It’s hard to know what to choose at the salad bar. A salad is tricky because it’s equally easy to make a plate that’s tasteless versus one that’s weighed down by too much dressing. You want a satisfying and nutritious salad, but there’s also a line building up behind you.
5 Tips to Take to the Salad Bar
To help you make decisions quickly, below are five quick tips to toss a fulfilling salad (yes, we suggest you go in order):
1. Start with nutrient-dense salad leaves.
The leafy base makes up the bulk of your salad, lending it flavor, crunch and a host of nutrients including folate, fiber and vitamins A, C and K. Iceberg lettuce is America’s favorite salad leaf, but compared to other options it’s not very nutritious. It scores (yes, there’s a score) 18 for nutrient density. Not bad, but not nearly as good as chard (89), spinach (86), romaine lettuce (63) and kale (49). You can read more about nutrient density scores here.
2. Layer in even more vegetables and fruits.
They add natural flavor and crunch. Any will do. Pick from your favorites at the salad bar. The more room you make for vegetables, the less room you’ll have to fill up on less nutritious toppings. More on that later. Here are some ideas you can add to that salad plate:
- Raw, chopped broccoli
- Popping, ripe cherry tomatoes
- Earthy, diced mushrooms
- Sweet, sliced bell peppers
- Tangy, chopped apples
- Creamy, diced avocado
- Fragrant, diced mango
You can add dried fruit for a burst of sweetness, but don’t overdo it. Anywhere between 2—4 tablespoons per salad will do.
3. Sprinkle on beans or other lean proteins.
Beans add fiber and protein into the mix, which will give the salad more staying power. You can choose from chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans and even edamame, a type of soybean. Not a bean fan? Throw in cooked chicken, tuna, salmon, tofu or hard boiled egg over your salad.
4. Choose nuts and seeds over crouton, bacon and cheese.
Go easy on salty croutons and high-fat bacon bits and cheese. Use them sparingly if you look forward to these savory tidbits. The idea is to make your veggie-loaded salad more appealing to the taste buds, not douse it in salt and fat. Better idea: Top your salad with nuts and seeds instead. You’ll get a dose of healthy fats and they’re mighty delicious, too. Go for walnuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds and peanuts.
5. Go easy on the dressing.
Finally, a good salad is lightly coated with dressing, not drowning in it. Drizzle in the dressing, mix your salad and ask yourself if more is needed. Repeat until your salad is well-coated. A rule of thumb for salad dressing: pick vinaigrettes over cream-based dressings. Vinaigrettes typically contain less saturated fat than ranch, thousand island or blue cheese dressing.
Moral of the story? A great salad is all about balancing the ingredients. Find this sweet spot and you’ll be enjoying flavorful, nutritious salads for years to come.