How To Build A Better Salad


With the abundance of fresh, local fruits and vegetables, it’s the perfect time of year to enjoy salads. If you’re stuck in a rut with your usual salad, you’re missing out on important nutrients and the fun. Here are some tips to build a better, healthier, and tastier salad.

Stay Clear of the Iceberg

It’s one of America’s most eaten foods, yet iceberg has little flavor and almost no nutritional value. To start your salad off, try adding one or more of the following dark leafy greens to your bowl. All of these lettuces are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If some are new to you, give them a try! Mix them up for variety.

  • Boston (bibb)
  • Radicchio
  • Baby spinach
  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Watercress
  • Red and green leaf
  • Oak leaf
  • Frisee
  • Endive
  • Mache
  • Escarole

Power it Up

Take advantage of having a salad as a meal and maximize your nutrient intake. Power up your salad by mixing in a variety of your favorite vegetables. For example, toss in red, yellow, or green peppers, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, snap peas and cabbage. Eat them raw, grilled, or roasted, the choice is yours.

Likewise, fruit is a great addition to a salad. Try tossing in apples, blueberries, strawberries, or grapes for a yummy burst of flavor.

The colorful, the better! Not only will you benefit from all the great antioxidants in fruits and vegetables, but also fiber.

Pick Your Protein

Adding protein to your salad will help fill you up and keep you satisfied longer, and can help to prevent blood sugar crashes later in the day. Choose lean sources of protein such as:

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Tofu
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Cheese
  • hard-boiled eggs

Toss in Something Chewy

Carbohydrates provide energy and if balanced appropriately, can help to manage blood sugar and insulin levels. Toss in carbohydrate foods that are low in glycemic-index (GI) and won’t spike up your insulin. Typically low GI types of foods are whole grain and unprocessed, and contain fiber and protein. Examples include:

  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Cooked quinoa
  • Cooked wheat berries
  • Cooked farro
  • Whole wheat pasta

Don’t Forget the Fat!

Foods with fat in them don’t raise blood sugar and insulin levels like carbohydrates do, and help you feel full and satisfied with meals. Fat-containing foods, especially unsaturated ones like nuts and seeds, provide numerous health benefits. The following are some examples of some healthy fats to toss into your salad. Since they are high in calories, keep them to one or two servings per meal:

Watch your Dressing

Store-bought salad dressings are loaded with sugar, fat, and salt, not to mention additives. As a healthier alternative, use heart healthy olive oil mixed with vinegar or drizzle flavorful balsamic vinegar on to your salad. Or, try making your own homemade dressing. Need some recipes? Check out The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook: 100 Easy and Delicious Whole Food Recipes to Beat PCOS for some yummy salads and homemade dressings like the Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette recipe below. Remember that a little dressing goes a long way.

Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Serves 4


  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Whisk ingredients in small bowl until combined. Drizzle over your favorite salad.

Per serving: 80 calories, 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 150 mg sodium

Recipe from The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook: 100 Easy and Delicious Whole Food Recipes to Beat PCOS

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