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How to Make a Healthier Salad

Updated on September 11, 2012

Build a Better Healthy Salad

How is it salads have made us fat? They were supposed to help us control our weight. Even worse, they have made us sick. Salads have been super-sized into high-calorie bombs, and E.coli and salmonella have made their way into our green salads, and food supply in general. It's time to take back control of your salad.

A salad can still be super nutritious and low in calories. One study reports that people who ate a daily salad had higher levels of various disease fighting antioxidants. However, the salads we buy when we eat out have turned out to be the least nutritious and super high in calories. Safety and sanitation are also questionable.

Your salad should be free of toxic ingredients and you can do this by being an educated consumer. (Unfortunately, as I am writing this on 9/18/09, there has been yet another recall of bagged spinach.* ) Always look for fresh, organic and/or locally grown, and in season. If it is not in season chances are it is being shipped from thousands of miles away leaving the nutrients far behind.

Below are some suggestions to help you build a healthy salad and some tips on how to avoid creating a high calorie and unhealthy salad. As well information about a new food safety bill, and some links to other healthy eating suggestions.

Healthy Ingredients to Add:

- eggs- chop up one egg and you'll be adding a nutrient dense food that is high in quality proteins with a wide range of minerals, vitamins and trace elements. The yolk contains vitamin D - something we are told we are not getting enough of. (See link below for how to boil the perfect egg - every time)

- avocado - add about 1/6th, sliced thinly. Avocado is a super fruit with monounsaturated fat which helps to reduce belly fat and also help you feel sated. (see link below for the many benefits of avocado)

- the healthiest greens - darker greens have more vitamins and minerals, unlike the more commonly used iceberg lettuce generally added to fast food salads.

- various vegetables - you can never go wrong slicing and tossing in a variety of fresh vegetables. Asparagus is super nutritious (see link below) and has more nutritional value if eaten raw. Vegetables like onions, peppers, mushrooms, shredded carrots, and tomatoes are nutrient-rich with only 20 calories per serving. You can overindulge!

- nuts - adding just a few nuts will supply protein and also help you feel sated. Almonds are easy to sliver and a tablespoon is just enough.

- edamame - these soy beans are an excellent source of protein and are known to protect your heart, build bone strength, and reduce cancer risks.

- lean protein - three ounces of fish, particularly salmon, is recommended instead of meats. However, mercury has to be a concern, and so is farm raised fish. Wild salmon has omega-3 fatty acids which help to prevent heart disease and increase brain power.

- beans - an excellent source of fiber and protein. When you make a pot of beans, put aside just a bit for your salad. Black beans are excellent in salads and so are white beans. I cannot recommend canned beans because the chemical BPA (bisphenol A) is used in the liners. Dried beans are too easy to make. Soak overnight - then cook the next day - don't add salt until they are finished cooking - salt tends to harden them.

- fruit - many fruits are added to salad such as sliced apples, raisins and dried cranberries (see nutritional benefits of cranberries link).

- your own dressings - be wary of store-bought dressings. Blue cheese has 145 calories and 15 grams of fat in just two tablespoons. Make your own dressings quickly and easily by keeping balsamic vinegar on hand and mixing with olive oil or walnut oil. You can sprinkle in a bit of sea salt to taste and/or any herbs of your choice.

Note: You can cut down on dressings tremendously by putting it in the bottom of the bowl instead of dousing from the top - (try 1/2 of what you normally use) and then tossing it that way. It better covers all the salad.

- if you are taking a salad to work - pack the dressing separately - and toss at work.

Ingredients to avoid (usually found in fast food and restaurant salads):

- those bacon bits - just 4 grams of these bacon bits, which seem to be the option for fast food salads, add 100 calories of what you can do without: artery-clogging saturated fat.

- croutons- another delight in the fast food salads. They add high cholesterol and nothing else.

- iceberg lettuce - they have little nutritional value.

- fried chicken or anything fried - you'll be adding a lot of saturated fat if you add fried chicken bits, nuggets, balls, squares, circles - any fried chicken or meats.

- candied anything - I admit I don't know why anyone would add candied nuts to a salad.

- cheese - grated hard cheese like cheddar contain, in one ounce, nine grams of fat and 120 calories. Try a lower fat cheese like feta cheese - very little packs a tasty zing to your salad.

- high calorie bottled salad dressings - those creamy bottled dressings seem to be the most popular but they are also high in calories and many have HFC (high fructose corn syrup) - as well as artificial ingredients. We just deserve better than this.

*Note: To avoid contaminated vegetables - buy your salad greens whole. If they are bagged, whatever germs that are in the bag will remain there and are hard to rinse clean. Bagged salad greens have been the subject of numerous recalls.

Bagged salad greens were not common as recently as 20 years ago. Unfortunately, it is just a handful of large operations handling these greens and shipping them countrywide. An outbreak can affect the entire country.

Bacteria like salmonella and e.coli are found in fecal matter from chickens and cows which are then easily transmitted to where vegetables are growing in fields. The case of the e.coli outbreak in bagged lettuce grown in California was tainted by a dairy farm next door.

The Obama administration has pledged to upgrade the laws which many have viewed as lax, and better enforce the current regulations. A bill was introduced in February requiring processors to meet new food safety standards.

Stay up to date on food recalls by signing up for updates from the CDC, FDA, and USDA. You will be notified of major outbreaks. Be prepared to be appalled but it is equally important to be informed.

See links below for more healthy eating suggestions:

dark leafy greens


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    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      It's almost great fresh lettuce time, Katrina Ariel, and then we can live off salads and fresh fruit and smoothies. Mmmmm. So much of the packaged stuff has been recalled - no telling how much handling goes in to cutting and packing that stuff.

      Glad you like the ideas!

    • Katrina Ariel profile image

      Katrina Ariel 8 years ago from The Highlands of British Columbia, Canada

      Great ideas! And I'm with you on getting a real head of lettuce. The packaged stuff goes bad quick, and just makes you wonder how fresh it really is.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      You're very welcome Jen's Solitude. I can't wait for more spring and summer days so we can have more in-season fresh foods. I'm glad you found the hub,great! Thanks so much!

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 8 years ago from Delaware

      Hi BK, I linked here from another of your hubs and just wanted you to know I bookmarked this one! Veggies taste best to me when they are raw, but now I have to pay more attention to the freshness! Thanks for a great hub!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      So glad you enjoyed the hub K Partin. And funny, but I find salads are one of the few foods that will kind of make me salivate - I suppose my body knows it's good for me!

      Thanks for commenting!

    • K Partin profile image

      K Partin 8 years ago from Garden City, Michigan

      I really like salads, and you can make so many different ones too. Love my ice-berg though. Thanks for the great hub, enjoyed! K.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      So true tim-tim! - it seems a big salad works best. Maybe I will have a salad party in the spring! Thanks for commenting and your nice compliment!

    • tim-tim profile image

      Priscilla Chan 8 years ago from Normal, Illinois

      I love salad! It is hard to make it when you try to make it for one or two people. My weakness is the dressing, LOL. That is the mosting fattening thing on my salad. Love your hubs! Keep them coming:)

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      You're welcome Eileen Hughes - thanks for writing! I'm glad you found the information helpful!

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      That was a terrific hub full of helpul info and great ideas for salads. I try to buy mainly grow fresh, but it is still hard to keep fresh in fridge. I dont buy pre wrapped lettuce etc, thats not good I dont think. Thanks for sharing that.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I love the bit of fruit and nuts in a salad too - makes it so tasty. Nothing like celery too - we need a bit of crunch. Lately, I have used dried cranberries - also good stuff.

      Thanks for writing pollyannalana!

