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Make Salads More Interesting

Make Salads More Interesting


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9 tips from Mindy Fox, plus recipes from her new cookbook

Blueberries, Feta, and Mint

If you’re someone who loves eating salads — we know you’re out there, I’m one of them — then you too know that it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Not that your go-to salad is bad or boring, but perhaps it lacks the creativity it first had because nothing about it changes. One of the best things about salads is that they are like blank canvases and can really be made of anything; they don’t even have to have lettuce at all. So there’s no reason why they should feel boring or repetitive.

As Mindy Fox, author of Salads: Beyond the Bowl, says, "Great salads go way beyond the standard 'greens plus a dressing.'" She suggests taking single ingredients you love, say fennel, and using them as the base of the salad instead of greens. Simply shave the fennel bulb, toss or layer it with one or two other ingredients — like orange sections and Gaeta olives — and then finish it off with a good quality olive oil and flaky sea salt.

For all of you salad lovers out there, Fox has generously offered tips from her book to help keep your salads lively and interesting, plus three fantastic recipes to get you started.

Check out her tips in this slideshow and never have a boring salad again!

Back to Sensational Salads


6 bright and tasty salads for spring

Spring makes us think of meals that are light, bright and colorful and salads definitely fit the bill! Sometimes salads get a bad rep for being unsatisfying, but not so with these six gorgeously green recipes. The secret is to add more than just greens to your bowl. By adding a protein, your salad will transform from a light bite into an actual meal. Add a special dressing or an in-season vegetable you can take your salad off the sidelines and make it the main attraction of your meal. Use fresh produce that you can find in-season at the farmers market or grocery store and don't be afraid to experiment with herbs and seasonings that are unfamiliar.


5 Simple Ways to Build More Satisfying Salads

Need some ideas to make that weeknight salad a little more appealing? Here are five simple ways to build a more satisfying salad. Say goodbye to boring greens and dressing.

The modern-day consumer is instantly inundated with a cornucopia of choices as soon as they enter a grocery store. And while this abundance of variety is a modern luxury not to be taken for granted, it can make the process of creating a deliciously tantalizing salad somewhat intimidating and overwhelming. Here are some simple pointers to help streamline the salad building process for consistently better and more interesting results.

Buy Quality Ingredients

Life gets hectic but with the abundance of better options out there, you needn’t settle for seemingly convenient but totally substandard produce. So skip those ethylene ripened tomatoes that look good but lack taste, translucent heads of lettuce, or another disappointing salad kit of wilting greens and stale wonton crisps. With some simple planning and prep, you can bring better to life. Opt for visually appealing, nutrient rich and colorful leaves (Pro Tip – the simpler the salad, the harder it is to hide lack luster ingredients so choose a base that brings distinction). Skip the sad and head straight for the happy—try our tender living butter lettuce , juicy-sweet vine ripened tomatoes , crisp and crunchy mini-cucumbers. The list goes on. The bottom line? A better salad starts with better ingredients.

The best bites are balanced. Sweet and salty, creamy and crisp, fatty and acidic it’s the harmony of sensation that truly stimulates the tastebuds and why peanut butter and jelly will forever withstand the test of time. A great salad is no different in that it too is the sum of its parts.

Consider our Fattoush Sal ad . Brimming with crisp fresh veggies and herbs, sweet pomegranate and tart citrus, it’s a perfectly pleasant experience packed with a variety of texture and fresh flavors. And when you top high quality ingredients with the creamy richness of tangy yogurt dressing and oven-fried crispy pita, you’ve effectively offset acidity (and, in our opinion, taken a salad from good to really, really great). So , the next time you go to build your salad , first pause and consider the harmony of the whole. One easy step and you’re already off to a better start.

Play With Temperature

Salads don’t always need to be cool, crisp, and refreshing. In fact, salads don’t need to be anything. We challenge you to toss out any preconceived notions you may have on what a salad should or shouldn’t be and embrace the unknown. Point in case: our Wilted Butter Lettuce Salad with a Warm Bacon Vinaigrette .

Typically, wilted salad greens are a sign of neglect or maybe a heavy-handed pantry cook. However, in this lesser known but beloved southern salad, our tender butter lettuce is delightfully immersed in a sweet and smoky onion-spiked bacon vinaigrette, the results of which satisfy beyond any preconceived salad limitations we may have held. Of course, as with anything, balance is key and in this case is easily discovered with a healthy smattering of crisp raw onion and crunchy radish. TLDR: Cook your salads!

