Creating a salad can be a healthy choice or an accidental calorie bomb. Knowing how to build the perfect salad is key to a nutritious meal. All those delicious add-ins can be tempting – throw on some croutons, bacon bits, dried fruit, cheese and creamy dressing – but they add tons of calories, sugar, and fat. Even a salad loaded with vegetables can be missing things like protein, healthy carbohydrates and nutrients.
How to Build the Perfect Salad:
1) Choose a Base
Mixed greens, spinach, romaine and iceberg lettuce are generally available. Always choose darker greens (kale, spinach, mixed greens) since they have more potassium, iron, and calcium than lighter green/white options.
2) Add a Variety of Color
More colors mean more nutrients! Red vegetables have lycopene and anthocyanins. Orange vegetables have vitamin C and beta-carotene. Green vegetables have folate, potassium, and calcium. White vegetables have potassium and magnesium. I love picking one of each!
3) Add Protein
This doesn’t just include animal protein! Plant protein is great on a salad, as long as you don’t forget to add it. Your options include chicken or turkey, lean beef, shrimp, beans, quinoa, and eggs. Don’t choose a chicken or tuna salad as those are generally made with mayonnaise and other heavy ingredients.
3) Add Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are an important part of any meal. Go light on the avocado, nuts or seeds and add olive oil as part of your salad dressing.
4) Add Crunch
A small portion of croutons is okay. If there are whole wheat croutons, that’s even better. Seeds or crunchy chickpeas are a better option.
5) Choose a Dressing
Any salad can take a turn for the worse by picking the wrong dressing. Your best option is olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon. A mixed balsamic vinaigrette can also work. Stay away from creamy dressings to avoid the calories and fat.