Build a Better Salad


Salads are the image most of us see in our heads when we think of healthy eating. And for good reason, they can be really healthy. However, it is possible (and very common) for salads to end up being not so healthy, or just not enough for a meal.  

“Salad” can mean a lot of different things to different people. It can mean iceberg lettuce, a few shreds of carrots and maybe a cucumber with lots of croutons, cheese and TONS of ranch or thousand island dressing. (This salad is lacking in nutrients and likely has way more calories than you would think.) OR, it can mean a bowl full of beautiful, colorful non-starchy vegetables with a squeeze of lemon or splash of balsamic. (This salad has more nutrition, but it’s still lacking in many ways.)

Build a salad that's satisfying, nutritious AND delicious with these simple steps. Yes, such a salad does exist! #saslife Click To Tweet

Let’s take a look at how to build a better salad so that you end up with a healthy, nutrient dense meal that will also keep you full for longer than a few hours.


How to Build a Better Salad

By following these general guidelines, you can start to build meal salads packed with nutrient dense, real, whole foods that will actually fill you up and keep you full! Play around with different flavor combinations to find what you like best. The options are truly endless!

1. Start with greens

Start with mixed greens or chopped romaine as your base. You could also use baby spinach or kale for added nutrients.

2. Add more greens

Add some baby greens (if you didn’t already), microgreens, sprouts (like broccoli sprouts, alfalfa sprouts or pea shoots) and/or fresh herbs (like mint, cilantro, parsley or basil) for added nutrition and variety.  Try some new options like arugula, watercress or dandelion greens for something different.

3. Load up on colorful veggies

Add in colorful veggies like carrots, purple cabbage, bell peppers, beets and tomatoes for additional texture, variety and antioxidant benefits! These don’t have to be raw; try roasted vegetables for added flavor.

4. Add a little healthy fat

Adding healthy fats like avocado, nuts or seeds not only increases the satiety of the salad (making you feel full longer) but the fatty acids will also help your body to absorb and utilize the fat-soluble nutrients in those colorful veggies. Plus, these whole food healthy fats are very nutrient dense themselves!

5. Pile on some protein

Aim for a minimum of 3oz of protein and increase from there, based on your needs (most of you will need more than 3oz). The protein (like the fat) will help increase satiety.  This is an essential piece of a meal salad!

6. Top with fruit (optional)

Fruit can add a touch of sweetness to your salad as well as provide some nutrient dense carbohydrates, if needed.  Many colorful fruits, especially berries and pomegranate seeds, are also loaded with antioxidants.

7. Drizzle with dressing

Make sure the dressing is made with healthy fats (like olive oil or avocado oil) and doesn’t have a lot of added sugar. The dressing can be another source of healthy fats to help increase the satiety of your salads, but also adds a burst of great flavor to make a salad more enjoyable.  Salad dressings are really easy to make- see for yourself!



Rosemary Chicken, Avocado and Bacon Salad

Adapted from: Healthier Christo
Makes 2 Servings



2 pieces thick slab bacon, diced
3 chicken thighs
Sea salt, to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 large avocado
1 head romaine
1 bunch watercress, arugula or other green
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
¼ red onion, thinly sliced

Rosemary Vinaigrette
2 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
Sea salt, to taste


  1. In a heavy skillet, cook the diced bacon over medium heat until crispy.
  2. While the bacon is cooking, salt the chicken thighs.
  3. Once the bacon is done, set aside.
  4. Add olive oil and rosemary to the pan, then add chicken thighs.
  5. Cook over medium-high heat until chicken is golden and crispy and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, assemble the salad. Combine a bed of romaine and watercress in your bowl or on a platter. Top with cherry tomatoes, red onion and crispy bacon.
  7. Slice the avocado, sprinkle with salt and pile them on the salad.
  8. Once done, remove chicken from pan and slice. Then pile sliced chicken on the salad.
  9. Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the rosemary vinaigrette ingredients. Season to taste with salt.
  10. Dress the salad and serve immediately.

Tags salad

About Author

Kelly Gehle, MS, RDN, LDN, IFNCP


Kelly is a Nutritionist at the HCC at SAS Institute Inc. in Cary NC. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science from Arizona State University and her Master of Science degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. Her areas of expertise include functional nutrition, health and wellness education, prenatal nutrition, food allergies and intolerances and culinary nutrition.


Leave A Reply

Back to Top