Dietitian’s Tips: How to Make a Healthy (and FILLING!) Salad
Gone are the days of eating limp lettuce, a few tomatoes, and an unseasoned chicken breast. Salads are a fantastic way to eat more vegetables, and they definitely don’t need to be bland or boring. With a Registered Dietitian’s simple formula, you’ll learn how to make a healthy salad that actually tastes good AND keeps you full. You’ll never eat a sad salad again!
A salad is not just a mixture of vegetables.
A salad is a dish consisting of a mixture of vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and sometimes meat, fish, or cheese, typically served chilled or at room temperature.
Salads can be made in countless variations and can be dressed with things like vinaigrettes, creamy dressings, and oil-based dressings.
Salads can be enjoyed as an appetizer, side dish, or meal. They can be customized to fit personal taste preferences and dietary needs. This makes them a versatile and popular choice for many people.
What a Salad Is NOT:
A salad does not have to be a bland or boring diet food.
A lot of people steer clear of salads for fear that they won’t taste good or keep them full. These concerns are valid! For many years, salads have been associated with restrictive dieting, weight loss and not much else.
As a Registered Dietitian, I’m here to tell you that being a tasteless, very low-calorie diet food is not the only purpose that salads can serve! In fact, they don’t have to be that way at all. I have an entire roster of flavourful, nourishing salads!
Benefits of Salad:
There are many! Salads can be a great way to add vegetables to your plate and build a balanced meal.
Salads can be very nutrient dense. Because salads are made up of a variety of vegetables, fruit, grains, nuts, and seeds, they offer a range of vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
Because they’re usually a good source of dietary fibre (both soluble and insoluble), eating salad can also help to promote digestion, regular bowel movements, and gut health.
Eating salads regularly may also help to reduce the risk of chronic disease. This is because a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Now that we understand what salads are, what they don’t have to be (a sad diet food), and what some of their benefits are, let’s talk about my foolproof formula for building a healthy, tasty, and satisfying salad.
How to Make a Healthy Salad:
Here are the key steps to follow to make a salad that is nutritious, balanced, delicious AND satisfying:
Use a Variety of Vegetables
Try using at 2-3 (at least) different vegetables in your salad. This can be leafy greens, onions, or colourful vegetables like cucumber, peppers, and tomatoes. You can add cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower, and even root vegetables like carrots, roasted sweet potatoes, or squash. You can also add fruit! Berries, citrus fruits, and apples are also nutritious salad additions.
Add Protein to Make a Healthy Salad
If your salad is your meal, protein is one of the key ingredients to make it filling. You can use animal-based proteins like chicken, steak, hard-boiled eggs, tuna, or shrimp. For plant-based proteins, try chickpeas, beans or lentils. I also love adding crispy tofu to my salads (these crispy tofu nuggets are great!)
Don’t Skip Carbs!
Carbohydrates are important for energy and satisfaction. A misconception I hear a lot is that salads are healthy because they’re low-carb. And some salads are, but I will always encourage you to eat your salad with a carbohydrate source if you can. Whether that’s mixed in to your salad (like quinoa, roasted potatoes, or croutons), or on the side (like a nice slice of crusty bread).
Dress it Up
A tasty salad dressing is important. You can use store-bought if its convenient for you, or make your own delicious dressing at home. Try my Maple Dijon Balsamic Dressing, Creamy & Healthy Caesar Dressing, or my Easy, Healthy Italian Dressing!
Remember the Flavour & Satisfaction Factor
Satisfaction comes from eating foods we actually enjoy. Adding flavour and texture with ingredients like cheese, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, and herbs is important for making a salad that actually keeps you full. This is where we have to let go of the idea that salads should be as low in calories as possible, and remember we actually want to feel sustained, too!
Healthy & Delicious Salads to Try:
Here are some of my absolute favourite nutrient-dense, satisfying, and totally delicious salad recipes:
Note: I will add chicken, tuna, or another protein source to this salad if I am eating it for a meal.
Note: You can serve this with a meat burger patty if you prefer!
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