How to make a healthy salad

How to make a healthy salad!

Start with a strong foundation.
First things first: Start by upping the nutritional ante by choosing a base for your salad that provides important nutrients like folic acid and lutein. Give up the iceberg for greens like baby spinach, or a spring mix that includes a variety of dark green lettuces.


Pile on the veggies.
Take advantage of fresh vegetables and load them on top of your greens. Choose a variety of colors to get the most health benefits — red bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, and red onions are all great choices. Be sure to stick with raw or lightly steamed vegetables and steer clear of ones that are fried or swimming in oily marinades.


Don’t forget the protein.
Your salad becomes a meal when you add the protein! If you’re opting for animal protein, select one lean source (or two if you’re extra-hungry), such as eggs or chicken or turkey breast, water-packed chunk tuna, wild salmon, or lean sirloin steak. If you’re vegetarian or just want to mix it up, choose half a cup of cubed tofu or three-quarters of a cup of chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, or other legumes. Stay away from caloric or processed meats like bacon and salami, and definitely skip anything fried or drenched in heavy sauce.


Choose one extra.
Extras are those items that typically add another dimension and flavor to your combo of greens, vegetables, and lean protein. While some of these extras are packed with nutrients, they’re also packed with calories, so they should be added sparingly. Think of 2 tablespoons cheddar, Parmesan, goat, Swiss, or feta cheese; 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts, pecans or sliced almonds; 1 tablespoon sunflower or pumpkin seeds; 1 ounce avocado; 10 small olives (canned/jarred in water).



Dress it up lightly.
Some people eat salad only if it’s doused with dressing. Unfortunately, dressing can take a salad from fresh and nutritious to downright unhealthy. The dressings below can be very filling, so use sparsely.

Japanese salad dressing

1 cup of olive oil

1 cup of balsamic vinegar

¼ cup of soy sauce

Crushed garlic

Put all the ingredients in a jar and shake. This will keep for a few weeks in the fridge. This dressing is lovely with a lentil / quinoa salad.


Simple dressing


1 cup of olive oil

1 cup of white wine vinegar, but slightly less then the oil

Pinch of salt, pepper

Put all the ingredients in a jar and shake.

This dressing can be your base. Depending on the oil and vinegar you use you can alter the taste for some variety. Add a hint of honey or a dash of maple syrup for a bit of sweetness. Mustard added to it, and or finely chopped (spring) onion all gives it that bit of umpf!



Italian Salad Dressing

Makes 1 1/2 cups (using 2-4 tablespoons per salad)


1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 large garlic clove, pressed

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously until the mixture is thickened and well-combined. Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined.

Taste the dressing using a lettuce leaf and adjust seasonings. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.


French Vinaigrette

1 anchovy
1 small garlic clove
Juice from half of a nice fresh lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil, something good but not too fancy
Freshly ground black pepper or small pinch piment d’espelette

In a mortar and pestle, mash the anchovy, garlic, and a pinch of salt to a paste. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir to break up the anchovy paste. Beat in the mustard. Either beat or whisk in the olive oil, a few glugs at a time. The vinaigrette should emulsify but will never become super tight and even, and that’s ok. Season with the pepper or chilis. Wash some sturdy or bitter greens, and you’re on your way to salad paradise.

Balsamic vinaigrette
2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon dijon mustard (whole grain dijon is also great if you have it)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed (or minced if you like a stronger garlic flavor)


  1. In mixing bowl measure honey, mustard, salt, pepper and crushed garlic. Stir with fork to combine (you can use a whisk if you’re using minced garlic; the crushed garlic clove tends to get caught in the wires).
  2. Add balsamic vinegar and stir. Gradually oil, whisking with fork to incorporate. Stir until fully emulsified.
  3. Store in a jar with lid (a repurposed jam jar works nicely). Keeps indefinitely in refrigerator. I like to leave the garlic clove in, where it sits at the bottom of the jar and continues to release its subtle garlic flavor. But if you are afraid you’re accidentally going to get in your salad, you can fish it out with a fork and discard it.

Makes approximately one cup of vinaigrette. If you would like to stock some, multiply the ingredients!