Salad is probably the first food most people think of when you mention healthy eating. And for good reason — a healthy salad can be a delicious and satisfying way to add key nutrients to your meal plan without racking up a lot of calories.
But it’s not hard to turn a healthy salad into a calorie bomb by loading it up with fried toppings, croutons, cheeses, or mayo-based dressing.
The good news? Salad doesn’t have to taste like rabbit food to be healthy. If you’re looking to make a meal out of your salad, you can do it without adding a ton of high-calorie toppings. All you need is protein, fiber, and a mix of textures to keep you feeling full. Here are a few delicious and healthy salad toppings.
10 Easy, Healthy Salad Ideas to Help You Feel Fuller
If your lunch feels a little lackluster, add these yummy ingredient combos to your salad for a nutrient-rich meal — without all the sneaky calories of a fried-chicken-bacon-ranch-club salad.
Greek salad is delicious, but restaurants tend to go overboard on the olives and feta, both of which can pack a high-sodium punch. Scale back a bit on those ingredients and double down on beans instead: add kidney beans and chickpeas for fiber and protein, plus cucumbers and romaine for plenty of crunchiness. Make a high-protein dressing by mixing Greek yogurt with red wine vinaigrette.
When you hit the midafternoon slump, a salad with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids can help give your brain a boost. Toss mixed greens with walnuts, wild salmon, and chopped hard-boiled eggs — including the yolks, which contain vitamins A, D, E, and K, along with calcium, iron, and choline. (Be sure to choose omega-3 enriched eggs, which come from chickens that are given flaxseed in their feed).
Healthy Taco Salad
The typical taco salad — with greasy ground meat, heaps of sour cream, and deep-fried tortilla bowls — isn’t exactly a health food. But you can give taco salad a healthy makeover with chile-spiced ground turkey or chicken, pinto beans, shredded lettuce, and raw bell peppers. (Crunchy peppers will help you miss those tortilla chips less.) Spike your dressing with a dash of hot sauce or cayenne powder for a spicy kick.
Chia seeds aren’t just high in fiber — they also expand when they come into contact with liquid, which can help you feel fuller. Sprinkle dry chia seeds on your salad for a satisfying crunch, and add pumpkin seed oil to your dressing for extra antioxidants.
This lighter version of coleslaw is a power combo of almonds, beets, and cabbage. Shred green or red cabbage, mix with grated raw beets, and add slivered almonds, which are not only yummy, but also known for keeping you satiated.
Rocket is the way-more-exciting British name for arugula, a peppery green that provides iron and vitamins K, C, and A. (Research suggests bitter foods can also support digestion, and arugula is no exception.) Top with chicken breast, a squeeze of lemon, and a few raisins or dried cherries to balance out the bitterness.
Pink and Black Salad
Sliced radishes stay crunchy all day, making this a great mix for a mason jar salad. Segmented grapefruit adds a nice tartness, and black beans provide fiber and protein. Serve this mix over a soft lettuce like butter or bibb.
We tend to think of onions as a flavor booster — and not much more — but they’re actually a source of prebiotics, which support gut health. Roast onion slices until they’re caramelized to bring out their sweetness, then pair them with peppery chopped chives. Serve over greens with tempeh slices for a vegan-friendly salad that’s just as satisfying for omnivores.
Sweet potatoes, turmeric, and orange roughy — also known as deep sea perch — combine to create a filling salad (with anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to the turmeric). Bake, steam, broil, or roast the fish and sweet potatoes, and choose a crispy lettuce like romaine for texture. Make a dressing by mixing a pinch of turmeric and a splash of orange juice.
Not Your Average Fruit Salad
Fruit is loaded with nutrients, but too much of it can cause your blood sugar to spike and drop, making you hungry again way too soon. Mix your fruit salad with quinoa to stay satiated longer — a ¼-cup serving of quinoa contains 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. Plus, quinoa’s fluffy texture creates a more fulfilling salad.