How To Build An Epic Salad

Salads can be one of the most nutritious meals you can eat, but they can also be a dangerous trap you can get caught in. All parts of a salad can be either beneficial or not depending on the base, toppings, add-ins, and dressing you choose to use to build your salad.
To me, it’s important to always be eating with a purpose by packing as many nutrients in a meal that I possibly can. Salads are an excellent way to “eat with a purpose” and I’m going to show you how you can do that!

Samantha’s Guide To Building an Epic Salad . . .

 Start off with a nutrient filled base:

Picking the base is essential in building your epic salad. My advice towards this is the darker the green, the better. Using a dark green for the base to your salad is the best start to a nutrient packed meal. Choosing a dark green, rather than a lighter one, means that there are more vitamins and minerals, providing you with the most bang for your buck.

Try to pick from this list of nutrient packed greens for the base to your salad:
Kale, swiss chard, spinach, red cabbage, beet greens, dandelion greens, arugula

Also, try to buy organic when you can!

Choosing your vegetables:

The next part of building your salad usually includes adding vegetables. This is where you can go the crazy! Throw in as many vegetables as you possibly can and don’t be afraid to cook them in different ways; roasted, raw, boiled, sautéed, or steamed. Try chopping the vegetables up in different sizes, or even shred some of the heartier vegetables for a different texture. Again, choosing nutrient dense vegetables is key to making sure you are not skimping out on the health potential of your salad!
Here are a list of some of my favorite vegetables to add to my epic salads:
Carrots (raw), celery (raw and including the leaves), cherry tomatoes (diced), beets (roasted or raw/shredded), cucumbers (finely diced), green peas (frozen), sprouts (raw), mushrooms (raw or sautéed)

Put some heart into your salad:
Often times people complain about salads not being filling or leaving them satisfied. This usually is because they need to add a “hearty” component; by this I mean something that bulks it up and allows it to feel like a full meal in a bowl. This is also an opportunity to add grains to your salad which is a huge part in making it into a meal, rather than a side dish. So don’t leave out those complex carbohydrates!

Choose one or two of these to give your epic salad some heartiness:
roasted potatoes, cooked/cooled quinoa, buckwheat, or rice, roasted/sautéed corn, roasted spaghetti squash

Don’t forget the protein:
Another key part of turning a salad into a full meal is adding protein. I suggest choosing a plant-based protein that will provide a low fat, high protein element to your epic salad.

Plant-based proteins to add:
sautéed, baked, or raw organic tofu or tempeh (season with whatever seasonings you enjoy), rinsed canned or home prepared beans (black, garbanzo, pinto, red kidney, navy, cannellini), hemp seeds, lentils, organic edamame (shelled)

Just a little fat:
Fat is another important part of a salad, mostly because fat combined with a salad helps our bodies absorb all the nutrients. So by incorporating some fat into your salad, you’re not just adding flavoring but allowing your body a better chance to absorb all the nutrients. Fat is an essential part of our diet, but be careful of the type, quality, and quantity of the fat you decide to use. Also, I typically use a vinegar based dressing rather than an oil based one, so if you use a oil based salad dressing, you may not need as much of these fat components I’m mentioning.

Choose 1 of these servings of  fat to add:
1/8 medium/large avocado, 1 Tbsp. flax seed, 2 Tbsp. seeds or nuts (almonds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, pecans, walnuts), 2 Tbsp. chopped olives, 1-2 Tbsp. hummus

Boost up your salad:

Adding booster foods to your salads is another key part in turning a normal salad into an epic salad. Booster foods are foods that are eaten in an effort to obtain medicinal benefits. They are super important to incorporate into your diet because they provide large amounts of nutrients that are equivalent to supplements, or medicine that you may be taking in a
pill form.

Choose as many of these booster foods as you’d like:
1-2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast, 1 tsp. liquid aminos,  1/4 tsp. kelp, 1 Tbsp chia seeds, 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp. bee pollen, 1 Tbsp. spirulina, 1 Tbsp. wheat germ, 1 Tbsp. raw garlic, 1/4 cup fresh herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro are recommended)

Dress it up:

The place where most people mess up their salad is with the dressing they choose to use. Often time the dressing itself turns a perfectly fine salad into a disaster. I always recommend making and using your own salad dressing, rather than buying it in a store. But if you find it easier to buy dressing, make sure to choose vinaigrettes rather than “cream” based and check the ingredients, making sure there are no artificial sweeteners or even high fructose corn syrup that is in it. Also avoid any hydrogenated oils, artificial coloring, “natural flavors,” and modified starches.

There are TONS of homemade salad dressing recipes online, but a simple combination of a vinegar, oil, and/or fruit juice makes a delicious dressing for any type of salad! If you’re wanting a creamy dressing for your salad, use tahini, hummus, avocado, or mustard as a “creamy” element to your salad instead of ranch or caesar dressing which don’t provide any nutritional value.

Top it off:
Many people turn to croutons or bacon bits to finish off their salad, but there are definitely some better options to give your salad a crunch. An easy way to add crunch to your salad is roasted chick peas! Simply roast some canned (rinsed) chick peas and throw them on your salad for a healthy, protein packed topping! Another way to top off your salad is with crumbled up rice or corn cakes, this adds a crunchy texture that is a better alternative to croutons.

Ways to add some crunch/texture to the top of your salad:
1-2 crumbled organic rice or corn cake, 1/4 cup roasted chick peas/edamame, 1/4 cup sprouts, dehydrated sweet potatoes


And there you go, my guide to making an epic salad. Salads can definitely be eaten as a meal, and you can pack in a ton of nutrients and beneficial components, just get creative and don’t be afraid to try new things! Happy salad making (and eating)!

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