Five Tips to Build a Better Salad

By Katie Meade, Dietetic Student at the University of Maryland

Just because you can find it at the salad bar … doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthy option.

Many people think of salad as sort of a gold standard for healthy eating. But add a few too many bacon bits, pour on the creamy dressing, and smother your veggies with cheese, and before you know it your seemingly healthy salad can get seriously off track.

Here are five tips to help you build a better salad:

Sweet Green’s October Salad with mesclun greens, kale, basil, apples, walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette. Because they’re my favorite fall veggie, I swapped in sweet potatoes instead of the white cheddar it normally comes with…YUM!

  1. Choose a leafy green base. There are a LOT of options out there these days. Romaine and spinach and radicchio, oh my! Generally speaking, the darker the green, the more nutrients it contains.
  2. Or take things in a whole new direction. This is your salad after all, and maybe you want to think outside the lettuce box for a change. You might be in the mood for a simple salad of cucumber slices, chopped red onion, and tomato wedges with a little Italian dressing. Or maybe you’re craving some baby carrots and celery slices with hummus. Check out the salad bar offerings at UMD’s dining halls to see what kind of non-salad salads you can come up with.You could even grab some broccoli and mushrooms from the salad bar to make a veggie frittata back at your dorm! Find out how by watching this video on the UMD Terp Chef video contest page.
  3. Get a little fruity.  Fruits and veggies really make quite a pair. Think spinach and strawberries, bibb lettuce and mandarin oranges, or even avocado and grapefruit! Don’t be afraid to play around with different flavor combinations by adding a fruit or two to your salad.While you’re at it, check out the Sweet Green salad (pictured above) that I recently enjoyed. It paired apples with mesclun greens, kale and sweet potato…talk about a perfect fall fruit and veggie combo! Sweet Green features tons of local ingredients from Maryland and the surrounding states, and they have a new seasonal salad available each month.
  4. Dress it up. It can be easy to overdo it with things like cheese and salad dressing, but actually, adding a little healthy fat to your saladwill help your body absorb more nutrients from the veggies. Opt for vinaigrette or choose a lower-fat version of your favorite creamy dressing. And remember that a little dressing goes a long way!  You may even want to get the dressing on the side and add a little at a time to your salad.Not a fan of salad dressing? Add some sunflowers seeds or nuts like walnuts or almonds. You can also try topping your salad with a little diced avocado.
  5. Make it a meal.  A side salad can be a great way to add more veggies to your day. Try a garden salad from Sbarro in the Stamp Student Union next time you are there for a slice of pizza! But you can also turn a salad into a satisfying meal by adding some lean protein. Grilled chicken, hardboiled eggs, tofu, and beans are all good options. Salad Works, also in Stamp, has some tasty entrée salad options.

What are your favorite salad combinations? Please share your ideas with me!

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4 Responses to Five Tips to Build a Better Salad

  1. I love adding fruit to my salads! Blueberries and apples with a little bit of feta cheese is my favorite combination.

  2. Selby says:

    Great ideas! My favorite salad combination is spinach leaves, roasted red peppers, a little bit of shredded parmesan cheese, and chickpeas and chicken slices!

  3. Caitlin Fields says:

    I like adding avocado and low- fat feta cheese! Thanks for the great advice. I love new ideas to liven up my salads.

  4. Dawn says:

    These are great salad ideas…I especially like the fruit suggestion! I love to add grilled chicken strips and salsa to romaine lettuce with a few extra chunky pieces of veggies like cucumber, onions, and avocado.

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