Use Greens as a Garnish

This needs to be said: sometimes a big bowl of greens just doesn’t cut it. The good news is it doesn’t have to. Your salad base is your oyster (quite literally if you want, its your salad). It’s not limited to a mountain of spring mix, though we’d never knock it. For a more substantial salad, consider heartier options for your such as roasted or grilled vegetables, whole grains, beans, pasta, poached seafood, or even bread.

In our Farro Salad with Parmesan, Cherry Tomatoes, and Arugula , we let the hearty grain take center stage and use our peppery arugula in a supporting role to help provide some needed freshness. Shaved parmesan and toasted sunflower seeds help accentuate the farro’s natural nuttiness. Warm garlic and rosemary infused olive oil and a runny fried egg make for a truly substantial and satisfying salad situation.

Salads For Any Occasion

Look beyond thoughts of a power-lunch or diet-dinner and start to see our salads for what they truly are: an exciting and satisfying anytime addition to busy workdays and the go-to for worry-free weekends. Sublimely simple or creative and complex, cool and crisp or warm and smoky, these versatile menu stars can be as hearty or light as the occasion calls for.

Ultimately, a salad is a blank palette to incorporate healthy and vibrant foods and flavors into your life, so why not start with what many have dubbed the most important meal of the day? With just a few small adjustments a classic cobb salad can glide effortlessly become a Breakfast Cobb Salad . Jammy soft-boiled eggs, crispy golden potatoes, and bacon’s arguably more flavorful Italian counterpart make this salad wholly satisfying and substantial enough to fuel your entire morning and beyond!

There are countless ways to bring a new salad favorite to life to take a lead or supporting role at your next meal. Use our tips to creatively embrace your health by incorporating high quality and colorful foods throughout your day with versatile and flavorful salad solutions. H ealthy should be fresh, fast, and above all else, delicious.

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Pasta Salad Recipes:

This Pine Nut and Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad contains four things I love: pine nuts, arugula, pasta, and feta. I think it&rsquos a delightful combination of flavors that almost everyone will enjoy.

Based on one of my favorite classic sandwich recipes, this BLT Macaroni Salad is loaded with flavor. It&rsquos a tasty and unique twist on classic pasta salad with a traditional flavor combination everyone will love!


16 Ideas For Amazing Fruit Salads

SO MUCH FRUIT. Sometimes too much to actually eat it all before it starts to get icky — which is why fruit salads are such a great idea. You can redeem on-the-edge produce with just a little TLC so that it becomes a whole new magical concoction.

But the term "fruit salad" has long been abused by those who believe that tasteless honeydew + unripe cantaloupe + rock hard grapes = something worth eating. It's high time to reclaim this territory with interesting, beautiful, luscious, non-boring combinations of fruits.

Here are some ideas to help you keep things fresh:


Introduce Some Grains and Legumes

Grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and millet are excellent additions to salad because they lend a nutty flavor and indulgent texture while also increasing protein intake at the same time. Cook your grains as you normally would and throw a half a cup of them right on top of your salad before you add the dressing. Legumes like lentils are also a heart healthy choice for salad toppings. Tickle your taste buds with broccoli and quinoa or curried kale and quinoa salad!


Here's How to Make a Salad That Will Actually Satisfy You and Keep You Full

As a registered dietitian, one of the main things I hear from my clients is that salads are boring, and not filling or satisfying enough. And I get it: Eating a boring green salad for lunch can leave you starving all afternoon if you're not smart about what ingredients you choose. But with almost 80 percent of us not getting enough fruit and vegetables on a daily basis, clearly we need to make more of an effort to get our greens, which means learning how to build a salad that's actually satisfying.

I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’ve always been the Salad Queen (inherited from my dad, who was the best salad maker ever). I'm going to teach you how to make a delicious, filling, protein-rich salad that you’re going to love. I've honestly been eating the same salad for lunch for years, and I'm still not sick of it. Here are my tips for making a salad that’s definitely not boring.

Iceberg lettuce is still a vegetable, but darker greens like arugula, spinach, and kale contain far more antioxidants, fiber, and minerals like iron. They’re also going to fill you up a lot more because they have a heartier texture. (Here are some tips on how make a kale salad taste better.) Make a mix or just choose one green, and don’t be afraid to use a lot. The salads I make at home each contain one entire 5-ounce container of greens.

