Grass Roots Nutrition: Salads

Grass Roots Nutrition: Salads

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Dear Holly: Are all salads healthy? -Tossed

Dear Tossed: May is National Salad Month, so this is a great topic to clear the air about!


If you’re looking for a salad to be your meal, you need to build it right! Any meal salad that I make is going to include many veggies, some heart-healthy fats, lean protein and complex carbohydrates. That’s a meal in a bowl!


It is common for people to assume that any salad is healthy, when too often I see people assembling calorie bombs at the salad bar with the only vegetable being iceberg lettuce. While yes, fried chicken, cheese, croutons and a creamy dressing on top of iceberg lettuce is technically a salad, the only favor it is doing is to your taste buds, not your waistline.


I challenge clients to include as many colors as possible when choosing fruits and vegetables and to steer clear of croutons and other fried crunchies that are offering minimal nutritional benefit. The darker the greens the better; kale, spinach, cabbage and romaine are all great choices. Toss those with a good mixture of veggies and fruits – apple, carrot, bell pepper and tomato are my favorites – and you have a satisfying salad foundation.


Make sure to include a lean protein – tuna, grilled chicken, beans, marinated tofu or hard boiled eggs are all easy and healthy choices. Skip the fried chicken.


We do want some fats on the salad. Not only is fat an essential nutrient, fat also enable the absorption of other nutrients, like the beta-carotene in carrots. We just don’t want too much. I caution against low-fat salad dressings to maximize nutrient absorption and satiety. I like to choose a vinaigrette. Low-fat dressings are usually loaded with sugars to make up for the flavor loss with the fat reduction and can be the same amount of calories. Just keep the portion reasonable – 2 tablespoons or so.


Lastly, some complex carbohydrates will provide you with the energy boost you need to power through your afternoon, or help promote deep sleep. I may add sweet corn or boiled potatoes to my salad, or serve my salad with a few whole grain crackers or a piece of chewy toast.


A well made salad is satisfying. Ideally it has a good variety of flavors and textures and a lot of crunch. See if you can hit all of the colors of the rainbow, add some lean protein and heart healthy fat and your salad will power you through until dinner. An anemic salad, one without power, will leave you reaching for the cookie jar or vending machine.


Looking for more healthy and delicious cooking ideas? Check out my new Spring Cooking Class Menu and contact me to schedule your cooking party! A fun lesson, the entire meal, recipe and a free pass on doing the dishes are all included!


Ready for a Real Food Wellness Challenge? Start the month with 21 Days of Real Food! Click to enroll in the challenge; we launch the 1st of each month.


What’s your question for Holly? Send them to For more information and to make an appointment to work on your goals, visit Grass Roots Nutrition, LLC and BrideBod, owned by me, Holly Larson, a Registered Dietitian. Visit me online at and follow us on Facebook. Have a delicious, healthy day!