When most of us think of a salad, it’s likely that we think of a plateful of lettuce, chopped vegetables, and topped with dressing. While a salad made of greens and veggies is one of the most popular types of healthy salads, the options are seemingly endless.
In this article, we discuss healthy salads, some easy recipes to try, and some pointers for making a salad as healthy as possible.
What Is A Salad?
Before we discuss healthy salad recipes, it’s important to note what goes into a salad. If you think of lettuce and other veggies as a salad, you’re not wrong, and if you think of chopped chicken mixed with dressing and other ingredients, you are also not wrong.
Today’s salads may be an entree or a side dish and can include greens, vegetables, and numerous ingredients like pasta, beans, fruit, meat and seafood, and even gelatin (Jell-O). While salads may vary greatly due to their ingredients they all have one thing in common: they are eaten cold.
All Salads Are Not Created Equal
Even though most people think that all salads are healthy salads, it all depends on the ingredients you add to your salad. A dessert salad made with marshmallows, whipped cream, and gelatin, will be significantly less healthy than a salad that consists of baby spinach and thinly sliced vegetables.
While we will explore some salad recipes shortly, here are some tips to help you get thinking “healthy” when it comes to salads:
Why Make Your Own?
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Restaurants, delis, and grocery stores have dozens of ready-made salads. Whether you select your own from a salad bar or purchase a prepackaged salad, these types of salads are convenient and a great option for people with busy schedules.
While there’s nothing wrong with building your own salad at a salad bar or buying a bagged salad from the store, it’s typically not as cost-effective as you think and it may not be as healthy as you think either.
Buying individual ingredients for your salad can make you more mindful about the health profile of each ingredient.
- Best Healthy Salad Recipes To Try Right Now -
One of the great things about salads is that they are versatile and the options are virtually endless for what you can throw together to make a salad. Check out these healthy salad recipes to see which one you might want to make for lunch, a family dinner, or a holiday potluck.
Garden Salad With Greens and Veggies
A garden salad is often seen as one of the more basic salad recipes, but don’t confuse it with being boring. While the ingredients you choose for this salad may either make (or ruin) the dish, it’s a great starting point for people who want to eat more salads or more healthily in general.
To make a garden salad, start with a lettuce base. This may be a spring mix, spinach, or other varieties of lettuce. Darker greens are healthier, and it’s also important to make sure there are no recalls on lettuce and other greens (such as Romaine).
Adding ingredients that “crunch” can make a salad more satisfying to eat and while many people choose croutons as their crunchy ingredient, it’s better to choose crunchy vegetables like carrots and celery or toss in some walnuts or dried edamame.
Colorful vegetables are not only healthy additions to a garden salad, but they can make the salad more visually appealing (which may make it more enticing to eat). Red onion, avocado slices, tomatoes, and peppers are just a few colorful veggies to consider.
Adding some protein to your salad can help you feel fuller and balances out your salad. While many people assume that protein is only meat, like chicken or salmon, you can add black beans, tofu, hard-boiled eggs, or even a low-fat cheese.
While most garden salads are topped off with a dressing of your choice, like Italian, consider making your own dressing and use sparingly. Too often, people add too much dressing to a salad and find that they aren’t getting the full flavor profile from the salad. When you add dressing, start small and add more if necessary as most dressings go a long way.
Kale Detox Salad
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Adding more greens and fiber to your daily diet is a great way to naturally and safely flush toxins out of your body, which is just another reason to make a healthy salad right now. While a “detox” salad (like most salads) can be a combination of a variety of ingredients, this one uses kale rather than lettuce.
To make this salad, chop up kale leaves. Some people prefer to remove the rib (center part) from kale and other similar greens, as it’s often a bit tough to eat. If you’re not a fan of chopping vegetables, using a food processor might make the whole process a little easier (which may also motivate you to eat more salads).
Add chopped broccoli, red cabbage, and shredded carrots. Roughly chop cilantro, slice up some green onions, dice an avocado, toast some slivered almonds, and gently toss all the ingredients together.
If you’re looking for a dressing that compliments this salad well, try making a carrot ginger vinegarette.
In a blender or food processor, blend one carrot, one-quarter cup of rice wine vinegar, two tablespoons of olive oil, one tablespoon of fresh ginger (peeled), one tablespoon of honey, one tablespoon of white miso, and one-half teaspoon of sesame oil. Add a little salt and pepper and drizzle over the salad.
