How to make a simple satisfying salad: a basic salad recipe you can customize with your favorite ingredients–seasonal or whatever you have in your fridge! The only rule is you do you.
Years of living in a diet mentality perpetuates years of unsatisfying meals.
Salads used to be my “deprivation meal”. In an “oh, I ate a delicious brownie and now I have to eat a bland salad to make up for it.” I ate my fair share of carb-less, fat-less, flavor-less salads that left me hungry, irritable, and just an inch away from binging on anything and everything.
Now I love salads because I can load them up with whatever I feel like. Salad recipes were the first I experimented with. They’re so easily adaptable, which makes them the perfect canvas for seasonal produce, or for using up leftovers in your fridge. I have a notepad with scribbles of different combinations I dreamt up: kale with toasted walnuts and goat cheese, cabbage and chicken with a sesame-peanut dressing, sourdough panzanellas.
But you don’t always have time to make complex salads. Good news is, sometimes simple salads are the best. And simple doesn’t have to mean iceberg with chicken and grated carrots. Tangent: what do you think about grated carrots in salad? I have mixed feelings. They add a pretty orange color, but I feel like they’re kind of awkward to eat. Unless you get on board with spiralizing, and then you could do a whole spiralized salad. But then they wouldn’t be grated carrots. They’d be spiralized carrots.
I’ve come up with a list of components that make for a simple satisfying salad. You can then take those few components and build your own simple satisfying salad with the flavors and ingredients you want.
Easy and you get to do you. It’s a win-win.
Now. I don’t like food rules. So I’m not giving you rules. These are just general things I think about when making a simple satisfying salad to make sure I enjoy it, nourish my body with it, and spend a short amount of time making it.
So without further adieu, here they are:
- Include all three macronutrients. Our bodies need protein, carbohydrate, and fat to function optimally. When I eat a meal lacking in a macronutrient (i.e. no carbs or little to no fat), I find myself feeling tired, unfocused, and ravenous an hour later. Of course, sometimes you have a salad lacking in a macronutrient, and that’s okay. Maybe you’re out to lunch with friends and it’s what sounds good. Use it as something to be curious about: if I don’t have carbs/fat/protein in my lunch, do I feel satisfied? How do I feel an hour later?
- Choose ingredients with different textures and colors. For example, add pumpkin seeds for crunch and avocado for creaminess. Throw some chopped red bell pepper or leftover roasted sweet potato to add some different colors to your green salad. Visually and texturally appealing salads are da best.
- This one’s super important: choose ingredients YOU love. Love goat cheese? Sprinkle some (read: a lot) on top. Don’t like kale? Use another green instead. I know, I know, people call kale a superfood, but you can live a perfectly healthy life sans kale. Of course, there’s a time and place for trying new things and learning to love new foods, but remember, food is meant to be enjoyable.
- Switch it up. Cook a new kind of grain for your salad. Chop up an apple to toss in. Try a new salad dressing recipe. I can eat the same thing over and over again if I love it, but I also like to try new things. Keeps life interesting.
Those general things aside, we can talk ingredient ideas!
Greens: Lettuce of so many varieties–romaine, green leaf, red leaf, butter, the list goes on–, kale, arugula, shredded cabbage are a few ideas.
Other vegetables and fruits: You can do raw or cooked. I love to add leftover roasted vegetables to my salad to kick it up a notch. Or, if I don’t have leftover roasted vegetables, I’ll quickly dice and sauté some to throw on top if I have time. And don’t forget about fruit!
Carbs: So. Many. Options. Some of my current favorites are roasted sweet potatoes, wild rice, and bread (panzanellas for the win).
Protein: You don’t need my help, but for consistency’s sake, here are a few ideas: leftover chicken, pork roast, or steak, tuna or salmon, tofu, eggs, beans, chicken sausage.
Dressings: I use the dressing recipe in this post usually, just because it’s quick and easy. You could also throw together a vinaigrette with balsamic and olive oil. Like I’ve said, you do you.
Other good stuff: avocado, different cheeses, nuts, seeds, olives, bacon…anything goes.
There you have it! Just a few ideas for building your simple satisfying salad. Have fun trying out different combinations! Right now, I’m loving a sweet potato-avocado-walnut-goat cheese-blueberry combination with whatever greens, veggies, and protein I have on hand.
What are your favorites? Tell me your ways!
Today I’m linking up with Buns in My Oven for What’s Cookin’ Wednesday! Be sure to head over to check out the other links!