Feel free to adjust portion sizes depending on if the salad is a main entrée or side dish.

Step One: Build Your Base

Select one or more of these leafy greens as the base of your salad.

  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Romaine
  • Boston bibb lettuce
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Red or green leaf lettuce
  • Mixed Greens

Step Two: Add Fiber

Adding extra vegetables to a salad helps add to not only the texture and flavor, but the nutritional profile as well. Select one or more of the following vegetables:

  • Artichoke hearts
  • Beets
  • Bell pepper
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Carrot
  • Red or white onion
  • Corn
  • Red cabbage
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Zucchini
  • Snap or snow peas
  • Radishes

Fruit can also be added to a salad to add a little sweetness. Examples include:

  • Apple
  • Berries
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Melon
  • Dried cherries
  • Pear
  • Grapes
  • Raisins

Step Three: Pick Your Protein

Adding some type of protein to your salad can make it a hearty main course. Consider one of the following:

  • Beef
  • Boiled eggs
  • Chicken
  • Ham
  • Turkey
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Tuna
  • Tofu or tempeh
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans or kidney beans
  • Edamame

Step Four: Dress Your Salad

Top your salad with a small amount of dressing. Consider choosing an option that is lower in saturated fat, such as an oil and vinegar or yogurt-based dressing, in place of a traditional creamy dressing. Feel free to garnish with a pinch of fresh herbs, if desired.

Step Five: Add on Extras (Optional)

These toppings contain more calories in a smaller portion size, so be sure to use them sparingly to top your salad. These foods can help balance out your meal by adding complex carbs and healthy fats. Plus, they offer even more flavors and textures to your salad.

  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Blue cheese
  • Feta cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese