Food for Thought with Morgan Atherton, RD, LD

Building a Better Salad

When thinking about healthier eating, salads are almost always one of the first foods that seems to come to mind. For some on the other hand, salads are thought to be plain, boring, and lacking much taste. This can lead to adding extra ingredients like bacon, cheese, more dressing, and other toppings that can quickly increase the overall calorie and fat content if not careful.

While this may be the case for some, there are multiple ways to add extra flavor to your salad while still enjoying the nutrition benefits that they can provide. Here are just a few suggestions for building a better salad:

The Base:

Lettuce and leafy greens in general are low in calories but very high in their nutritional content. While iceberg lettuce isn’t necessarily a bad choice, the nutritional value is lacking compared to most other options. Trying various greens such as spinach, kale, arugula, romaine, or even cabbage is a great way to increase those health benefits. You can always mix different greens together to find a taste that you like best.


Don’t be afraid to pile on the vegetables! These are a great way to add different textures to your salad and add extra flavor. Raw, roasted, and grilled vegetables are just a few options to help increase variety. Try different colors of vegetables to maximize the nutritional content. Those such as carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, and mushrooms are just a sample of all the different options to choose from.


Adding some type of protein source to your salad can help prevent feeling hungry again soon after you finish eating. Protein helps with fullness and can make your salad more satisfying overall. Some great sources to try adding include grilled chicken, tuna, salmon, black beans, chickpeas, or a hard-boiled egg.

Nuts and Seeds:

These items can add some extra crunch to your salad, as well as add a source of healthy fats to your meal. Try ones such as chopped or sliced almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds. Just remember to be mindful of the amount that you use, as a little can go a long way.


This is the area that most people tend to struggle with. The type and amount of dressing used can quickly turn a healthy and balanced meal into something quite the opposite. Many dressings can be loaded with unhealthy fats and sodium. Homemade dressings are usually very quick and easy to make and can be a much better alternative than some premade options. Try making your own with oil, vinegar, and different spices and seasonings. If you choose to buy a premade dressing, look for options that are lower in saturated fat, added sugar, and salt. Start by using a smaller amount and add any extra as needed.


Salads don’t have to be boring and tasteless. Try experimenting with different flavors and combinations to find what you like. Be creative, you never know what you might like until you try it!