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You’re Building Your Salad Wrong—Here’s How to Spice It up, According to an RD

Tehrene Firman

Tehrene FirmanJanuary 30, 2020

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It’s easy to think of salad as boring—something you only eat because you know you should. The truth is salads are really only dull if you make them dull, and if you’re not fully enjoying every bite of those beautiful greens, there’s a simple explanation: You’re building it wrong. But don’t worry—there are so many things you can do to make your salad is always on-point.

A Twitter thread from Elan Gale, the TV producer behind The Bachelor, recently went viral. And, IMO, it might be the most dramatic salad-related thread of all time. In it, he dropped a major truth bomb: If your salads are lame and flavorless, it’s because you’re forgetting some prime steps in making them—aka you’re counting on dressing to do all the work. A bowl of greens you really, truly, want to give your rose to requires a little more work than that, and these RDs have all the tips you’ll need to find your salad soulmate.

How to make salad taste good, according to the pros

1. Switch up your greens

First thing’s first. If you always use the same exact base, it’s time to switch things up. “There are a ton of variety in greens that you can mix and match for salads. Popular types include spinach, romaine, arugula, kale, radicchio, mixed greens, cabbage, dandelion greens, iceberg, butterhead, frisée, and endive,” says Allison Scheinfeld, RD, a Brooklyn-based registered dietitian. “It’s not only good to mix and match for taste reasons, but also for nutrient and health benefit reasons. For example, kale has a high amount of vitamin A and C, while arugula has a nice amount of calcium, potassium, and folate.”

2. Play with the texture

Don’t just dump a bunch of greens in a bowl and call it a day. Work with different textures to make things more interesting. “I like to play around with the textures of the vegetables used in the salad,” says McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN, founder and CEO of Nutrition Stripped. “Whether that’s crunchy shredded cabbage, soft golden raisins, or massaged kale, mixing different textures together will give you more variety.”

3. Add some fruit

There are so many perks to adding fruit to your salads. Not only does it up the fiber and nutrients, but it also adds an unbeatable sweetness. “Either washed and chopped or roasted, seasonal fruit lends a great balance to salads and often provides a natural sweet element that’s often missing from your lettuce mix,” says Emily Brekke, executive chef at Mint Kitchen in New York City. “In winter, go for citrus on your salads in the form of Cara Cara or blood oranges, kumquats, or even the humble clementine. Citrus can also be used in vinaigrettes for salads, as well blended with olive oil, salt and pepper, and herbs. Just use the real deal and juice your own instead of buying anything pre-juiced.”

4. Make sure it’s crunchy

Speaking of texture, no one—not even the biggest salad haters around—can dislike a mix that has a satisfying crunch. “People who complain salads are boring usually do better when a ‘crunch’ aspect is added,” Scheinfeld says. “Think about adding chopped nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews, and pine nuts), roasted chickpeas, or quinoa. These make the salad a little more exciting, and they also add a fullness factor.”

5. Add plant-based protein

Another way to make your salad more flavorful is to add filling plant-based protein. “You can make salads more of an entrée by adding cooked grains (like rice), beans, or lentils for a source of plant-based protein. Nuts, seeds, and avocado also really bulk it up and keep you nice and full,” Kooienga says. “Basically, treat making your salad like you would making a meal. You should still have those foundational five components: protein, healthy fats, starchy carbohydrates, non-starchy carbohydrates, and the flavor factor from things like dressings and citrus.”

6. Use plenty of herbs and spices

Salad dressing is cool and all, but it can only go so far. To really up the flavor of your salad, reach for the herbs and spices, which add both flavor and health benefits. “Try adding basil, parsley, chives, thyme, cilantro, mint, or dill,” Scheinfeld says. “Thyme goes well in chicken salads, parsley with grains, and cilantro with avocado and peppers. The combinations are really endless.”

Try this medicinal mushrooms salad dressing:

Try this trick to bring your wilted salad greens back to life. Then use this four-step guide to build a high-protein salad that will keep you full until dinner.

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