The One Formula You Need to Make a Healthy Salad
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.
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!
Related: Our Best Healthy Salad Recipes
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.
Pictured recipe: Quinoa Deli Salad
Salad Greens = 3 cups
- Baby kale
- Bibb lettuce
- Red leaf lettuce
- Baby spinach
- Spring mix
Related: 5 Reasons to Love Dark Leafy Greens
Other Produce = 1/2 cup, non-starchy, cooked or raw
- Bell peppers
- Green beans
- Snap peas
Pictured recipe: Vegetarian Niçoise Salad
Grains or Starch = 1/2 cup
- Whole-wheat couscous
- Baby potatoes
- Winter squash
- Sweet potatoes
Read more: Why Complex Carbs Are Actually Good for You
Lean Protein = 3 oz.
- Chicken breast
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Pork tenderloin
- Flank steak
Cheese = 1/2 oz.
- Blue cheese
- Goat cheese
- Monterey Jack
Related: Why Cheese Is Actually Good for You
Garnish = 1/2 oz.
- Dried apricots
- Dried cranberries
- Salami or ham
- Sunflower seeds
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.
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.
Spring mix + green beans & tomatoes + baby potaotes + hard-boiled egg + crumbled feta + olives + lemon vinaigrette
Escarole or romaine + avocado + apples + sweet potato + shredded chicken + cubed Cheddar + sunflower seeds + apple-cider vinaigrette
Spinach + mushrooms + eggplant + whole-wheat Israeli couscous + salmon + goat cheese + dried apricots + white-wine vinaigrette
Bibb lettuce + red bell peppers + artichoke hearts + quinoa + chickpeas + mozzarella cheese + sliced deli ham + red-wine vinaigrette