It’s Not Just For Diets…

Move over iceberg lettuce because this month’s “Nutrition Connection” is going to inspire you to spruce up your everyday salad.  If you build your bowl right, salad can serve as the starring role of your meal and leave you feeling well-fed. Follow these three strategies to assemble a salad substantial enough for supper.

1. Building the Base

Most salad bases begin with a leafy green. While it is tempting to reach for the same iceberg or romaine lettuce, “lettuce” us show you some green alternatives for a salad twist:

Arugula: (one of my favorites) peppery flavor, the bigger the leaf, the stronger the flavor

Endive: tangy flavor, nice to combine with other lettuces because of its “leafy” texture

Baby Spinach: earthy flavor, baby spinach tends to be bolder in flavor than its bigger leafed brother

Kale: earthy flavor and give this green a massage first…believe it or not massaging the green will enhance flavor and reduce its fibrous nature turning it into a luscious leaf (massage in lemon juice and avocado for an even tastier green)

Veggie Medley: the base of your salad is not limited to leafy greens. Any veggie combo will do the trick. Try chopped tomato and cucumber or sautéed asparagus and snap peas.

2. Give your salad staying-power.

  • Pump up the protein: Add lean proteins such as flaked tuna or salmon, shredded chicken breast, lean ground taco meat, hard-boiled eggs, marinated tofu, veggie burgers, roasted chickpeas or beans;
  • Add whole grain goodness: Cooked grains such as whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, or brown rice offer a fiber-full boost that will stay with you.
  • Flavor with fats: Fat-free is flavor-free! Plus, adding fats and oils to vegetables allow us to absorb more of the fat-soluble vitamins found in your colorful salad ingredients.  Store-bought salad dressings are often disappointing. Freshly squeezed lemon juice and a good olive oil can be the simplest duo to dress a salad. For a basic vinaigrette, check out this month’s Nutri-Bite. The “dressing dilemma” is one of the biggest barriers (and biggest salad sabotagers!) to making a tasty salad at home. If you crave creamy, try this month’s dressing recipe. Beyond olive oil, add avocado, nuts and seeds (toasted are even better), flaxseed, chia seeds, and olives for healthy fats.
  • Dairy: Use pungent flavored cheeses such as goat, blue, gorgonzola, or parmesan to boost taste and enable you to use less
  • Fruits: Fresh, dried or canned, fruits such as dried blueberries, cherries, cranberries, mandarin oranges, strawberries, pears, or sliced grapes are a wonderful way to add a touch of sweetness with nutrients to boot

3. Some Like It Hot

If you prefer a warm meal to end your day, you might think salad for supper isn’t for you. Think again! Try sautéing onions, broccoli, peppers, artichoke hearts (a variety of vegetables) in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some fresh squeezed orange juice. Add grains and proteins when they are still warm. Pile these on your leafy greens, toss it all up, and you have created a warm and comforting salad

Don’t Fall for Salad Sabotage

“I’ll just have a salad…” Trying to save your precious calories when dining out? While this might often be a good idea, don’t fall prey to salad sabotage. Here are a couple of salads that are equivalent to the infamous “taco salad!”

Einstein Brothers: Bros Bistro Salad with Chicken: 940 calories

Macaroni Grill: Seared Sea Scallops Salad: 1,320 calories

California Pizza KitchenThai Crunch Salad with Fresh Avocado:1,212 calories

Check out your favorite restaurant salad at to make sure you shouldn’t have just ordered the burger….OR make more salads at home.

Dressings Drowning Your Salad in Calories? The recipe below is light on calories but heavy on flavor!

Real Food Ranch Dressing

Prep: 5 minutes


  • ½ to ¾ cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tsp (or more to taste) of dried dill weed
  • Sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 6 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP parmesan


  • Put yogurt, garlic and spices in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Very slowly, add the oil so that it emulsifies.
  • Use immediately, or store up to 1 week in the fridge


  • Use 2 tsp of any herbs like basil, cilantro, or chives for alternate flavors.
  • Use Italian Seasoning instead of dill and double the parmesan for a Caesar-like dressing


Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.