The One Formula You Need to Make a Healthy Salad

Up your salad game with this step-by-step formula.

You don't need a recipe to make a salad, just a basic formula. This formula helps you mix filling protein, satisfying whole grains and lots of low-calorie vegetables so your salad fills you up, instead of leaving you hungry an hour later.

chopped chicken and sweet potato salad

Pictured recipe: Chopped Chicken & Sweet Potato Salad

Mix and match the categories using the amounts shown so you don't get bored with your salads. Plan ahead and prep your protein, vegetables, and grains, or use what's on hand in the fridge. Bonus points for using up vegetable scraps or leftover ingredients that would otherwise go to waste!

The best healthy salad formula

Use this as your base "recipe" to make sure you get a satisfying mix of greens and toppings without going overboard on calories or carbs. Then keep reading for delicious foods that fit in each category.

  • Salad greens: 3 cups
  • Other produce: 1/2 cup non-starchy cooked or raw vegetables
  • Grains or starch: 1/2 cup
  • Lean protein: 3 oz.
  • Cheese: 1/2 oz.
  • Garnish: 1/2 oz.
  • Dressing: 2 Tbsp.
quinoa deli salad

Pictured recipe: Quinoa Deli Salad

Salad Greens = 3 cups

  • Escarole
  • Baby kale
  • Bibb lettuce
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Romaine
  • Baby spinach
  • Spring mix

Other Produce = 1/2 cup, non-starchy, cooked or raw

  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Green beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Radishes
  • Snap peas
  • Tomatoes

Learn more: Why You Should Eat the Rainbow When It Comes to Fruits and Vegetables

vegetarian nicoise

Pictured recipe: Vegetarian Niçoise Salad

Grains or Starch = 1/2 cup

  • Bulgur
  • Whole-wheat couscous
  • Farro
  • Baby potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Winter squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Rice

Read more: Why Complex Carbs Are Actually Good for You

Lean Protein = 3 oz.

  • Chicken breast
  • Chickpeas
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Flank steak
  • Tempeh

Cheese = 1/2 oz.

  • Blue cheese
  • Cheddar
  • Feta
  • Goat cheese
  • Monterey Jack
  • Mozzarella
  • Parmesan

Garnish = 1/2 oz.

  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Dried apricots
  • Capers
  • Dried cranberries
  • Croutons
  • Olives
  • Salami or ham
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts

Dressing = 2 Tbsp., olive-oil based

  • Balsamic vinaigrette
  • Lemon vinaigrette
  • Red-wine vinaigrette

Or make your own: Get our best vinaigrette recipes or try this simple recipe.

Combine 2 Tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice, ½ tsp. minced garlic, 1/4 tsp. dried thyme, 1/8 tsp. pepper, and 1/8 tsp. salt, then whisk in ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil. Use 2 Tbsp. per salad.

salmon couscous

Satisfying salads to get out of a salad rut

Try new combos to spark ideas for your next salad. Or make a healthy salad based on what you have on hand or what's on sale.

The Vegetarian Niçoise

Spring mix + green beans & tomatoes + baby potaotes + hard-boiled egg + crumbled feta + olives + lemon vinaigrette

Chopped Chicken & Sweet Potato

Escarole or romaine + avocado + apples + sweet potato + shredded chicken + cubed Cheddar + sunflower seeds + apple-cider vinaigrette

Salmon Couscous

Spinach + mushrooms + eggplant + whole-wheat Israeli couscous + salmon + goat cheese + dried apricots + white-wine vinaigrette

Quinoa Deli

Bibb lettuce + red bell peppers + artichoke hearts + quinoa + chickpeas + mozzarella cheese + sliced deli ham + red-wine vinaigrette

Read more: How to Make Perfect Homemade Vinaigrette Every Time

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles