Why I love salad
At the base of my personal food pyramid are greens. Fresh, bountiful, nutritious, tender, tough, light green, dark green, cruciferous, chlorophyll-rich greens! While I love them cooked to perfection, I especially love them in the raw, in salads. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about making a simple side salad of romaine lettuce with a light dressing. I’m talking about a big entrée salad that is filling, balanced, and full of texture and color.
There is certainly some skill to making the perfect salad. You’ve got to have the right dressing and the right additions. The perfect entrée salad should have a nice blend of fresh greens, colorful starchy or non-starchy veggies, legumes, a healthy dressing, whole grains, and some nuts or seeds for extra nutrition and crunch. In this post (and video below) I’m going to show you exactly how to make a salad: but more specifically how to make the perfect entrée salad so that you make sure to get your raw greens every day.
You should eat salad and raw greens every day
- Greens are among of the most nutrient-rich foods you can consume. Per calorie, there are far more minerals, vitamins, fiber, protein, and phytonutrients packed into greens than most other foods we eat.
- Raw greens are full of insoluble fiber and water which provide important ruffage to help support healthy digestion and elimination. If you’ve had issues with digestion, you can certainly benefit from eating a big salad once a day. In my experience, dark leafy greens, like kale, are best with keeping things moving.
- They make the perfect satisfying base for the other important foods we should be eating, like whole grains, legumes, healthy fats, and other veggies.
- NOTE: If you aren’t used to eating raw vegetables and large amounts of fiber, you may want to slowly add these foods into your diet to avoid digestive upset. While large amounts of fiber are great for you, your body may need to get accustomed to digesting them if you’re used to eating a Standard American Diet.
Components of the perfect salad:
Make sure that each of your salads has one of each of the following salad ingredients. Making a delicious and filling salad is really that easy. As you play around with different combinations, you’ll find what works best for you. Follow my recipes if you’re new to salad making, and before you know it, you’ll be a master!
Important note: To save time I highly recommend prepping your salad ingredients one or two days a week. Cook your grains, prep your greens and veggies, and make your dressings all at once. This way you can easily toss together a fresh salad in minutes, rather than having to do a bunch of prep and waiting. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
First off you’ll need a large mixing bowl. If your salad greens don’t fill at least half the bowl then you need to add more greens. I aim for at least 5-6 cups of greens per salad per person.
I divide salad greens into two categories: tougher dark leafy greens like kale and collards, and tender leaves like romaine lettuce and arugula. I like to rotate between these different types throughout the week, and combine types when I can. The dark leafy greens tend to be tougher so they’ll often require that you massage them. Massaging entails using your hands to literally massage a dressing into the chopped leaves to make them more tender, cut any bitterness, and break down the cell walls of the leaves so you can better absorb their nutrients. Tender greens, like lettuce, only require that you toss them in a dressing to coat. Herbs are great nutrient-dense and flavorful additions to a salad. Try to mix them in as often as possible. The list below is by no means comprehensive, but rather, a sampling of greens you probably have easy access to.
DARK LEAFY GREENS
Cabbage, red or yellow
Romaine lettuce and other lettuces
Herbs: dill, parsley, cilantro, basil
You can’t have a salad without a dressing, and luckily the options for tasty dressings are endless. Dressings help you to add more flavor and variety to your salad, but they can also add more nutrients like healthy fats. I recommend making your own salad dressings at home to avoid excess oils and preservatives, and because homemade dressings are fresher and less expensive.
Some of my favorite easy-to-make salad dressings:
The make the perfect dressing you should have a fat, an acid, salt, and possibly something sweet to balance it all out. The fat can come from an oil, or a whole food fat like tahini or avocado. Check out the salad & dressing ideas and recipes below.
