How to Build a Healthy Salad

Just choose ingredients from each of these categories to turn your salad into a healthy meal.

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You can certainly make a delicious and healthy salad without greens, but why miss an opportunity to get those healthy dark leafy greens into your day? Choose spinach, romaine and even finely sliced kale, which will all give you a slew of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and K and folate. Use at least 2 cups of greens, since that's what counts as a 1-cup serving of vegetables.


By Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.

More Veggies

Don't stop at the lettuce, though. Adding even more veggies will ensure that your salad gives you most of the vegetable servings you need each day. Plus, getting a variety of colors in your diet has added health benefits (it also makes your salad taste and look more delicious).


While all those vegetables add fiber, which helps you feel full, adding protein to your salad turns it into a meal and gives it more staying power. Try adding drained light tuna or even sardines for a boost of omega-3s along with protein. A hard-boiled egg or 3 ounces of grilled chicken or salmon is also a good option.

Seeds or Nuts

Seeds and nuts are a protein source, but they also offer healthy fats, which are good for your heart. Sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds add appealing crunch, while toasted walnuts add a buttery flavor. Seeds and nuts are high in calories, so measure your portion before sprinkling on (1 tablespoon is a good amount for your salad).


Like a salad with a little sweetness? Try adding some fruit. Sliced strawberries pair particularly well with spinach, and chopped apple goes great in your fall or winter salad, but dried fruit is also a good option. Try a tablespoon or two of raisins for sweetness and a little extra fiber and minerals.

Olive Oil

Skip the fat-free, premade salad dressings and whip up your own vinaigrette with olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. Olive oil offers heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Plus, adding it to your salad will help you absorb all those fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamins A and K) in the vegetables.