How To Build A Healthy Salad

by Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Posted on Aug 2, 04:20 PM in and . No comments.

by : Laura Reilly, MSc Food, Nutrition & Health

Salads are a versatile and time-efficient meal to prepare. A salad consisting of protein, a variety of plant foods, grains and healthy fats is a smart meal choice for your overall health. They are a fantastic way of packing in micronutrients and fibre. During the summer, when we are lucky enough to get a sunny few days, the heat may affect our appetite. While we may not feel hungry enough for a warm or heavy meal, a salad can be a clever way of ensuring our body is getting the fuel and nutrients it needs.

Great as a lunch on the go or a lighter meal, your salads no longer need to be boring and bland.

Here are our 7 simple steps on how to build a nutritious, filling and tasty salad.

Tips to help you whip up a healthy salad in minutes:

Start with a Green Leafy Base

Green leafy vegetables are the perfect base to start your salad with as they have a high nutrient content and are a rich source of vitamins and minerals (1). They can also be a great source of insoluble fibre. Start your base by adding in 2 handfuls.

TRY spinach / green leaf lettuce / iceberg lettuce / swiss chard / rocket / romaine / mixed greens

Add Additional Vegetables

Not only is this a great way of increasing the variety and amount of plant foods in your diet, but it’s a sure fire way to add texture, flavour and a boost of nutrients. You can obtain a wide range of antioxidants from the intake of a large variety of fruit and vegetables (2). The more colour the better. Why not try chopping, dicing or shredding your veg to mix things up.

TRY roasted sweet potato / raw or roasted bell peppers (mixed colours) / sliced radishes, cucumber / cherry tomatoes / red onion / cooked beetroot / celery / broccoli / fermented red cabbage (sauerkraut) / shredded carrot / bok choy / peas

Power up with Protein

Adding protein to your salad will make it more of a main meal than just a side, and will keep you feeling fuller and satisfied for longer. You want to aim for 1 serving of lean or plant-based protein, (see below).

TRY 1 small grilled chicken breast / 2 hard-boiled eggs / 1- 1.5 cups of chickpeas / edamame beans / mixed beans / cooked lentils / 1 small tin of tuna or salmon / 2-3 turkey slices / 4 balls of falafel

Grab Some Wholegrains

Over 90% of adults in the UK are not meeting the recommended daily intake for dietary fibre(3). There is strong evidence to indicate that diets high in fibre are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer – including 1 handful of the below is a great way of increasing your fibre intake.

TRY quinoa / cous-cous / brown rice / wild rice / bulgur / farik

Add a Touch of Sweetness

Fruit can also work well in salads by adding a nice contrast of sweetness, why not consider throwing a small handful of the below into the mix.

TRY slices of apple / mango chunks / sliced grapes / dried cranberries / mandarin oranges/ pear

Include at Least 1 Healthy Fat

A small amount of fat is necessary for a healthy diet. Unsaturated fat in the diet helps with the absorption of certain nutrients and is also protective of your heart health. Nuts are a delicious addition to your salad, adding not only crunch and flavour but also some heart-healthy fat. However, nuts can be quite high in calories when eaten in large amounts so be mindful of adding too many in. Aim for 1-2 tbsp of the below.

TRY ½ an avocado / sliced almonds / walnuts / cashews / pistachios / macadamias / toasted pine nuts / sunflower seeds / pumpkin seeds / hemp seeds /chia seeds

Don’t Forget to Dress It Up

It’s always nice to add some dressing but watch out for ready made salad dressings – these can be high in salt and saturated fats. Consider adding 2 tbsps. of oil, vinegar or yoghurt-based salad dressings instead of the creamy options. Or better still, why not whip up your own:

‘Creamy’ lemon yogurt dressing: greek yoghurt + olive oil + garlic + lemon juice + salt & pepper),
Balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing: 1 tbsp honey + 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar + 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil + 1tbsp mustard + sprinkle of salt & pepper
Extra virgin olive oil + salt & pepper + chopped parsley
Balsamic vinegar (simmer 1 cup in a hob for ~7 minutes to make a balsamic reduction or glaze)


1. Gupta S, Lakshmi AJ, Manjunath MN, Prakash J. Analysis of nutrient and antinutrient content of underutilized green leafy vegetables. LWT-Food Science and Technology. 2005 Jun 1;38(4):339-45.
2. Blasa M, Gennari L, Angelino D, Ninfali P. Fruit and vegetable antioxidants in health. InBioactive foods in promoting health 2010 Jan 1 (pp. 37-58). Academic Press.
3. National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling programme Years 9 to 11 (2016/2017 to 2018/2019)

Tags: Dinner, Healthy Fat, Leafy Greens, Light Meals, Lunch, Salad, Summer, Wholegrains

About the author

Anne Myers-Wright

Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Anne is a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered dietitian (RD), an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD- Australia), a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and of The Dietetics Association of Australia.


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