How to Build a Healthy Salad

When the right ingredients are included, a salad can be a nutritious, satisfying meal. Follow these guidelines to make sure yours stacks up.


Start with a leafy base. Fill your plate with 1-2 handfuls of leafy green vegetables. The darker the green, the more nutritious. Here are examples:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Arugula
  • Romaine Cabbage

Add color. Add a handful of vegetables and fruits in a variety of colors, such as:

  • Bell Peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Onion
  • Radishes
  • Broccoli
  • Beets
  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower
  • Jalapenos
  • Berries
  • Grapefruit
  • Apple Slices

Add your protein. Choose a combination of 3 oz meat, ½ cup beans, 1 oz nuts, and 1 oz cheese. If choosing two sources of protein, use only a half-size portion of each. Some suggestions for protein include:

  • Tuna
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Salmon
  • Steak
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Edamame
  • Black Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Low-Fat Cottage Cheese (½ c)

Flavor it. Here are some ways to add extra flavor to your salad:

  • Dress it – oil-based dressings are lower in calories than creamy dressings. Make your own dressing with oil and vinegar of your choice, and add up to 2 Tbsp to your salad. Avoid choosing light, low-fat and fat-free dressings as these are typically higher in carbs.
  • Fresh Herbs or Sprouts
  • Freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice

Optional: Add extras.

  • Seeds – One ounce of seeds adds protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
    Ground Flaxseed Pumpkin Seeds Sunflower Seeds Hemp Seeds
  • Avocado or Olives – Both are sources of healthy fats.
  • Starch – Feel full longer by adding extra fiber with up to ½ cup whole grains.
    Quinoa Whole Wheat Croutons Barley

Avoid extra sugar. This often comes from salad toppings such as:

  • Sweetened dried fruits
  • Candied nuts
  • Dressings with sugar added (Raspberry Vinaigrette)

Remember, the key to eating healthy is having healthy foods around to eat. Check out these tips!