I never used to like salads much. I grew up eating side salads made of cold iceberg lettuce, pale tomatoes and a few nubs of carrots topped with obligatory croutons and 1000 Island Dressing.
But now, I love them. And I have to say, I have learned to make really good salads. Today I’m going to give you a blueprint for the perfect salad so the next time you’re thinking you’ll have a salad for lunch, you can skip the pre-packaged “salad kit” at the grocery store and DIY. You’ll be so happy that you did.
Here’s how to take your salad from meh to a-mehzing!
Get a big bowl. No, not a soup bowl, I mean a big bowl. This beauty will be big and filling and full of healthy goodness so you’re not trolling the kitchen for a snack in 30 minutes.
Make a little nest of goodness with 2 or 3 cups of greens. Try chopped romaine, thinly sliced red cabbage, angel hair cabbage, arugula, or chopped spinach. A lot of people enjoy kale in their salads but you have to massage it in dressing or oil first to soften it up a bit.
Eat Your Veggies
Add whatever your little heart desires. Try spiralized carrots or zucchini, thinly sliced red onion, artichoke hearts (not marinated in oil), chopped tomato, chopped celery, sweet red peppers, or cold roasted veggies such as mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant. Don’t forget chopped cauliflower, broccoli or thinly shaved brussels sprouts.
Don’t say “Ew, David” until you’ve tried it. Fresh blueberries, sliced apple, chopped oranges or pears are refreshing additions to any salad. Know your salad profile though. Apples in a southwestern salad might not fit in. But with spinach and a smattering of walnuts will fit the bill.
A Layer of Legumes
If I’m having a salad for a meal it has to be substantial. Adding s 1/4 or 1/2 cup of chickpeas, black beans, edamame will do the trick. Roasted chickpeas are also a tasty option and will add lots of crunch to your salad. Make your own so you can control the spices and added fat.
Your Starchy Friends
You can add a 1/4 cup cooked farro which has a dense chewy texture, leftover brown rice or even toast up some couscous for crunch. A few cold roasted Yukon Gold , sweet potatoes or even cold corn are great options as well. Don’t shy away from grains or starchy vegetables in a salad, they have their place.
Ok *this* is where you can break the calorie bank. My rule of thumb is to add no more than 2 toppings because these are all calorically dense and if you add hummus, nuts, cheese and croutons you’ve made your 400 calorie salad into an 800 calorie one that’s much higher in fat.
- 1T sunflower seeds or pepitas
- Cheese (dairy or non-dairy)
- Dried fruit
Dress It Up
I am not a fan of commercial dressings so I’ve been making my own for years. My favorite special occasion dressing is olive oil, balsamic vinegar and brown mustard. Mix it up to emulsify and dress the salad. My daily go-to dressing is made with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, chopped garlic and some maple syrup to cut the acidity of the lemon juice and vinegar.
Now here’s where it gets fun. Add everything to a big bowl, grab your knife and chop as you mix. That way everything is all mixed together with the dressing.
Stick a fork in it and you’re done.
Now go run!