Nutrition & Recipes

Salad Guidelines: How to Add Variety and Nutrients

Salad Guidelines: How to Add Variety and Nutrients
Do you ever get bored of eating the same salad over and over again?

If your answer is “yes,” then it’s time to mix it up a bit! There are so many fantastic salad mixtures for you to try without having to be a master chef in the kitchen.

As you probably already know, salads are one of the easiest meals to get a ton of different vegetables in one place. Having variety with your different salad mixes and ingredients will help you consume a wide array of nutrients. Each vegetable has its own unique makeup of nutrients, which is why you would want to switch up your vegetables on a regular basis instead of eating the same thing all the time.

Shop at a Farmer’s Market

A good place to start when it comes to creating variety in your salads is to shop at your local farmer’s market. By doing so, you are guaranteed variety in your vegetables because the farmers only sell the produce that is currently in season. This means that the vegetables that are available to you will change every time the season changes. Seasonal fruits and vegetables have more nutrients in them and usually have more flavor, too!

If you can’t make it to a farmer’s market, you can go to What’s In Season to find out which fruits and vegetables are best to purchase at the grocery store.

How to Add Variety

When you are putting together your creative salad mixtures, you will want to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Variety in texture: Make sure to include some type of crunchy ingredient in your salad. This will help to create a variety in texture for each bite.
  2. Variety of flavors: Think about including a blend of flavors such as sweet, salty, umami, bitter, and/or spicy.
  3. Variety of colors: When you look at your salad, you’ll want to see a variety of different colored vegetables to get a wide array of nutrients.

Types of Salads

Next, it’s important to think outside of the box. Remember that salads don’t always need to be made with raw vegetables. If you are someone who does better with cooked foods, you can come up with a few variations of cooked vegetable salads. Or, you can do a mixture of some cooked vegetables and some raw vegetables in your salad.

When coming up with new salad creations it can be helpful to think about three distinct categories for the types of salads.

  1. Fresh
  2. Cooked
  3. Pre-made
Here is a breakdown of each of those categories to help guide you in the right direction.

Fresh Salads

This is what most people think about when you say the word “salad.” Fresh salads are made by simply taking different fresh vegetables and layering them on top of each other. The thing that most people forget to add is some crunch (e.g., nuts, seeds, or crunchy vegetables) and variety in flavor (e.g., sweet, sour, salty, umami, etc.).

Here is a list of different ingredients that you can choose from to make sure that you have a well-rounded salad:

1. Choose a base layer:

  • Mixed greens
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Butter lettuce
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Kale
2. Choose colorful vegetables to layer on your base:

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Cucumber
  • Radishes
  • Snap peas
  • Shredded carrots
  • Shredded beets
  • Shredded zucchini
  • Shredded brussels sprouts
  • Fennel
3. Choose one ingredient that is hearty and filling*:

  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
  • Lentils
  • Sweet potato
  • Quinoa
  • Wild rice
  • Brown rice
  • Beets
  • Avocado
(*These can be prepared in a large batch at the beginning of the week to save time when preparing your salad. If you want to use canned beans, I recommend the brand Eden Organics because they use BPA-free cans, and they soak all of their beans before they cook them, which makes the beans easier to digest.)

4. Pick an ingredient to provide some texture:

  • Crunchy:
    • Chopped almonds
    • Walnuts
    • Pecans
    • Sunflower seeds (pepitas)
    • Celery
    • Carrots
    • Jicama
  • Stringy:
    • Broccoli sprouts
    • Bean sprouts
5. Add a high-quality protein**:

  • Wild salmon
  • Wild tuna
  • Tempeh
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Grilled chicken
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Steak
  • Turkey patty
(**Optional: If you are making a salad for a meal, I suggest adding some protein. Look for high-quality organic sources of protein if you are choosing animal products.)

6. Pick some toppings to boost the flavor:

  • Salty:
    • Hearts of palm
    • Artichoke hearts
    • Sundried tomatoes
    • Olives
    • Goat cheese
    • Feta cheese
  • Sweet:
    • Strawberries
    • Blueberries
    • Blackberries
    • Apple slices
    • Grapes
    • Grapefruit
    • Mandarin orange slices
    • Naval orange slices
    • Pomegranate seeds
  • Spicy:
    • Pepperoncini’s
  • Other toppings:
    • Fresh mint
    • Cilantro
    • Basil
    • Green onion
    • Red onion
    • Pine nuts
    • Sea salt
    • Black pepper
7. Select or create a dressing to add some healthy fats and more flavor. This is where things get a little tricky. Most salad dressings use processed oils like canola oil, sunflower, and/or safflower oil. These types of oils are cheap processed oils that contain Poly-unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAS), which are inflammatory. Instead we want to focus on oils that are healthier such as olive oil, avocado oil, or flax oil.

There are two brands of store-bought salad dressings that use avocado oil or olive oil: Primal Kitchen or Bragg’s Vinaigrette.

It’s also really simple to make a homemade salad dressing to keep in the fridge. If you make a different salad dressing each week that will definitely help to provide a variety of flavor. Use the following steps to fill up a glass jar:

Step 1: Add a healthy oil as the base:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Flax oil
Step 2: Add some acidity (a good ratio of oil to vinegar is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar):

  • Lemon juice
  • Lime juice
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Champagne vinegar
Step 3: Add seasoning:

  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Red onion
  • Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • Dried herbs
  • Fresh herbs
Step 4: Add a little sweetness:

  • Honey
  • Stevia
  • Coconut palm sugar
Step 5: Place the top on the jar shake up in a jar and place in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.

Cooked Salads

To make cooked salads, you can roast or steam a variety of vegetables and then add any of the toppings that are listed above for the fresh salads. Some vegetables to consider for cooked salads:

  • Eggplant
  • Bell peppers
  • Zucchinis
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower

Pre-made Salads

Pre-made salads are similar to the salads that you will find in the deli at your local health food store. The nice thing about these salads is that you can make a big batch at the beginning of the week and plate it with some leafy greens or in a bowl on top of brown rice or quinoa.

Some ideas for pre-made salads:

  • Chinese chicken mixture
  • Tuna salad (Primal Kitchen Mayo)
  • Egg and avocado salad
  • Roasted beet salad and goat cheese salad
  • Curried lentil salad
  • Roasted sweet potato and kale
Salad in a Jar

This method is not just reserved for Pinterest photos. It’s really simple, and you can make it at home! Using a different container for your salad can help change things up a bit. You can put your salads in jars at the beginning of the week, and then before you want to eat it just add the salad dressing, close the jar, and shake everything up.

Remember to layer the heavier ingredients on the bottom and the lighter ingredients on the top. For example, chickpeas, quinoa, or almonds would be on the bottom, and spinach, sprouts, or radishes would be on the top.

Challenge: Create 3 New Salads!

As you can see, there are endless ways to create variety when it comes to preparing salads. Now it’s your turn to take action. Take out a piece of paper and use the guidelines above to create three new salads that you have never made before. Next, add the ingredients for one of the salads you created to your shopping list. Make one of the salads this week, and choose one of the other salads that you created over the next two weeks.

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