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Forget boring. Here’s how to add flavor and the healthiest ingredients (and what to avoid).

We all know we should eat more salad—and, of course, we’re talking about the green kind, defined as a cold dish of various vegetables rather than tuna salad, seafood salad, and the like. 

But the truth is that sometimes (maybe most of the time) salad is boring. Something we eat because it’s put in front of us while we’re waiting for the dish we really want. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Salads can be simultaneously delicious and super good for you. 

Super Salads

The most nutritious salads start with spinach or kale, which bring a lot more flavor right off the bat when compared to iceberg lettuce. In fact, spinach or kale provides over 10 times more vitamins A and C, so they’re tops for boosting immunity. But if you don’t like the taste of those greens, try romaine lettuce or arugula. Remember this general rule: the darker the green the better. 

Intriguing Ingredients

Okay, this is where it gets fun … and tasty. You might envision the de rigueur salad accoutrements as tomato, carrot, and cucumber—but there are almost limitless options to make your dish delish. 

When adding vegetables, what tastes appeal to you? Broccoli adds a flavorful crunch. Peppers add flavor and however much heat you’d like, if any. Be creative; roasted veggies add different flavors and textures

Fresh fruit is a fantastic add-on. Besides Manadarin orange wedges or apple pieces, you might like berries or small chunks of mango. If you enjoy dried fruits, just remember to watch the sugar content—otherwise, you’re basically adding candy to your salad. 

Beans definitely can hold their own as a salad in and of themselves, but they also make a great addition to just about any green salad. Some of the best of this protein-packed option include black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, soybeans, kidney beans, and navy beans. 

Whole grains heart-healthy whole grains like barley, farro, and wheat berries are packed with nutrients including protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals (iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium) and will make you feel full longer on fewer calories. Plus, they add a textural variety to stimulate the palate. 

Nuts and seeds also serve up different textures and tastes, as well as being full of nutrients. Consider pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts, chia seeds, and more. Just be sure to use only raw or dry-roasted varieties without added salt or sugar

You wouldn’t eat most entrees without the proper seasoning, but for some reason we sometimes forget that herbs and spices make a salad sensational as well. Try a little crushed black or green pepper, or, if you’re more adventurous, try a little basil, cilantro, chives, dill, mint, or parsley. Just go easy on the salt if you use it.

And of course, feel free to add a healthy, lean protein like grilled chicken or salmon to make a salad special. (Or perhaps tempeh if you’d prefer a unique vegan alternative.)

Addressing Dressings

Be careful when you add salad dressing—many dressings are loaded with artificial flavors and colors, sodium-rich preservatives, full-fat cheese, high-fructose corn syrup, and trans fat. And for many people, fat-free dressings are among the worst choices you can make.

So what is a salad eater to do? Your best option are healthy oil and vinegar toppings, which you can easily prepare yourself. Try mixing different oils and vinegars with different spices (and maybe even some lemon juice or mustard). 

Here’s a chef-approved salad recipe to get your mouth watering:

Loaded Mediterranean Chicken-Quinoa Salad   

Diced chicken, roasted butternut squash and quinoa with a creamy avocado dressing and toasted pepitas

  • For the salad
  • 1 large chicken breast, boneless, skinless
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup butternut squash, roasted
  • 1 cup arugula
  • For the vinaigrette
  • 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP avocado
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Toppings (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds, toasted

Cooking Instructions

  • Roast the chicken and butternut squash at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes before dicing it. 
  • Cook the quinoa according to package directions. 
  • Pour the vinegar into a small container. Add salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oils until incorporated. 
  • Place the quinoa on the bottom of the bowl, salad ingredients on top, and top with chicken and optional toppings if desired. Combine with dressing and enjoy!

The Pickled Beet provides personalized, chef-crafted meals—including vegetarian and vegan, along with meals customized for people with food allergies or sensitivities. We even customize for low-carb, keto, and other diets. If you live in the Miami area and want meals to support your specific health needs, look no further than The Pickled Beet. We provide flavorful, healthy meals so you can eat the way you know you should—without spending hours in the kitchen. Contact us today for a free consultation.