- Maple Mustard Tempeh Salad
- Sweet Potato Arugula Salad with Pomegranate Dressing
- Simple Tahini Dressing (oil-free)
- Creamy Avocado Dressing (oil-free)
- Sweet Miso Red Cabbage Salad
- Fig Balsamic Dressing
- Cumin Lime Dressing
Simple Wine Vinaigrette | How to Make Salad Amazing
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- ¼ cup Pompeian Organic Red Wine Vinegar or Pompeian Organic Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic or shallot
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup Pompeian Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Place ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Or place ingredients into a jar with a lid, and shake until creamy.
The legumes, aka beans.
We should all be eating beans every day. They’re a great source of fiber, plant-based protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, antioxidants, and complex carbohydrates. Legumes will certainly add a nutrient boost to your salad, and they’ll also add a lovely firm starchy texture and delicious flavor.
Just don’t limit your legume intake to beans. Be sure to also add lentils, and traditional soy products like tofu and tempeh to your salads.
Salad friendly legumes
Balsamic Marinated Tempeh | How to Make Salad Amazing
- 1 pack of tempeh cubed
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup Pompeian Organic Balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
- Pompeian Grapeseed Oil Spray
- In small bowl mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, syrup, garlic, and chili powder.
- Add the cubed tempeh, and stir well to coat. Allow the tempeh to marinate for at least one hour. Best if marinated overnight.
- Warm a skillet or frying pan, and grease with Grapeseed Oil Spray.
- Add the drained tempeh, and cook for 5-10 minutes, until browned on all sides.
Colorful starchy and non-starchy vegetables.
Greens are the base of any salad, but adding other veggies are what will really make it great. Starchy and non-starchy vegetables all have their place in your daily salad. They add more flavor, texture, fiber, color, and beneficial nutrients. A great rule of thumb for eating well is to make sure that every meal is colorful. Adding an assortment of colorful veggies to each meal is the perfect way to reach rainbow plate status! Did you know that the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their color act as phytonutrients and antioxidants in our bodies? Eat up!
Perfect salad veggies & how to prepare them
Roasted sweet potatoes
Roasted winter squash
Raw shredded or roasted carrots
Raw shredded or roasted beets
Blanched or air fried green beans
Raw snap peas
Raw or roasted bell peppers
Grilled summer squash
Raw or roasted cauliflower
Raw or roasted broccoli
Pickled veggies like kimchi or sauerkraut
Sea vegetables (dulse, nori, wakame)
One of the most overlooked salad additions is whole grains. They add so much more bulk, fiber, and nutrition to your salad. Plus they make them more interesting and delicious, in my opinion. You could even use a whole grain as the base of your salad if you want something with even more bulk. Just don’t forget the greens!
Perfect fluffy salad grains
Nuts & Seeds
For extra crunch, flavor, and healthy fats I add nuts and seeds to my salad. I especially love it when they’ve been toasted. Nuts and seeds also add more protein and fiber to your meal, which will help keep you fuller for longer. Concerned about eating too much fat? Don’t be; studies show that eating nuts daily will help you maintain a healthy body weight.
Perfect nuts & seeds for salad
BONUS INGREDIENT Fruit.
Fruit can be a great addition to a salad, especially if you’re a fan of savory and sweet combos. In addition to adding a touch of sweetness, fruit adds even more delightful texture and richness of flavor to a salad. Both fresh and dried fruit are great!
Best fruits for a salad
Peaches, and other stone fruit
Watermelon (yes, it can be delicious)
BONUS INGREDIENT: Spices
If you want an extra boost of flavor and nutrition add some spices to your salad. I don’t call this a mandatory ingredient because salad greens, dressing, and other veggies are so flavorful and delicious on their own. However, if you don’t add spice to your dressing, you may consider sprinkling some on the final product. I mentioned it in the vegetable category, but sea veggies are also great to add to salads for more flavor and edge.
Amazing spices and spice blends
Red chili flakes
Old Bay (for a seafood taste)
Gomasio (dulse seaweed, salt, and sesame seed blend)
Harissa (sauce or dry spice)
Pomegranate molasses (great in dressings)