Salad Shake Up: Four Ways to Take Your Salad Up A Notch

When you think of salad, do you think of the sad bagged salad, full of iceberg lettuce, some purple cabbage, and shredded carrots, topped with a flavorless dressing full of inflammatory ingredients? The kind that makes you quickly ditch your depressing lunch, and grab something that makes you feel less than ideal at your work cafeteria? 

So many people, when trying to make better choices when it comes to their meals, assume that their foodie fate from here on out is all salads all the time. While that is absolutely not the case (check out my meal guides for some healthy, yummy inspo for all meal times), salads are still a great meal prep option, and they don’t have to be depressing! 

I’m here to tell you – SALAD DOESN’T HAVE TO BE SAD. Salads can be packed full of flavor, texture, and nourishing ingredients that leave you full and ready to tackle the rest of your day. 

Salad Shake Up: Four Ways to Take Your Salad Up A Notch

Try one of these four swaps to improve your salad game; so much so, that you’ll most definitely look forward to that crunchy, veggie loaded meal!

Glad Salad > Sad Salads

1. Dressing it downsalad

The star of the salad show is often the salad dressing. It can bring the most flavor to your bowl. But, it can also bring the unhealthier ingredients into the mix. Most conventional dressings are often filled with sugar and inflammatory seed oils, oftentimes making it the most unhealthy part of your dish. 

Many foods and food companies are guilty of clean-washing, or making you feel like something is healthier than it actually is by using the words you want to hear, or the ones that make you think “this seems like a healthy option!” Words like, “low fat” or “light” don’t mean they’re healthier options. What that usually means is they are using artificial sweeteners or fillers to reduce the calories that are in the product. And you know the motto at Whitness Nutrition has nothing to do with counting calories, and everything to do with the nutrient density of a product.

Some words on the ingredient list to look out for? Anything seed oil; think grapeseed oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil…these are all inflammatory. Instead, you want to look for a dressing that has a base is olive oil or avocado oil that are rich in heart healthy fats. Also, be on the lookout for sneaky added sweeteners like dextrose, sucralose, maltodextrin. This isn’t dessert – it’s a dressing!

Skip the conventional dressings and try some of my favorites like Primal Kitchen or Tessamae’s; all of the yummy flavor, with none of the junk. Since both of these options are made with olive oil or avocado oil, they are a great source of healthy fats!

2. Swap Salad Toppers

The salad toppings can add the most flavor, texture and variety to your salads; but they can also be the main culprit of unnecessary calories & blood sugar spiking ingredients! Now, this isn’t me saying eat plain kale and like it. Because even as a dietitian and diabetes educator, I love some good flavor and texture that comes from salad toppings! But I’m here to say, we can pick some better options than your usual stale croutons, mmkay?

saladInstead of croutons that are loaded with sugar, seed oils and other blood sugar spiking junk, swap those for some dehydrated veggies from Nemi, roasted chickpeas or pumpkin seeds. Not only will it add that crunch we all know and love, but it will also add different flavor and help add to the satiety of your salad! 

Another ingredient that can make that blood sugar spike? Candied nuts or dried fruit that is loaded with sugar and inflammatory oils. Try adding some raw pepitas (great source of iron and protein) or sunflower seeds in place of candied nuts. Save the sweets for your #socialsweet – it’ll be much more worth it. My favorite kale salad is full of pumpkin seeds, creamy white beans and a sugar-free dressing you’ll love! 

What about cheese?

In most cases, cheese is an additional fat on top of your dressing that can be an unnecessary source of saturated fat and calories. If you’ve already added a healthy fat to your salad, try one of my favorite alternatives; nutritional yeast to sprinkle on top. It adds that nice cheesy flavor, but without the dairy! This is a great option for someone who is lactose intolerant, vegan, or has some sort of dairy allergy. Bonus: nutritional yeast is a great source of fiber, vitamin B12 and folate! But, if you want cheese to be your fat, use a full fat option like a grated, raw cheese.

3. How to hack the salad bar!

Picking the salad bar at a restaurant or Whole Foods doesn’t have to mean you leave with a sad salad, still feeling hungry and feeling wholly unsatisfied. Use it to your advantage! When you get a salad while you’re out and about, make it fun and load it up on items you don’t typically go for! Add vegetables that you normally wouldn’t have at home; marinated artichoke hearts? Yes please! Seasoned and roasted butternut squash? Load me up! See it as an opportunity to try or enjoy different veggies you wouldn’t normally have in your refrigerator. 

Additionally, you can add in healthy fats in the form of avocado (you might have to pay up – but trust me, it’s worth it!) instead of cheese to help keep you full. Oftentimes, people forget to add satiating macronutrient on their salads – specifically protein – which leads them to be hungry sooner, and more likely to reach for a bag of chips to help satisfy them. Don’t be that person; stack your salad with tons of veggies, fats, complex carbs and a good protein source! 


learn more about the benefits of protein!

Most salad bars will have the same options for protein, so picking one (or a couple!) of these will help bolster your salad! This will provide you with that good source of energy; along with a side of stable blood sugar! Hence, a few options that I like to rotate through:

  • Roasted chicken
  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Chicken Salad

Also, if you’re a #pursejerky gal like myself, you can always chop up your favorite meat stick for some additional protein.

Lastly, get the dressing on the side! You’d be surprised how little dressing you need to add to get the flavor you want. Another option you could try instead of your typical oil-based dressings would be hummus or guacamole! Additionally, these would be great sources of fat. 

Looking for a Registered Dietitian’s order at Sweet Green? Click here to get the #WWWO at all your favorite Dallas salad joints. 

4. Let it be easy – and fun!

In truth, salads can get really boring, really quick if you don’t switch it up. And life is too short to eat a boring salad! Mix it up with some different salad recipes, or even a different way of making a salad. One of my favorite ways to do this is meal prepping mason jar salads. They’re fun, easily transportable, and can be packed with your favorite things! 

Here are some of my favorite go-to recipes for salads:

The best part about mason jar salad is that all you need is in the jar! No dressing bottle or container. No additional baggies filled with your toppings; just the one jar! Shake it up, and you’re ready to enjoy. So, if you’re meal prepping salads for the week ahead, consider picking two different salad recipes to alternate for your lunch. That way, you don’t get tired of one salad by the middle of the week. Each day brings new flavors and textures to keep you looking forward to that hearty bed of greens!

Still feel overwhelmed with what sustainable health looks like? Book a discovery call with me; it’s my specialty making people feel empowered and educated in their health journey, and helping them create lasting change.

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