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6-Ingredient Build-Your-Own Salad - A Balanced Meal in a Bowl

Updated on June 24, 2014

Six Groups of Ingredients Make a Delicious, Well-Balanced, Satisfying Salad

We're coming up on summer and that means growing vegetables and herbs in the garden with a healthy harvest on the horizon. Few things make me happier than a great combination of the flavors of the season in a well-balanced and satisfying meal.

Today my salad includes torn lettuce, walnuts, carrots tomatoes, green onions, and bleu cheese, but every day and every salad is different. On this page, I'll share the six main ingredient groups that I include in every one of my meal salads. I walk away from the lunch table with a full belly, happy in the knowledge that I've eaten a nutritious meal that made my tastebuds about as happy as they can be. I hope you'll find the combination that does that same for you!

All photos on this page are my own.

Encouraging Children to Eat Healthy - And Prepare It Themselves

Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up
Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up

I love Molly Katzen (of Moosewood Restaurant fame) and if you didn't already, you will after getting this cookbook. Kids are always looking for ways to show they're grown up and do things for themselves, and what better way for them to do so than to prepare their own nutritious foods (with a little help from you of course)? Katzen put together 20 recipes - not an overwhelming cookbook for preschool age and older children - to help them learn about and enjoy healthy cooking. Help encourage the children in your life to be "Salad People."


This is not a one-recipe-fits-all recipe!

Build-Your-Own Green Salad
Build-Your-Own Green Salad

This is not a one-recipe-fits-all recipe. It shouldn't be. Why? Because we all like our own salad toppings. We all like our own salad base.

I don't know about you but I'm most likely to prepare a recipe if it includes (mostly) ingredients that I like and I'm familiar with. This build-your-own recipe focuses on that and steers you toward the ingredients you like that will also help give you balance in your salad. So it's not really just six ingredients, but a guideline of ingredient groups that help you build the best nutritious salad for you.

This salad recipe gives you permission to be selfish and make it just how you like it. Encourage your family to do the same!

Cook Time

Prep Time: varies

Total Time: 10-15 minutes

Serves: 1


  • Greens: This is the foundation of your salad - lettuce, spinach, mixed greens, sprouts. In other words, your leaves of choice.
  • Fruits & Veggies: I like green onions, mushrooms, tomato, carrots, zucchini, but don't stop there. Choose your flavors - bell peppers, olives, cucumber, celery, or others. Fruits also add a sweetness and flavor that can't be beat. Try dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, berries, apples, grapes, or others you can think of.
  • Protein: Today it was nuts, because that's what I had on hand. I also love hard-boiled eggs, chickpeas or other beans.
  • Cheese: Use your favorite cheese of choice. My three favorites are shredded parmesan, cheddar, or bleu cheese. Sometimes a little pepper jack really adds a great flavor too.
  • Dressing: Most days it's ranch for me. Other days it's raspberry vinaigrette. Store bought is fine, but if you prefer, there are some links below for delicious homemade dressings.
  • Seasoning: I love a little flavored salt on my salads. I make these myself. I've also had some excellent store bought spices. Again, find your taste and go with it.
  • Whole grain bread or roll


  1. Wash and chop all ingredients to preference.
  2. Toss together.
  3. Serve with a whole grain bread or roll to balance the meal. Enjoy!
Cast your vote for The Six-Ingredient Build-Your-Own Meal Salad

Salad Seasonings

All of these seasoning blends are delicious on salads. As a bonus, they also add a lot to steamed vegetables and a variety of other sides. Your taste buds will thank you!

Johnny's All Natural Jamaica Me Crazy Salad Seasoning - 2.75 oz
Johnny's All Natural Jamaica Me Crazy Salad Seasoning - 2.75 oz

A delicious blend of parmesan cheese, garlic, onion, and other spices, this salad seasoning is "crazy good."

Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning, Certified Organic, 2.08-Ounce Container
Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning, Certified Organic, 2.08-Ounce Container

Simply Organic comes through with an outstanding blend of herbs and spices. All organic of course. It's considered all-purpose because it works for so many dishes. So don't stop with salads.


Which ingredient group "makes or breaks" the salad for you?

Which ingredient group "makes or breaks" the salad for you?

See results

Bottles for Your Homemade Dressing

Sagaform Dressing Shaker with Stopper
Sagaform Dressing Shaker with Stopper

Shake your dressings without spilling a drop. This dripless design is fashionable and functional. The silicon top keeps the liquid inside during a vigorous shake.

Norpro Salad Dressing Maker
Norpro Salad Dressing Maker

The Norpro Salad Dressing Maker helps you make perfect (and delicious) dressings every time. Affordably priced, this is a great purchase for homemade dressings.

Evriholder Dressing to Go Salad Dressing Container, 2-Ounce, (Colors May Vary)
Evriholder Dressing to Go Salad Dressing Container, 2-Ounce, (Colors May Vary)

Take your homemade dressing on the go. For picnics, camping or just for work, this container is perfect to keep you eating healthy on the go!


Link Party Connections

Here are parties and blog hops this page is linked to. Click on any of them to find hundreds more ideas, recipes, crafts, and much more!

What's your favorite combination of salad ingredients?

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    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 3 years ago

      Who doesn't love a good salad with or even for dinner depending upon my mood. Thanks for sharing some great information here.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, red onion or green onions, celery, black olives, and a bit of mozzarella cheese. Ha, just realized I could go on an on. Love nuts and berries in a salad too! Enjoyed the lens!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      My current favorite salad includes romaine, carrots, raw cauliflower, baby spinach, celery, and edamame.