By adding a few different fruits and/or vegetables every time you make a salad, you're getting a variety of textures and flavors, not to mention vitamins and nutrients. Plus, adding vitamin C-rich ingredients like bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, or orange sections will ensure that you better absorb the iron in your greens

Having enough protein in your salad is essential for satiety, but you need to be smart about your protein source. For example, nuts and cheese contain protein, but they're are also super high in fat. In order to get the 20 to 25 grams of protein that I recommend for each meal, you’d have to eat several servings of nuts and/or cheese, which would add up to several hundred extra calories and lots of fat. Calories aren't inherently bad, and it's important to add some fat to your salad (more on that below), but if the goal is to make a salad that's balanced and energizing, you shouldn't use these high-fat ingredients as your major source of protein.

Instead, choose a high-quality, tasty protein like marinated tofu, black beans or lentils, crisped chickpeas (just quickly panfry them in a bit of oil and seasonings), chicken, or steak. One of my favorite easy protein sources for salads is Italian tuna. (I’m sorry, but white tuna has to go—it's like dry, tasteless styrofoam.) I buy Italian-style tuna in olive oil, which is richer than the white stuff but 100 times more flavorful. Once you drain it, it's not full of oil, either.

Whichever protein source you choose, 3 to 4 ounces of one of these high-quality options should give you all the protein you need for a filling meal.

Thankfully the low-fat diet craze is over, but there are still some people who try to avoid fat. Don’t! While it’s true that you shouldn’t overeat fat (just like you shouldn’t overeat in general), I advise that people eat at least 2 teaspoons-worth of fat at a meal (about 10 grams) to increase satiety. Fat also assists with the absorption of all those great fat-soluble vitamins in the salad vegetables, namely vitamins A, D, E, and K.


I have really perfected my healthy potato salad.I consider potato salad not a real thing if it doesn’t have a touch of mayo. And it’s all it needs. The rest are pickles, eggs, condiments and yogurt. It is simply delicious!

Greek salad is our universal salad that goes with everything. My version takes 15 minutes to prep and contains no lettuce. It is a copycat version of Canadian Greek fast food chain OPA. Serve with turkey meatballs or ground turkey meatloaf.


8 Steps to Make The Healthiest, Most Delicious Salads Ever

Want to know a simple, delicious way to get your four servings of vegetables per day? Put together a nice, big salad.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

At least one sizable salad every day is the perfect way to get your daily servings in all at once — giving you flexibility with other meals and making sure you’re always on track with your daily nutrition requirements.

Yes, it’s that easy. Here dietitian Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, gives some tips for creating endless salad combinations with ingredients that are both nutritious and delicious — with each ingredient chock full of the healthy nutrients listed in the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

“My favorite salad is blackened salmon with goat or feta cheese, garbanzo beans, Greek olives, beets, tomatoes, carrots and cucumber,” Jeffers says. “I’ll eat any dark green leaf, but spinach is my favorite. I gave up my iceberg lettuce fetish years ago and my body is thanking me. If you use the guide below, you’ll get to feel the same!”

The basics of building a super-healthy salad

Start with local, seasonal produce from your farmer’s market or grocery store, then add protein and a healthy dressing and you’re good to go.

Follow this guide daily to optimize your metabolic health, energy and overall well-being!

1. Get your greens on

  • Lettuce — The darker or redder, the better — so think romaine and leaf lettuces (vitamin C, folic acid, potassium).
  • Leafy greens — Jazz things up with spring mix, baby spinach and kale or arugula (beta-carotene, antioxidants).

Pro tip: Steer clear of iceberg and other pale lettuces. Their high water content means fewer nutrients.

2. Add some crunch

  • Celery (vitamin A).
  • Cucumber (vitamin C).
  • Purple cabbage (vitamins A and C, iron).
  • Pea pods (vitamins A and C, iron).
  • Broccoli florets (vitamin C).
  • Alfalfa sprouts (antioxidants).
  • Sunflower seeds or chia seeds (fiber, protein).
  • Walnuts or almonds (fiber, protein, niacin).
  • Edamame (vitamin C, iron).

Pro tip: Avoid croutons, tortilla strips, wonton strips and chow mein noodles. They’re high in fat and sodium, low in nutrients.

