Nutrition News

How to Create a More Satisfying Salad + 5 Awesome Recipes

Natalie Butler, RD, LD

Salads can be a wonderfully easy, tasty and quick way to work in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, protein and antioxidants into your day! But it’s easy to get stuck in a food rut so follow these tips below to think outside the box… no need to force down boring salads!

Leafy Greens – Nix the iceburg lettuce. Typically the darker the leafy greens, the better. Try fresh baby spinach, field greens, baby kale, shredded cabbage, chopped swiss chard or a combination. If you aren’t a fan right now of darker leafy greens, start off with just a little and work your way up.

Protein – Adding grilled chicken breast, canned tuna, a boiled egg, cooked fish, shrimp or other seafood can go a long way in helping a salad keep you full longer. Make extra protein servings when you make dinner, then refrigerate (or freeze) the leftovers so you always have quick options. Stay away from fried items which will be high calorie. Firm tofu is an excellent plant protein to add to a salad, because if you don’t have time to cook it, you don’t have to! Also, you can opt to double up on your bean portion if you don’t have any other protein on hand.

Vegetables – Raw vegetables like cucumbers, sliced radishes, broccoli, onion, sliced carrots, bell pepper are easy and quick options. But adding grilled vegetables to your salad can really bump up the flavor! I make extra vegetables when I’m cooking so I always have a leftover stash in the refrigerator (for salads, snacks and for future meals).Roasted Brussels sprouts, marinated grilled eggplant, roasted cauliflower and pickled okra are some of my favorites.

Fruits – Don’t forget to add your fruit! Fresh berries, mango, grapes, and pears can help balance out any bitter flavors (like what leafy greens might impart). Both berries and orange wedges are rich in vitamin C which help the plant-based iron from the leafy greens be better absorbed. Chopped or sliced apples add a crunchy texture which can help you feel more satisfied!

Beans – You can add beans straight from the can! Do rinse and drain them first to remove excess sodium and liquid though. This is especially important if your salad will sit for a few days in the refrigerator… nobody wants to eat a soggy salad! Beans will also make a big difference in how satisfied you feel after eating a salad, thanks to their protein and fiber content. I most often use chickpeas, black beans, and edamame.

Toppings – Cheese, olives, dried fruit, ground flaxseed, other seeds, croutons (and grains) and nuts. Toppings are typically higher in calories than other parts of a salad so for weight loss, use a max of about a ping pong ball size per salad. Nutritional Yeast, however, is very low in calories, so you can sprinkle it liberally for cheesy flavor. My favorite toppings are feta cheese, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, almonds and flaxseed.

Dressing – This is where many salads go wrong… some restaurant dressings can have up to 300 calories per a 2 ounce serving (4 Tbsp)! When making your dressings at home, sub nonfat greek yogurt (+ a little honey/agave) for mayo when making creamy dressings. Balsamic vinaigrettes well with most proteins and pair well with fruit. Check out our healthy dressing recipes here.

Here are 5 healthy  combinations to help you out of your salad rut!

Fruit Salad With Chia Yogurt Dressing


Only 159 calories and full of healthy fats and fiber. Sugars are all natural and you will love the avocados. Colorful and simple to make. Click HERE to see recipe.

Cabbage Salad with Quick Seared Crab Cakes


Crunchy cabbage offers fiber, flavor, and antioxidants. When topped with quick lump crab cakes, you’re getting an elegant meal that is also healthy and delicious. Use a combination of green and purple cabbage for the most nutrients. Click HERE to see recipe.

Lemon Basil Shrimp and Pepper Salad


This easy and elegant shrimp salad combines crunchy peppers and an chilled lemon flavored shrimp. A little bit of flavorful feta cheese brings it all together for a meal that is sure to please! Click HERE to see recipe.

Endive, Grapefruit, Walnut Salad with Grilled Chicken Breasts


Endive is a crunchy white leaf that is high in fiber, but low in calories, which means it fills you up. It pairs nicely with the grapefruit and walnuts in this salad, while quick grilled chicken breast adds protein. Click HERE to see recipe.

Mixed Berry Quinoa Jared Salad


This sweet, tart salad is a great way to use up leftover quinoa that you have from last nights dinner. Be careful not to mash the berries too much or they won’t stay whole when you’re ready to eat your salad. Click HERE to see recipe.  

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