Building a salad at home is more economical and cost-effective than spending $16.48 at Sweetgreen five days a week. But sometimes it’s just so hard to bring yourself to actually do it. Going to the grocery store, getting the ingredients, eating them before they expire...it’s a struggle. There’s so much chopping, washing, and storing to do! Fortunately, there are a few simple rules for building the perfect summer salad that allow you to make the task a fun (and delicious!) habit. This way, your summer salads are faster, healthier, and don’t break the bank..
To learn the salad hack once and for all, Daily Harvest’s nutritionist Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN breaks down everything you need to know about how to choose the best greens, the best proteins, and the best toppings for summer salads. Here are her favorite tips:
Sure, everyone’s mad about kale right now, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s the superior green just because it’s trending. Shapiro points out that the key to not getting bored of your salads is by introducing variety. “So many other greens are nutrient dense too,” she says. “Some of my favorites include baby arugula, microgreens, butter lettuce, romaine, baby spinach, and green or purple cabbage for added crunch. Don’t commit to one, mix them all up together.”
We know romaine has gotten a bad rap recently due to a few headlines over the last year about salmonella spread. But, according to Food Safety News (FSN), the FDA recently batch tested romaine and found there was no widespread outbreak of salmonella to be concerned about.
I usually just throw whatever’s in my fridge into my salads, but Shapiro says playing around with texture and even pre-cooking some of your salad veggies beforehand is the way to go. “I always recommend one cooked veggie to add texture or a sprinkle of nuts or seeds for crunch,” says Shapiro. “Think roasted broccoli, leftover grilled corn (cut it off the cob), or sautéed mushrooms. The natural caramelization adds texture and flavor to your bowl.”
This will not only make your salad more Instagrammable, but according to Shapiro it adds “ flavor, but [also] a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to your diet.” Besides, it can even trick your stomach into being more satisfied. Nothing’s worse than staring down at a plate of food that’s all the same color.
I am guilty of this one; I almost exclusively use chicken in every salad I create at home or buy in stores. Some Shapiro-approved proteins include tuna, shrimp, grass-fed steak, hard boiled eggs, beans, tofu, and tempeh. If you love buying frozen plant-based burgers, top your salad with a veggie burger to mix it up or if you’re running low on options.
Nutritionists agree that protein helps you feel fuller longer, which is why it’s a great addition to any salad. In fact, a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in 2016 found that “ higher protein preloads increase fullness ratings more than lower protein preloads.” In other words, don’t skimp on the protein.
Whether you buy pre-cut veggies at your local supermarket, ignore your spiralizer and purchase pre-cut spaghetti squash, or just want to try out a meal delivery service, you don’t have to be so hard on yourself when making those little swaps. If buying something pre-made or pre-chopped makes life a little easier on you, go ahead and do it.
Building a better salad is also about taking stress off of your plate. So make sure to have fun with it. If you stick to the basic principles above, you’ll have a delicious, hearty salad every time without having to visit a trendy salad shop.
About the author
Brittany Leitner is an award winning poet and journalist who specializes in health, wellness, beauty, and travel writing. She previously held editorial positions as the senior lifestyle editor of Elite Daily and the managing editor of DoctorOz.com. She's currently based in Brooklyn, New York.