3. Create some color

  • Red, orange, yellow or green peppers (vitamins C, B1, B2 and B6, folate).
  • Red onion (fiber, phytochemicals).
  • Pomegranate seeds (vitamins A, C and E, fiber, potassium, calcium, antioxidants).
  • Tomatoes (fiber, vitamins A, C and K, potassium, manganese).
  • Avocado slices (over 20 vitamins and minerals, heart-healthy fat).
  • Red, purple or yellow beets (folate).

Pro tip: Add no more than 2 tablespoons of corn or peas per serving of salad. They’re high in starch just like bread.

4. Punch up the protein

  • Black beans, garbanzo beans or lentils (fiber).
  • Chicken or lean beef.
  • Salmon or water-packed tuna (omega-3 fatty acids).
  • Hard-boiled eggs.
  • Low-fat feta cheese, blue cheese, goat cheese, parmesan or mozzarella (calcium, vitamin D).
  • Tofu (heart-healthy fat, potassium).

Pro tip: Full-fat cheeses are high in saturated fat. Trying pairing small amounts of your favorite cheese with other proteins.

5. Freshen it up with fruit

  • Apple or pear slices (vitamin C, flavonoids).
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries (vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids).

Pro tip: Dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries, dates and raisins are higher in sugar than fresh fruit. A little goes a long way!

6. Let some leftovers in

  • Brussels sprouts (vitamins C, A and B6, folate).
  • Asparagus (vitamins A, E and K, folate).
  • Sweet potatoes (vitamins A and C, manganese).

Pro tip: White potatoes are high in starch, so add sliced sweet potatoes instead since they’re delicious raw and are super-crunchy like carrots.

7. Consult your cupboard

  • Black or greek olives (vitamin E, healthy fat).
  • Artichoke hearts (fiber, vitamin C, folic acid).
  • Banana peppers (vitamin C).
  • Hearts of palm (potassium).
  • Mushrooms (B vitamins, vitamin D).

Pro tip: Remember to factor the salt, often high in canned goods, into your daily sodium intake.

8. Dress it up wisely

  • Lemon juice (vitamin C, folate).
  • Lime juice (vitamin C, potassium).
  • Red wine or balsamic vinegar.
  • Olive oil (heart-healthy fat).

Pro tip: Use more vinegar and citrus, and less oil. Avoid high-calorie, high-fat Ranch, Thousand Island and French dressings.

On top of all that

Jeffers suggests if you don’t often eat salad, try starting with one or two a week. If that’s too much to start with, try experimenting with hearty bowls of grains, beans, egg, chicken or tuna, then add as many of the veggies mentioned above as you can.

Even fruit salads can at least help you get your 2 to 3 daily servings of fruit.

“After you wrap salads into your diet regularly you’ll be surprised at how you’ll begin to feel good about what you’re eating — and how creative you can get. Then, slowly build up to one each day, plus full-meal salads once or twice a week. You’ll soon have more energy and feel better than ever.”

Final tip: If you really don’t love salad, veggies in any form are fine — just make sure you get those 4 servings in any way you can!

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy


Optional Salad Add-Ins:

Beyond the base ingredients mentioned above, there are all sorts of extra add-ins and variations you can try out with this salad. So please feel free to customize this salad recipe and make it your own! For example, you could…

  • Add a protein: Cooked chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, salmon (or other kinds of fish), scallops, or tofu would all be delicious additions to this salad.
  • Add cheese: A variety of hard cheeses (such as shaved Parmesan, Pecorino, or Manchego), soft crumbled cheeses (such as goat cheese, feta, or gorgonzola), or soft mozzarellas (such as burrata or mini mozzarella) would all be delicious in this salad too.
  • Add extra fresh veggies: In addition to (or in place of) the sliced English cucumbers, feel free to add in any other fresh veggies that you love, such as sliced bell peppers, carrots, radishes, celery, corn, etc.
  • Add jarred veggies or olives: Feel free to also toss in any jarred veggies that you love, such as roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes, pepperoncini peppers, or olives.
  • Add tomatoes: Fresh or sun-dried tomatoes would also be delicious in this salad.
  • Add beans: And of course, you’re also welcome to add in any beans for extra protein too, such as chickpeas, lentils, white beans, or red kidney beans.