How to Make a Not-So-Sad Desk Salad
Just because salad is healthy doesn’t mean it should be boring.
You know how a salad you get in a cute café is somehow 1,000 times tastier than one you make yourself at home, pack in a plastic container, and eat at your desk? It doesn’t have to be that way! Use these easy tricks to transform your healthy-but-sad desk lunch into a meal you’re excited about.
Load up on ingredients. One of the reasons restaurant salads are so good is that they’re interesting to eat—there are a lot of different flavors and textures going on. Luckily, it’s easy to jazz things up. Think about adding something a little sweet (dried fruit), spicy (cayenne-spiced nuts), or tangy (olives or capers). And the same goes for textures: Break up all those veggies by tossing in some crunchy sunflower seeds, crumbled pita chips, or cooked grains, and something creamy, like goat cheese or avocado. Salads are also a great place to use up any leftovers, like roasted squash from last night.
Add flavor to your grilled chicken. It might be the go-to protein for salads, but plain chicken can be so…plain. Make things more exciting by marinating or seasoning the chicken before you cook it. Marinades can be simple: Toss the chicken in some honey and lime, or yogurt and harissa. As for spice blends, don’t shy away from premixed combos like Cajun or tandoori seasoning.
Layer like a boss. When you create a salad to eat immediately, you start with the greens and then add the toppings. But when you’re packing a salad to eat later, the opposite is true, because there’s nothing sadder than a soggy salad (try saying that five times fast). Put the heartier ingredients at the bottom (carrots, cucumbers), then add the slightly softer toppings (beans, grains), then the more delicate items (tomatoes, avocado), and finally, finish with the greens. Mix it up at lunchtime.
Make sure your dressing minds its own business. The longer greens sit in salad dressing, the soggier they’ll be. Keep things crispy by putting the dressing in a small container nestled inside the larger one that has the rest of the salad (this also keeps you from spilling dressing all over your bag during your commute). One exception is if you go with kale as your base. Kale gets better when it’s been sitting in dressing for a bit, so go ahead and pour it on in the morning.
Transfer it out of that plastic container. Everything seems to taste better when you eat it off of a real plate using a real fork. Even better: Enjoy it in a break room, away from your computer screen. You might even find that you’re more productive the rest of the day.