How to Make the Perfect Salad

Tired of the same old salad you make over and over? With a little effort and great ingredients, you can make salads to rival those in your favorite restaurants.

Grocery stores are loaded with interesting, healthy, varied shades of greens and plentiful toppings. Salads are a great lunch option and a nutritious, energy-boosting, satiating midday meal. Served with dinner, a big salad will not only help you reach your daily intake of vegetables, but will also ensure you don’t overeat at the main course. Bust out of your usual rut and create a super tasty salad with all the right ingredients.

Include these five basics for the perfect salad:

 

1. Greens

Iceberg has little nutritional value, flavor or color. Instead, try kale, spinach, swiss chard, watercress, red and green leaf, bibb, arugula or any of the prewashed varieties found in the clamshell containers at Whole Foods and other stores. These bright greens deliver vitamins A and K, iron, fiber, calcium, and can help fight cancer. The baby versions of kale, spinach, and bibb are a great texture and size for a delicious forkful.

2. Nuts and Seeds

Walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pine nuts and almonds all add healthy monounsaturated fat to your diet. Nuts are satiating, meaning you will feel full and eat less. Their crunchiness and rich flavor will add interest to every bite of your salad.

3. Fruit

The sweetness of fruits like apples, pears, strawberries, mangoes, blackberries or oranges complements the other salad ingredients and creates well-rounded flavor. Dried fruit can be substituted if fresh fruit is not available. Go easy here, as the dried versions pack a ton of sugar in each bite.

4. Cheese

Since cheese is high in saturated fat, a little goes a long way. Cheese packs a ton of flavor in a small package. Sprinkle on Parmesan, Gorgonzola, cheddar, goat, feta or cottage cheese. Harder cheeses stand up well in a salad, even after it is dressed.

5. Dressing

Homemade dressings are easy to make, cost efficient, and healthier than many bottled dressings that add preservatives and/or high fructose corn syrup and are often high in saturated fat. As a general rule, use 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Add the juice of lemon, lime or orange along with a little salt, spice, and maybe a touch of honey. Dijon mustard adds a nice kick. Make sure to shake your dressing to allow it to emulsify.

dining-perfect-salad-dressing

Extras: “A very important piece that is often overlooked while building a salad is protein,” says Rebecca Wills, a certified Nutrition Coach at Forklift Strength and Nutrition. Protein is vital to your body for nearly every function and most Americans do not eat enough. Protein is great at keeping you satiated. Good options are chicken, salmon, tofu, chickpeas and eggs. Add nearly any vegetable like carrots, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, or even warm, roasted butternut squash on top of your salad. To add robust flavor to your bowl, crumble a piece of bacon on top.

“Some of the latest trends at our salad bar include quinoa and kale,” says Eve Albert, COO ofFoodstuffs. “Extremely popular items include sugared walnuts, dried cranberries and avocado.”

Prep Like a Pro

 

  • Try chopping your salad to blend the flavors in each bite. Picky eaters may be less inclined to dig out the mushrooms if they are cut very small.
  • According to Meredith Kramer, Marketing Specialist at Whole Foods Market, choose seasonal options in your salad; they are fresher and more reasonably priced.
  • Buy containers specifically for dressing with a large opening and a pop up top for pouring. Make a bottle of dressing for the week.
  • Toast the nuts for an even richer flavor.
  • Don’t feel like you have to measure salad ingredients. Go heavy with mushrooms, if that is your favorite. Like the taste of vinegar? Ditch the suggested ratio and reduce the oil. Dip a piece of lettuce in the dressing to taste test.
  • Proudly serve your beautiful green salad—with bright fruits, fragrant cheese, and crunchy nuts—in a big bowl with shiny salad servers. Your salad deserves this special presentation. Bon appetit!

3 Perfect Salads to Make at Home

 

Walnut-Lovers Salad

This salad is great with warm, grilled and sliced chicken served on top. Mushrooms and shredded carrots naturally complement this hearty salad.

  • Mixed greens, like kale, spinach and red leaf
  • Diced pear or apple
  • Walnuts (for a decadent treat, use Trader Joe’s candied walnuts)
  • Gorgonzola crumbled cheese ( a little goes a long way)

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup walnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • A few dashes of salt

Sweet Spinach Salad

Bring this salad to your next potluck and watch it disappear.

  • Baby spinach
  • Diced strawberries
  • Chopped pecans
  • Cottage cheese (1/4 cup or more depending on desired consistency)

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup raw sugar
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons horseradish
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Lemony Baby Kale Salad

Incorporate everyone’s new favorite superfood into this delicious, filling salad.

  • Baby kale
  • Chopped cucumbers
  • Sliced red cabbage
  • Dried cranberries or fresh berries

Dressing:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • Dash of kosher salt and ground pepper