How to Up Your Salad Game!

If you read my last post “3 Hacks to Eating Plant-Based” you read about one of my diet staples: SALADS!

Salads are meals, guys! Having a salad for lunch or dinner is the perfect way to get a load of veggies, protein, and maybe a serving of fruit in one bowl. I talk about how to integrate salads into meals with my clients all the time and the #1 piece of feedback I get is “but the salads I make are SO boring…”

Does that resonate with you? Ding, ding, ding! It’s time to up your salad game. Here are fail-proof ways to make your salads bigger and better! I can almost guarantee they’ll taste a load better too.


Tip #1 - Change your base

I’m a fan of leafy greens as a salad base, but that doesn’t mean lettuce is your only option. My favorite leafy green salad base options include: kale, cabbage, spinach, romaine, arugula and lettuce. And there are SO many varieties! Take a look at the many different options below:

Kale: dinosaur or lacinato kale, green kale, purple kale, baby kale

Cabbage: green cabbage, red cabbage, Napa cabbage

Spinach: regular spinach leaf and stem, baby spinach

Lettuce: green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, butter or bibb lettuce, frisée lettuce

You can completely transform the texture of your salad by changing your green leafy base. Try combining two options together like baby kale and frisée lettuce.

 
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Tip #2 - Cut your veggies creatively

Change how you chop! Start with your leafy salad base - you can switch up how you lay out your salad by chopping thin, thick or tearing your greens. I like to chop cabbage extremely thin for a lighter salad. You can also try tearing your kale from the spine for a less-uniform look and texture.

Then move on to your toppings. My favorite new trick: ribbon cutting! I like to use my peeler to make colorful carrot ribbons. Another crowd-pleasing favorite is the spiraling technique. You can use your spiralizer (find it in my resources page) to cut things like carrots, zucchini and beets!

 
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Tip #3 - Get funky with your toppings

Adding and changing your toppings is probably the easiest way to add texture, variety, flavor and interest to your salads. There are so many ways to get creative here!

Sometimes I even find myself sticking to the same toppings over and over, so I go back to this list I’ve put together over many months of experimenting. And I’m gonna share it with you!

 

Fruits & veggies

  • Peppers (red, yellow, green, orange)

  • Cucumbers

  • Tomatoes (all kinds)

  • Jalepenos

  • Onion (white, yellow and red)

  • Scallions (green onions)

  • Cilantro

  • Parsely

  • Celery

  • Radish

  • Broccoli

  • Cauliflower

  • Carrots (all colors)

  • Avocado

  • Berries (blueberries & strawberries)

  • Grapes

  • Olives (black, kalamata, green, etc.)

  • Artichoke hearts

Nuts + seeds and other

  • Pecans

  • Walnuts

  • Roasted peanuts

  • Slivered almonds

  • Marcona almonds

  • Pistachios

  • Chia seeds

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Poppy seeds

  • Nutritional yeast

  • Lemon or lime juice

  • Salt + pepper

 
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Plant-based protein

  • Tempeh

  • Tofu

  • Edamame

  • Quinoa

  • Hemp hearts

  • Lentils (any color!)

  • Beans (back, pinto, garbanzo)

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Tip #4 - Make your dressing

Now, that might sound like an unnecessary extra step, but I promise it’s not. After I started making my own dressings I loved my salad creations even more. I used to struggle with finding store-bought dressings that were healthy, non-dairy AND tasty and it was tough. I did find a few winners, though.

Here’s the thing: it’s really easy to make salad dressings at home and they taste better than anything you can buy at the store. Another bonus: no preservatives and you control the amount of salt, oil, and other ingredients. Here are my go-to homemade dressings:

 
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Asian vinaigrette (1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1.5 tbsp honey, 3 tbsp sesame oil, 1.5 tsp soy sauce, pinch salt, 1 cloves garlic minced)

Italian dressing (3/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 clove garlic minced, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper)

Healthy ranch (1 cup nonfat greek yogurt, 1 tsp dried chives, 1 tsp dried dill, 1 tsp dried parsley, 1 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp white rice vinegar, 1 tbsp water, or more to thin)

Balsamic vinaigrette (3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste)

Citrus vinaigrette (2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp orange juice, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar)

Honey mustard vinaigrette (1/3 cup olive oil, 1 tbsp white vinegar, 1 and 1/2 tsp dijon mustard, 1 clove garlic minced, 1/2 tsp honey, pinch of salt + pepper)

Pro tip: you can make all of these in a blender bottle!

Keep your dressings in an air-tight container or jar for storage. If you refrigerate, some dressings will coagulate and if they do, just let the dressings sit out to loosen up, or run container of dressing under hot water for 20 seconds.

 
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There you have it! Now go out there and level up your salad game!