Chicken, Spinach, and Orange Salad
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If you’re looking for a salad that is more of a complete meal than a side dish, try this spinach salad that uses chicken and oranges as some of the main ingredients.
To make this salad you need one pound of chicken breasts (skinless and boneless is best), two peeled and sliced cara cara oranges, one avocado, one-half cup of pomegranate seeds, two cups of spinach, one can of chickpeas, one thinly sliced shallot, and herbs such as parsley or mint.
Start by marinating the chicken in one-third cup of olive oil, two tablespoons of ACV, juice of one half of lemon, and one-half teaspoon of salt. After you marinate the chicken for up to two hours, you can grill or bake the chicken breasts.
Slice the chicken, mix all the ingredients together and top with a dressing made of three tablespoons of mayo or Greek yogurt, one tablespoon of champagne vinegar, two teaspoons of Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper.
As with all salad ingredients, make sure your ingredients are washed (such as lettuce or spinach) and if you’re using canned items like beans always rinse them to reduce your sodium intake.
Quinoa and Sweet Potato Salad
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If you’re a fan of quinoa (pronounced: keen-wah) and you’re looking for new recipes, or you’ve never tried it, this healthy salad recipe is great for a full meal or side dish. While spinach is part of the recipe, it’s not a greens-based salad.
For this salad, you need two roasted and diced sweet potatoes, one cup of cooked quinoa, about four ounces of chopped spinach, one avocado chopped, one-third cup of dried cranberries, and salt and pepper.
To roast sweet potatoes, preheat the oven to 425, peel and dice your sweet potatoes and toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, flip the potatoes, and roast for about 15 to 20 more minutes. To prepare the quinoa, follow the directions on the package. You can use chicken or vegetable stock in place of water.
After the sweet potatoes and quinoa are cooked and cool, toss all the ingredients together. You can add your own dressing or try this lemon vinaigrette recipe.
Mix together four tablespoons of red wine vinegar, one tablespoon of Dijon mustard, one-half teaspoon of dried oregano, one teaspoon of dried basil, one clove of minced garlic, one-half cup of olive oil, and three tablespoons of lemon juice.
It’s best to only add dressing to the portion you eat as tossing the whole salad with dressing can make leftovers soggy.
Avocado, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad
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Tomatoes and cucumbers are two quintessential summer salad ingredients. While you’re likely to get fresher and “local” tomatoes and cucumbers during the warmer season, you can enjoy this healthy salad recipe year round.
This salad makes for a quick and easy lunch or a great side dish for larger meals. All you need for the salad are tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, red onion, chopped basil, white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper.
You can modify the quantities of ingredients based on your preferences or what you have on hand. Some people use tomato wedges while others slice up small tomatoes like cherry or grape tomatoes. Thin slices of red onion work best for this recipe, and you always want to use fresh basil when possible.
Drizzle the salad with equal parts vinegar and oil and add some black pepper and salt.
Chicken Fajita Salad
Love making fajitas but want a healthier spin? Try this chicken fajita salad; instead of tortillas, you’re making chicken fajitas and adding the ingredients to a bed of lettuce.
Start by marinating the skinless and boneless thighs or breasts with olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, cumin, and salt. After the chicken has marinated, you can either grill or bake your chicken.
You can also saute’ the pepper and onion strips for that authentic fajita taste. Add some slices of avocado, sour cream, and cilantro, and you have a healthy Tex-Mex salad.
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If you have a sweet tooth or are trying to eat more fruit, a fruit salad is a great way to incorporate more fresh fruit into your diet. Fruit salads can be made year-round, and you can even add berries to garden or chicken salads.
One recipe for a fruit salad includes cubed pineapple, kiwi slices, mandarin oranges, and pomegranate seeds tossed with a homemade honey poppy seed dressing.
To make the dressing, mix three tablespoons of lemon juice, three tablespoons of honey, and one tablespoon of poppy seeds. Pour the dressing over the fruit and gently toss the salad.
Final Thoughts on Healthy Salads
There are dozens more healthy salad recipes to try, but we gave you some of the basics to try. Remember, there are no strict rules when it comes to making a healthy salad. Salads are easy to make because often you can toss together some ingredients you have on hand rather than having to make a special trip to the store.
As long as you are mindful about your choices of ingredients and avoid using too much sugar or “extras” that have little nutrition value, virtually any recipe you create can be healthy.
You can make salads ahead of time, especially if you want to take one to work for lunch. To ensure that the ingredients stay fresher longer, it’s best to keep the dressing off your salad until you are ready to eat.