How to Make a Salad a Satisfying Meal

Salad in a wooden bowl

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A salad is usually served at the beginning of a meal, but a salad can be a meal if you make it big enough. Eating a big healthy salad can also be a great way to get more fruits and veggies that are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

The best part about making a big salad is that it's so easy. Just pick your favorite fresh ingredients, pile them on a plate, top with a flavorful dressing and it's ready.

Tips for Building a Tasty Meal-Sized Salad

Here's how to make a big healthy salad, with ideas for great toppings.

Start with a bed of leafy greens. They're low in calories and a good source of fiber. There are different varieties of lettuce, such as iceberg, leaf, spinach, escarole, romaine, or butter. The darker greens offer more nutrients than iceberg lettuce.

Add raw vegetables. Brightly colored vegetables have flavonoids, and the dark green vegetables are lowest in calories—about 20 calories per half-cup serving. Fresh green beans, snap peas, carrots, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, artichokes, avocados, tomatoes, and cucumbers are all healthy salad toppings.

Add fruits or berries. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, pomegranate arils, apple slices, and raisins can add vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants to your salad. One-half cup of apple slices has 30 calories, and one-half cup of berries has about 40 calories.

Add a little protein. A chopped or sliced hard-boiled egg is an excellent source of protein. You can add a serving of lean beef, cooked shrimp, tuna, chicken breast, or strips of cheese. Watch your portion size and avoid fried meats like chicken strips or battered and fried shrimp. A quarter cup of chopped chicken meat or one egg will add 75 calories. Half a can of tuna adds about 80 calories. