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7 Easy Steps to Build a Tasty & Hearty Salad

When you eat the same old salad over and over, it can get old fast. So in an effort to eat more leafy greens, I decided to try mixing up my salads a little more. And boy is it more fun to eat salad now!

When you follow these seven easy steps, you can build a salad that will fill you up and taste delicious. And make sure to read to the end for some of my favorite salad combos! 😉

Step 1: Pick a leafy green base.

As the base of your salad, leafy greens fill you up with lots of nutrients and fiber — without extra calories! The American Diabetes Association recommends filling half your plate with non-starchy veggies (like leafy greens) to prevent type 2 diabetes (or manage existing diabetes). (For more on why leafy greens are so important, check out my article here.)

Ideas
-spinach
-chopped Romaine lettuce
-kale
-arugula

(Want to try kale but think it’s too bitter? Check out my post here to see how to prepare kale so it tastes good!)

A picture of the American Diabetes Association healthy plate - half a plate of nonstarchy vegetables, a quarter of the plate is carbohydrates, and a quarter of the plate is protein.

Step 2: Choose a healthy protein source.

To give your salad more staying power, pick a healthy source of protein. The Harvard School of Public Health highlights that we should look at the quality of our protein source, not just how much protein it has. For example, red meat has a large amount of protein, but relying on red meat for your protein can increase risk of cardiovascular disease, increase risk of type 2 diabetes, and more. If you opt for a plant-based protein instead, check out my article here to learn how to make sure you get the essential amino acids (a complete protein).

Ideas
-grilled chicken
-canned tuna
-baked fish like salmon or tilapia
-black beans
-roasted chickpeas
-lentils
-boiled egg

(For more info on which protein sources are the most budget-friendly, check out my article here.)

Step 3: Add some whole grains.

Include some whole grains in your salad for a healthy source of energy! This meta-analysis found that including whole grains in your diet can also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, several types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Ideas
-brown rice
-quinoa
-bulgur wheat
-whole wheat pasta

(If you need a low carb option for your dietary needs, just skip this step. 😉 )

Step 4: Throw in extra veggies.

Pick a couple more veggies to add extra vitamins and fiber to your salad! According to the USDA, the average American eats about 1 1/2 cups of vegetables per day, mostly consisting of potatoes and tomatoes. But the USDA recommends eating 2 to 3 cups daily for adult women, and 3 to 4 cups daily for adult men. So throw some extra vegetables on your salad to up your veggie intake!

Ideas
-roasted sweet potato or winter squash
-raw or roasted broccoli
-tomato
-grated carrot
-cucumber
-shredded purple cabbage

(To include more vegetables on a budget, pick produce that is in season or on sale!)

Step 5: Include some crunch.

Including a variety of textures is key to a tasty salad. Add something crunchy for a little excitement!

Ideas
-nuts or seeds
-celery
-cucumber
-apple
-roasted chickpeas

Step 6: Add a touch of flavor.

You’ll enjoy your salad a lot more if you add some fun flavor to it! Whether it’s a little sweet or some extra zing, don’t be afraid to have fun.

Ideas
-apples, pears, or berries
-pomegranate seeds
-feta or goat cheese
-red or green onion
-cilantro

Step 7: Don’t forget the fat!

Some vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E & K) are fat soluble, meaning you’ll absorb the nutrients better if you eat some healthy fats along with it. And fat is tasty, so that’s a plus! 😉

Ideas
-freshly grated parmesan
-feta cheese
-avocado
-olive oil based dressing

a recap of the seven steps to build a hearty & tasty salad

Bonus: Fun salad ideas!

Kale power salad
-kale
-roasted sweet potatoes & chickpeas
-sliced almonds
-red onion
-reduced sugar dried cranberries
-avocado
-lemon tahini dressing
(See this recipe from She Likes Food)

Mexican inspired salad
-kale
-taco spiced black beans
-quinoa
-cilantro
-oranges
-avocado
-cilantro lime dressing
(see this recipe from Minimalist Baker)

Vegetarian Cobb salad
chopped lettuce
-boiled egg
-black beans
-tomato
-green onion
-grated cheese of choice
-avocado
-light ranch dressing

Pomegranate pear salad
mixed greens
-baked salmon
-cucumber
-celery
-pomegranate seeds
-pear
-feta cheese (optional)
-light balsamic vinaigrette

Greek salad
-mixed greens
-chickpeas
-couscous
-cherry tomatoes
-cucumber
-sliced olives
-red onion
-lemon vinaigrette

What salad combo will you try? Let me know in the comments below!

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