The Ultimate Salad Guide
My friends ask me all the time how I can bear eating a salad every day.
“Don’t you get tired of eating salad?”
No. I never tire of salads, because my salads are full of interesting flavors and textures and keep me full until my next meal.
Until I came to college, I rarely ate salads. But the variety of ingredients available in the salad bars at Four Winds and Varsity and the desire to avoid the infamous “Freshman 15” prompted me to dabble in the art of salad-making, and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since.
Maybe you’ve tried incorporating salads into your diet, only to be disappointed. Or maybe you do eat salads but have been finding them rather bland, recently.
Or you eat them because you know you should, but you’d rather be eating something else.
If that describes your relationship with salad, then it’s time to change that.
Follow these tips and recipes for addictive and satisfying salads!
1.) The Bejeweled Salad
I eat this salad so often that I have the nutritional information for this salad programmed into my diet-tracking app on my phone.
It starts with a base of spinach. Spinach is my favorite base for salad because it’s neither bitter like mixed greens nor watery like lettuce. But if you make this salad, use the base that you prefer.
It’s called the “bejeweled” salad because of its colorful ingredients. After the base, add tomatoes, cucumbers, croutons, blue cheese, grilled chicken, and bacon bits.
To enhance the flavors of each ingredient, use a very gentle vinaigrette: a drizzle of vinegar and a thin stream of olive oil. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper.
Pro tip: Chop your salads. I realize that it seems strange to apply a knife to a salad, but doing so really improves the consistency and taste. Chopping a salad allows the flavors to mix, and breaks down the portions so that each bite you take has a little bit of everything.
2.) The Taco Salad
This is my favorite salad. I can’t eat it as often as I’d like to, because the ingredients for it are only available on Taco Tuesday, and sometimes Thursdays and Saturdays.
Again, it starts with spinach but can be substituted with your base of preference.
Then hop into the taco line and add these ingredients: ground beef, shredded cheese, cilantro, sour cream, and salsa. Make sure to go back to the salad line for tortilla strips.
It’s a little crunchy, a little saucy, and tastes fresh—mostly due to the cold salsa, but also from the clean-tasting cilantro.
Pro tip: Balance your textures. When you compose your salad, balance the textures by choosing something crunchy, something fibrous, something chewy, and something soft. Incorporating each of these textures into your salad makes each bite interesting. The textures will balance each other out so that your salad won’t become too soggy, pasty, or dry.
A good example of a salad with balanced textures is the chicken caesar: it has crunchy croutons, fibrous lettuce, chewy chicken, and soft cheese. Caesar dressing holds these ingredients together, but the ingredients themselves are what make this salad so great.
3.) The Greek Salad
If you’re in the mood for something fresh and healthy, opt for a Greek salad.
Start with lettuce. The water and fiber in lettuce give this salad a fresh taste.
Add tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, peppers, olives, croutons, crumbled feta, and top it off with olive oil or Mediterranean feta dressing.
If you want to add protein, try getting a side of fish if there’s some available or grilled chicken. If you’d rather keep your salad vegetarian, add your favorite bean.
Pro tip: Always include a protein. (Exception: side salads.) Protein is a macronutrient that helps you feel fuller, longer. I like to use chicken, but sometimes I opt for ham for a different texture. If you’re vegetarian, chopped eggs are an “egg-celent” option, as are beans.
4.) The Pizza Salad
Okay, so nothing compares to a slice of hot, Spicy Italian Pizza from the Grille.
But this salad isn’t trying to outshine real pizza. It is its own masterpiece!
Start with mixed greens. The bitterness of mixed greens tastes similar to the yeast and dried herbs in pizza.
Next, add tomatoes, olives, croutons, shredded cheese, and pepperoni. Drizzle on some olive oil for a fresher taste, or ranch dressing if you’re craving something more comforting.
Pro tip: Use dressing sparingly. A little dressing goes a long way! The purpose of dressing is to enhance the flavors in the salad. But putting too much sometimes ruins the integrity of those flavors.
So try this: chop your salad first without the dressing. Doing this first allows your wet ingredient (with a small amount of olive oil and vinegar) to create their own natural vinaigrette. Slowly stir in dressing to taste. You’ll be surprised by how little you need to achieve a great flavor!
5.) The Hummus Bowl Salad
Like the taco salad, this salad also has specialty ingredients. Whenever Italian hummus is available in the Healthy Choices lane, add a spoonful of hummus to a bowl of your favorite salad ingredients. Combined with a little olive oil, the hummus serves as a flavorful dressing.
Pro tip: Experiment with specialty ingredients. Don’t be afraid to use ingredients outside of the salad bar in your salad. Try adding guacamole to a BLT salad. Add pineapple tidbits to ham and bacon for a Hawaiian flavor. Or use roasted potatoes in place of a protein for a meatless option.
Are you hungry, yet? Then plan on making your next meal an exciting salad!17