6 Tips To Build A Perfectly Balanced Summer Salad

There is no denying that salad in the summer months just tastes better. The produce is fresher, and you have the added option of enjoying your meals outside. Sticking to the same recipe every night can be boring and this article will guide you on how to build a balanced salad that helps you feel full. It also has tips on different ways to build a salad to keep meals exciting!

Key takeaways:

Three essential components of a salad

Most salads are split into three essential components:

  1. The base. This can be leafy greens, a starchy protein such as beans, or a high-quality carbohydrate such as quinoa or wheat berries.
  2. The toppings. These elements add flavor, texture, and additional nutrients to your salad. You have the most freedom to experiment with this component to keep your salads exciting! Ideally, one of your toppings will contain protein to help you feel satisfied after eating.
  3. The salad dressing. It is so easy to make your own salad dressings at home instead of spending money on store-bought options. The flavor is brighter and fresher, and you have full control over the ingredients (unlike premade mixes which can be high in salt, fat, and sugar).

How to make a balanced salad

A balanced salad should include carbohydrates for energy, protein for satiety and essential amino acids, and various vegetables for fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The USDA recommends eating half a plate of vegetables with every meal, and salads can make it easy to hit your nutritional requirements.

Add healthy fats

Dietary fat helps you absorb fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins D, E, A, and K) and helps you feel satisfied after eating. From a culinary perspective, it is vital to add fat to meals because it makes food taste better. Finding pleasure and enjoyment in your meals is important to building a healthy and sustainable diet.

Nutritiont tip
Your taste buds are programmed to enjoy fat because your body needs it for energy and cellular function. However, moderation is important, and choosing healthy fats over processed options should be front of mind.

An easy way to incorporate healthy fats into your salad is to make an olive oil-based dressing. Olive oil is known for several health benefits, including the abundance of polyphenols, which are organic compounds that prevent chronic disease and reduce inflammation in the body.

A simple homemade salad dressing recipe includes olive oil, minced garlic clove, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, a dash of salt and cracked black pepper, honey, and a finely diced shallot.

Switch up your protein

To keep your summer salads interesting, you can change up the type of protein you add to your meals. You can include animal or plant-based protein sources in your salads. Popular animal-based options include grilled chicken, steak, fish fillets, and boiled eggs.

Plant-based options include legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans, or black beans, and grilled extra firm tofu. Nuts and seeds also offer a small amount of protein and bring a great crunchy texture to your salads.

Most adults should aim to eat approx. 10 g of protein per meal. For context, one small chicken breast offers approx. 20 g of protein, one cup of chickpeas has approx.14.5 g of protein, and one hard-boiled egg has approx. 7 g of protein. It is a common misconception that it is hard to eat enough protein if you follow a vegetarian diet, but you can see that chickpeas are a great source of protein and can help you meet your protein goals.

Get creative with your toppings

Adding new toppings to your salad can bring new life to a tired recipe. Here are 6 ways to get creative with your salad toppings.

6. Use different vegetables

You can start by swapping out the staple vegetables you use in your recipes.

For example, try bell peppers and diced raw zucchini instead of cucumber and tomatoes.

You can also change the flavor profile of your salad by roasting your vegetables and adding them to your salad warm.

5. Use more fresh herbs

Adding different fresh herbs can bring new excitement to your salads, and they offer minor health benefits because of the additional vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

You can be generous and add large handfuls of freshly cut herbs to your salad to maximize the flavor and benefits. You can make a blend at home by combining two cups worth of chopped parsley, cilantro, basil, sage, chives, and dill.

4. Don’t forget about fruits

Fresh fruits can also be a star feature in your salads. Mix in berries, fresh peach slices, apples, or even grapes to add natural sweetness to your meal that is also high in vitamins.

3. Cheese can be added too

Although cheeses tend to be high in saturated fat, they also offer calcium, vitamin B12, a small amount of protein, and plenty of flavor. Adding only a few tablespoons of crumbled or cut cheese to your salads will enhance the dining experience without going overboard.

2. Roast nuts or beans

Roasting nuts or beans (lentils, kidney beans, etc.) enhances the flavor without compromising the nutritional value. The texture also becomes crunchy, which can balance out the other ingredients.

1. Add some spice

Adding fresh jalapeño, chili flakes, or other spicy toppings can instantly transform your salad. Remember, the seeds are the spiciest part of the pepper — so if you want less heat, you should remove some before chopping and adding the pepper to your dish.

Toppings to limit

Some toppings are very high in fat and heavily processed and should not be in your daily salads. These include shredded tortilla chips or strips, deep-fried chicken tenders, crumbled bacon, most fried croutons, and large amounts of full-cream dressings.

Start eating more salads today

Eating vegetables every day is important for your nutrition and overall health. Salads are an easy option in the summertime, and making changes to your recipe can keep the meals exciting. You can try new toppings and new salad dressings and experiment with roasting some components to add another layer of flavor. The most important thing is to create a dish you love that satisfies you.

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