With warmer days upon us, cravings are shifting from hearty stews and soups to lighter salads with more fresh fruits and vegetables. Salads are a great option for adding nutrients into our diets but may be considered boring or bland. There are a variety of ways to spruce up your salad just in time for spring and summer.
Not all greens should be treated the same when it comes to curating your salads. Leafy greens vary in terms of texture, taste, and nutrients. To meet nutrient requirements for a cup of vegetables, aim for at least two cups of greens. Go beyond romaine or iceberg lettuce with darker greens such as arugula, kale, spinach, swiss chard, and watercress. Kale is a good source of folate and vitamin K, romaine is high in vitamin A, folate, and potassium, and swiss chard provides vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium. Using a blend of greens will increase the nutrient profile of a salad while adding varying colors and textures.
Salads are not only about vegetables. Adding cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, etc. to salads add color, flavor, and texture, but incorporating dried and fresh fruits can offer sweetness for a wider flavor profile. Though fresh fruits are the preferred topping to any salad, a recent study concluded that individuals consuming dried fruits typically had better diet quality than those who did not (Penn State, 2020). Not only do dried fruits, such as cranberries, cherries, blueberries, and goji berries, add flavor and texture, but they are also shelf-stable and often more affordable compared to fresh. Although a good option to include in salads, or for snacking in general, make sure to read the nutrition label to beware of hidden added sugars.
Dress it up with a healthier homemade salad dressing. Another opportunity to infuse flavor into a salad is with the dressing, but most store-bought options are sources of added sugars and calories. Low-fat or fat-free salad dressings are not a recommended alternative because dietary fat is needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from salad ingredients (Purdue University, 2012). A healthier choice is to make your own dressing with olive oil, which is a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, vinegar, and a favorite seasoning.
Do not be afraid to get a little nuts while preparing your salad. Nuts are a nutrient-rich alternative to traditional croutons when salads are in need of an additional crunch. The American College of Cardiology found that individuals consuming five or more servings of nuts per week lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease by 14% and coronary heart disease by 20% (American College of Cardiology, 2017). Disease prevention of cancer and diabetes were also found to benefit from the regular consumption of nuts (Imperial College London, 2016). Walnuts, sliced almonds, pecans, or a mix of roasted nuts are all great options to add. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are other good choices as well that add similar benefits.
Salads are a wonderful way to add plant variety into your diet and keep the warmer months health and light. Customizing your salad to reflect personal preferences and seasonal flavors will elevate a regular salad into one that is both delicious and nutritious.
American College of Cardiology. (2017, November 13). Eating regular variety of nuts associated with lower risk of heart disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2021 from
Harvard Health Publishing. (2018, April). Salad greens: Getting the most bang for the bite.
Imperial College London. (2016, December 5). A handful of nuts a day cuts the risk of a wide range of diseases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161205090555.htm
Penn State. (2020, November 30). Eating dried fruit may be linked with better diet quality and health markers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201124150849.htm
Purdue University. (2012, June 19). Study: No-fat, low-fat dressings don’t get most nutrients out of salads. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120619230234.htm
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.