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 8 years ago from US

      I love salads and fruits thrown in are great and nuts and often for a special meal I make just fruit salad with oodles of fruits, some nuts and chopped celery, somehow the celery just gives it the extra crunch it needs and add a little OJ to lowfat mayo to make it all cover good without having to use much mayo. Veggie salads are great with lowsalt or no salt( though I can rarely find no salt) rice cakes eating with it, not in it, I think and a lot more filling.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Yes, it's inspiring me to eat more salads! It's a good reminder for me too!

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Lgali profile image

      Lgali 8 years ago

      very healthy hub

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Nice to meet you! I'm with you there kartika damon - I need more salads! I'll get down to the farmer's market on Sat. It really is such an easy way to eat also.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • kartika damon profile image

      kartika damon 8 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      Excellent - as a lover of organic vegis and salad, this was a lovely hub and I am realizing I'm not eating enough of salad! Kartika

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Me too!

      There is nothing like a fresh, crisp healthy salad!

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Anamika S profile image

      Anamika S Jain 8 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

      I love Salads!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Enjoy your croutons The Rope!

      Sometimes you need that crunch. It can all balance out - and I suppose if you make them yourself and save them in the freezer until you need them you will avoid all the additives in the prepackaged processed ones.

      I'll try the peas which I tend to like laying next to garlic mashed potatoes! Thanks for the tip!

    • The Rope profile image

      The Rope 8 years ago from SE US

      and another favorite veggie for my salad is green peas but they have to be firm - none of the mushy stuff. i let go of the cheese years ago (in the grand scheme, it didn't add much in the way of taste) but I can't resist the croutons - sorry!

    • MAYRAPINK profile image

      MAYRAPINK 8 years ago from texas

      haha perhaps. you are welcome :)

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      So true MAYRAPINK! Home is where it's at for good eating. Otherwise you have no idea what's in the food. I've returned to particular restaurants after being away for a bit - and the food is horrible! What have they done - a cheaper oil, cheaper ingredients? Who knows!

      Thanks for commenting!

    • MAYRAPINK profile image

      MAYRAPINK 8 years ago from texas

      yummy your tips are great! I used to always think salads were for people obsessed with being skinny but then I actually had one and I was pleasantly surprised. Healthy and filling. It is too bad that restaurants are giving salads a bad name with their overload of meats dressings and just overall. A taco salad?? Wth?? Haha I think at home is the best way to stay healthy :)

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Exactly christophallen! What could be easier than washing vegetables! And how are we saving time if we run the risk of getting deathly ill - and actually paying more for that privilege!

      We have to effect some change!

    • christophallen profile image

      christophallen 8 years ago

      Great salad advice. I'm with you on staying away from the bagged salad. I guess I can understand why they are popular - but is it REALLY that hard to wash your own vegetables?

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      It does sound good! Thanks for commenting loveofnight!

    • loveofnight profile image

      loveofnight 8 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      this sounds like my dinner

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      That sounds sooooo good! And it makes sense. You need something juicy and then forget the salad dressing. I am sure there were times in history we did not have bottled dressings.

      Thanks for the idea - I can eat this!

    • profile image

      Lord Bryan 8 years ago

      Some great ideas here. One thing I like to do is put cubes of mango in my salads. And most of the time, I use no dressing with it. The mango is juicy enough for the salad and it makes it seem tropical.

      Lord Bryan

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      You're welcome bingskee! It all comes down to balance. A salad can be a full meal with the right amount of this and that - balance. I'm learning to live a more balanced life in everything I do and eat.

      Enjoy your healthy salad with chicken and cheese! I like a bit of cheese.

    • bingskee profile image

      bingskee 8 years ago from Quezon City, Philippines

      my, my, but i love chicken and cheese on my salad! but with the right mixture with those safe ingredients, i think it will do.

      very nice information, BkCreative!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      You're welcome Sarah m Marie. Thanks for commenting. I'm a big salad fan too!

    • Sarah m Marie profile image

      Sarah m Marie 8 years ago

      I love salads and am always looking for new creative ideas for them. Thanks for the hub!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Hi bengriston - it can all balance out. A bit of calcium is a good idea - and it looks like you can burn off those calories easily. So enjoy!

    • bengriston profile image

      bengriston 8 years ago

      Great advice on building a good salad. I do catch myself putting a little cheese on my salad but really very little. I like to provide the argument that it has calcium as my excuse.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Hello Suzie Parker!

      As far as BPA it is known to be a carcinogen. It also mimics estrogen and is a neurotoxin - so it has a multitude of dangers. Supposedly it has been withdrawn from baby bottles - but I wouldn't believe it. A co. that would do this in the first place has no credibility.

      Last I checked every can manufacturer was still adding this chemical to their liners except the organic company known as Eden Foods.

      Another co. named Sigg claimed to be manufacturing reusable plastic bottles without BPA - but testing showed their claim was false.

      Sad, really, what is allowed in our food supply.

    • Suzie Parker profile image

      Suzie Parker 8 years ago

      Hi Bkcreative!

      Loved the hub. You mentioned the chemical BPA (bisphenol A) that is in canned goods. What adverse effects does this chemical have on the body?

      I love to throw in a few chickpeas in my salads. They are super healthy and high in protein and good carbs.

      But I'll reconsider buying them canned, and just make them myself (it's much cheaper any way).

      Looking forward to hearing from you,


    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thank you Deborah K. Ogans - I am so glad you enjoy my hubs and I appreciate the compliment. I think I have found my niche - writing about good eating.

      You're very welcome creativeone59 - I enjoy sharing with you and reading your food hubs!

      Glad you liked the hub GPAGE! It's nice getting to know you!

      Lucky wife maven101 - having her own big bunny! I know you love avocado! Thanks for the compliment!

      Amazing isn't Veronica Allen - how something as simple as a salad can be ruined. But I'm with you - now I want to go build a great salad. I have a friend who will be in the City for awhile and I'm going to suggest we do lots of salads and just keep adding each day. I already have the avocado!

      Thanks for writing!

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 8 years ago from Georgia

      I absolutely love salads, but it's so true how you can make even the healthiest meal bad for you. I appreciate you suggestions on buying your salad leaves whole, that was a great idea. And all the other healthy additives were great suggestions as well. Hmmmm.... I think I'll go and make a salad right now!

    • maven101 profile image

      maven101 8 years ago from Northern Arizona

      My wife calls me her big bunny because of my love for salads...Great Hub with loads of info...I especially like the avocado info, my fav fruit...Thanks, Larry

    • GPAGE profile image

      GPAGE 8 years ago from California


    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      I love your healtthy salad hub, thanks for sharing. creativeone59

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 8 years ago


      Wonderful hub! I am big on salads~ You have made some very good points here on making great healthy salads! As always you once again have been informative Thank You!


    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thanks edguider - looking forward to that next hub!

      I'm so glad, Hello, hello, that you found the hub interesting and informative. I'm glad we are all thinking healthy these days.

      Hello sheryld30 - I do like edamame even just to nosh on. And they do make a salad nice and filling.

    • sheryld30 profile image

      sheryld30 8 years ago from California

      Love this. I like the soy bean addition. Found this hub to be very helpful. Thanks. :)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you so much for a very interesting and informative hub.

    • edguider profile image

      edguider 8 years ago

      Mmmmm, I am big on salads. I will use these tips next time I make mine. Thanks again for the great hub. Working on my next one and it should be ready soon :)

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      You're very welcome Robert Ballard!

      I agree - a salad should be exciting and nutritious! I particularly like the exciting part. We should look at it and get excited and then get excited while eating it - and excited again because we enjoyed it!

      Thanks for commenting!

    • profile image

      Robert Ballard 8 years ago

      A great hub. I was never big on salads. This is a great example that a sald doesn't have to be just a few lettuce leaves, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. Salads can be exciting to make and delicious and healthy for our bodies. Thanks!

      Robert Elias Ballard


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