Eating a salad is a great way to follow a healthy diet. But if you don’t put much thought into your bowl as you’re preparing it, that salad will end up being boring and possibly even unhealthy. To jazz up your greens, try some of these methods.
Start with the right greens
If your salads consist of primarily iceberg lettuce, you need a better foundation to your bowl. According to Oliva Tarantino of Eat This, Not That!, choosing the right lettuce for your meal is crucial — especially for salads. Based on a Centers for Disease Control report, she declares that spinach and leaf lettuce are two powerhouse health options. But the most nutritious green you can eat raw is watercress. “Gram for gram, this mild-tasting and flowery-looking green contains four times more beta carotene than an apple and a whopping 238 percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin K per 100 grams,” purports Tarantino. The best way to get a variety of nutrients in abundance is to blend a handful of different greens into the base of your salad. A good combination can include spinach, kale, watercress and arugula. These all have distinct flavors that blend well together.
Add something warm
A quick way to liven up a salad is to add something warm to it. The hot chicken strips are the best part of a grilled chicken salad, after all. Warm some leftover chicken or steak to beef up your salad. Heat apple or beet slices for a satisfying autumn taste. Sprinkle some freshly toasted almonds or pine nuts in for a crunchy topping. You can even warm up the dressing before your drizzle it on the salad. Sheela Prakash of Kitchn recommends doing this because “it gently wilts some of the greens and makes your salad taste a whole lot more satisfying.”
Use unique or contrasting flavors
For a salad to be exciting, it can’t be all one note. It needs a variety of bold flavors that engage different taste buds and yields a cornucopia of flavors. For example, strawberry and feta is a popular salad topping combination because of the interplay between the sweet fruit and salty cheese. Katie Ayoub shares some salad ideas from restaurants she likes in her article for Get Flavor. For instance, toss hot chicken tenders with blue cheese crumbles, apples, and red onion with some warm bacon-mustard dressing and topping a bowl of spinach. Ayoub recommends taking inspiration from your favorite dishes other than salad and adapting them to a salad bowl. “Salads are a perfect platform for modern flavor systems, taking the quintessential elements and tossing them into something entirely new.”
Make your own dressing
The dressing is where practically all salads go from nourishing to detrimental. Most salad dressings are filled with fats and sugars. While you could forgo the dressing if you have good toppings already, it’s not very difficult to make your own dressing. There are plenty of recipes online you can try, like a basic vinaigrette dressing offered by Kate Taylor on her website Cookie + Kate. It uses a combination of olive oil, your vinegar of choice, Dijon mustard, honey, minced garlic cloves, sea salt and ground black pepper. It’s easy to start with a basic mixture like this and adjust it to coincide with your other salad toppings.
The next time you buy ingredients from the grocery store to make a salad, go beyond the prepackaged lettuce and venture outside the produce aisle for inspiration. If you think outside the box, you’ll probably want to eat salad for every meal!