Build a Super Salad

One of the highlights of spring is the profusion of color that explodes almost instantaneously around this time of year. But it’s not just the buds and blossoms bringing color into our lives about now; it’s the abundance of vibrantly hued fruits and veggies that are on offer at farmers’ markets as well. And there’s no better way to use seasonal produce than in a fresh salad!

Sure, the old “iceberg-tomato-cucumber” combo meets the definition of “salad,” but with so many seasonal ingredients making an appearance locally these days, your salad bowl can be so much more than that.

Here are some tips to help you build a Super Salad. To ensure a variety of nutrients, flavors and textures, try including ingredients from each of the following categories:

Leafy Greens

The base of most fresh salads is some kind of leafy green vegetable, such as lettuce (romaine, Boston or mesclun mix) or hearty greens like spinach, chopped kale, collards or chard (yes, raw!); or bitter greens like arugula or dandelion.  And don’t forget that herbs are often included in this category, providing loads of vitamins and minerals along with great flavor (chopped cilantro and/or parsley work wonderfully).

Crisp Veggies (or Fruit)

A good crunch complements the softness of leafys perfectly. How about celery, carrot, broccoli, parsnip, fennel, radish, apple, cabbage, cauliflower or beets?

Juicy Veggies (or Fruit)

Adding juicy vegetables or fruits provides additional textural contrast along with more flavor to meld with your dressing. Try tomato, celery, sweet bell peppers, pear, pineapple, fresh berries.

Creamy (fats and oils)

Most salads use oil or a creamy base for their dressings.  I love adding avocado to my salads, either blended in dressing or cut into cubes; a sprinkling of nuts or seeds provides polyunsaturated fats along with a hit of protein; or use blended silken tofu in a Caesar-like dressing.

Add-Ins

Depending on whether your salad is a side dish or main course, you can add proteins (chickpeas, lentils, black beans, peas, tempeh, tofu) or other toppers such as sprouts or croutons.  And don’t forget that salads can include cooked ingredients, too, such as cubed sweet or white potato, corn or grains (rice, quinoa and millet work particularly well).

Dressing

It’s often said that dressing makes the salad, so don’t forget to choose a good one!  Even a simple olive oil-lemon mix can elevate plain veggies to something delectable. Or try the same veggie mix with different dressings on different days. You may be surprised how delicious and satisfying your colorful mix of fresh veggies can be!

Recipes to Get You Started:

What’s the essential ingredient in YOUR favorite salad?

Ricki Heller is the author of Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar (one of only three cookbooks endorsed by Ellen DeGeneres on her website) as well as three e-cookbooks. She writes the popular food blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs, where, for the past three years, she has chronicled her journey with candida and posted almost 600 sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, whole-foods recipes.

19 Responses to Build a Super Salad

  • Wow, what a wealth of information this post is! I believe we should eat a big raw salad every day. It’s such a good way to keep things running smoothly (sorry, couldn’t resist). =) I put everything I can think of on salads (shredded zucchini; beets; any greens (including beet greens; leftover brown rice, teff, or quinoa; nuts; seeds; sea vegetables (hiziki, etc.); fruit; dates; prunes; cranberries; whatever). It’s salad season! Yippee.
    Great reminder post of how to get lots of raw goodness into your day. Thank you, Ricki.
    Melissa

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    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Melissa @ Gluten Free For Good, I agree–salads for smooth digestive operations! ;-) I love mixing it up, too. Once I realized how many different ways you can eat salad, I really fell in love with them, too. Thanks so much! :)

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  • Hallie says:

    I wish we could have a salad tasting party so that I could try every single salad in that list, Ricki! :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Hallie, What a fabulous idea!! I think I am going to do that this spring. Imagine how gloriously colorful THAT table would be!

    [Reply]

  • Alta Mantsch says:

    I’m such a big fan of salads – lately we’ve had one just about every day. I’m personally a big fan of lets-cram-as-much-stuff-as-possible-into-one-salad salads, but I love your ideas. I tend to add the same things each time to my salads, and love when I mix them up. :)

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Alta Mantsch, I do the same thing! The salad recipes at the bottom are a little more tame than our typical dinner salad. . . but variety is the spice of salads, right? ;)

    [Reply]

  • Vicky says:

    I love salads and this tutorial shows how simple it can be to build a unique salad from scratch. Great suggestions but the pictures are making me very hungry..

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Vicky, Aw, sorry to do that to you! ;) I guess you need to go make a big salad! :D

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  • Kim Lutz says:

    Ricki,
    I’ll be waiting form my invite to the salad-tasting party! Until then, though, I’ll happily follow your advice for a delectable salad here at home.

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Kim Lutz, Kim, for YOU there’s an open invitation! :D In the meantime, hope you enjoy something new based on the ideas here. :)

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  • Cara says:

    Love your suggestions for crunch! My salads always include cauliflower, it’s my favorite crunchy veggie!

    [Reply]

  • Maggie Savage says:

    This is motivating Ricki! Thanks for sharing some fabulous salad tips. I know what I’m having for lunch tomorrow :) We like to add avocado to our dressings too. It’s like the secret ingredient that hits a dressing out of the ballpark! I need to try raw fennel!

    [Reply]

  • Beautiful salads are a fantastic thing! The added bonus is that all those real, colorful ingredients taste great and do pack the nutritional punch. :-) Love all the options–thanks!

    Shirley

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  • Oh my goodness. Gorgeous gorgeous pictures, first of all. I love this post. We have salads every single night with our dinners (even the kids eat them). And my favorite thing is to just go through the fridge and chop whatever I can find to throw in to the salads…veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, etc…and lately I have been on a huge arugula kick so that has seemed to be the base of many of my salads lately. Funny..it is 9pm and now I am craving a salad thanks to you. LOL

    [Reply]

    Ricki Heller Reply:

    @Kim-Cook It Allergy Free, Sorry to trigger the salad craving, Kim! ;-) I love those kinds of salads, too. . . just throw in everything that isn’t slated for another recipe! :)

    [Reply]

  • I always serve salad with dinner but I could really just eat the salad, especially when the temps are soaring like they are starting to do here now.

    [Reply]

  • Laura Black says:

    Awesome recipe ideas. I’m always looking for ways to utilize fresh produce. I’ve started adding hemp nut to my salads. They are a great source of protein, all the Omegas and many more benefits. And they really do taste good with a subtle, nutty flavor. You should try it.

    [Reply]

  • Alisa says:

    I’ll pass on those bitter greens, but raw chard is good! It was interesting to read the recent studies that showed how much better we absorb nutrients from veggies with fat added. So much for those horrible fat-free dressings and salads … bring on the avocado!

    [Reply]

  • LOVE this post Ricki.
    I can NEVER get enough salad!

    [Reply]

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