9 methods to enhance your salad prep expertise

We all know that salads are powerhouses. A bowl full of veggies is high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and offers a ton of health benefits. And since nearly 90% of Americans don't eat their recommended daily servings of vegetables, preparing the perfect salad makes it easier to get what you need from this all-important food group.

It's not a high-flying feat of cooking to make a salad - I'd be lying if I told you otherwise. But just because it's a fairly simple process doesn't mean you're kicking it out of the park. For most men, a salad is an after-meal, and it shows often. Limp greens floating in dressing goop aren't exactly appetizing.

But it's not enough to just make a decent salad - your goal should be to make a perfect salad every time. Thankfully, turning a lackluster salad bowl into one that's packed with flavor, texture, and nutrients is a lot easier than you think. It's all about being careful with the ingredients and going bigger on certain things that you need more of in your life. When you do this, a salad can quickly go from an obligatory side dish to a superstar entree.

That's why we came up with this foolproof formula for putting together the perfect salad. Read on for nine ways to give salad a new twist.


Top 9 tips for preparing the perfect salad

1. Change your leaves

Why make nutritionally lackluster iceberg or just slightly more nutritious and flavorful romaine the base of your most important meal of the day when you can do it much better? Ideally, you want to opt for options that are a deeper shade of green, which is an indication that they are more nutritious. Choices include spinach, kale, chard, and arugula. Ultra-convenient baby versions of veggies like kale and spinach taste less bitter and don't need chopping. Be generous with your portion size here. A recent review study in the journal Food Chemistry found that when people consume more leafy greens each day, they are less likely to die early from causes like heart disease and cancer. Looking for a little more punchy flavor and a bit of crunch? Mix in some fancier options like escarole, radicchio, or frisee.

2. Turn up the heat

Look, it's a salad you're making—so the obvious rule should be that you need to throw in a little more veggies than just a bunch of leafy greens. When people think of what a salad should be, most often it's a bunch of raw veggies, but incorporating cooked veggies makes things that much more interesting. One easy way to do this is to roast a bunch of veggies — including carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, beets, Brussels sprouts, and parsnips — in your oven, then just add a few handfuls to any salad you like.

As a bonus, an oven's blast brings out some of the natural sweetness in these vegetables for tastier salads. For a fire-kissed flavor, consider grilling some of your salad greens. You can grill a large batch of things like zucchini, peppers, red onions, and eggplant at once, then refrigerate until ready to add to salads throughout the week.

3. Pack the protein

What is the difference between a muscle building meal and rabbit chow? Protein. Salads are all too often protein lightweights — after all, no one should mistake kale and carrots for being rich in this macro. But if you want to turn your salad into a dish that will help you improve your body, it's important to look for protein.

Chicken is a simple and familiar option, but so do steak, shrimp, hard-boiled eggs, and fried pork slices, making for a more filling and richer dish. High-protein, plant-based options include fried tofu or tempeh. To push the simple button, no-cook protein options include clams or canned oysters, canned beans, or even a handful of jerky.

Cook Adding Oil to SaladAfrica Studio / Shutterstock

4. DIY your dressing

serious salad should be naked. To avoid mysterious ingredients found in many store-bought bottled versions, take a few moments to make your own salad dressing. And it's really hard not to make anything that tastes better than that bottle of ranch in aisle 5 of the supermarket. A vinaigrette, a mixture of oil and an acid, is a snap to put together and can be varied almost endlessly with different oils and vinegars, as well as other flavors like citrus juice, dried herbs, shallots, pesto, miso, and Dijon mustard. Items like Greek yogurt and tahini can add a creamy element to a dressing.

t sure where to start? Below are some homemade dressings that will make any batch of veggies pop. Everyone can dress at least 4 salads.

5. Lean on grains

As with protein, including grains in your salad helps turn it into a hearty meal with added nutritional value. They also add texture and flavor, which when battling boring salads is a battle won. Whole grain options include quinoa, barley, farro, wheatberries, and rice varieties including brown, black, or red. And don't be afraid to try less obvious grains like spelt, freekeh, and wild rice.

A large 2023 review study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating whole grains may protect against heart disease and premature death. t so for refined grain. A smart move is to cook up a large batch of grains at once so you have them ready when it's time for a salad any day of the week. Remember that the grains soak up more dressing than the veggies, so adjust accordingly.

6. Never overlook the power of herbs

Baby spinach isn't the only leaf that belongs in a salad bowl. Almost any salad can be enhanced with the addition of fresh herbs, whether that means whole mint leaves, shredded basil, or chopped parsley. And yes, you can use more than one herb—an herbal approach that adds layers of flavor and an extra dose of beneficial botanicals to promote lasting health.

Blueberries in a perfect saladout of my sight

7. Add a sweet touch

Too often we overlook fruit when preparing vegetarian salads. But they're a great way to add a sweet and tart counterbalance to the earthy elements of a salad. Anything from chunks of orange to blueberries and pear slices to mango chunks can turn a salad from meh to wonderful. And don't forget that with a dose of micronutrients and antioxidants, they also add nutritional value. You can even turn to dried fruit, including sliced ​​dates, apricots and plums, cranberries, sour cherries and golden raisins.

8. Increase the crunch factor

In a bowl of soft and tender ingredients, a little crunch is greatly appreciated but often overlooked. A handful of seeds or nuts — raw or roasted — are effortless and add an extra boost of nutrients. Also, try adding roasted chickpeas, baked tortilla chips, or even granola crunch. And yes, that includes crunchy vegetables and fruits like jicama, radishes, pomegranate seeds, carrots, and peppers.

9. Add a special touch

To create a perfect salad and send it into a different snack category, add an extra special flavor enhancer or two. The options are nearly endless, but can include cucumbers, sweet-and-fiery Peppadew peppers, olives, avocado, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or kimchi, crumbled soft goat cheese, capers, preserved lemon, roasted red peppers, microgreens, and chopped nori seaweed. w you are a salad pro.

So in summary: Raw & Cooked Veggies + More Protein + Great Grains + A Better Dressing + Killer Add-ins = The Perfect Salad!

Man shopping in supermarket and using smartphone

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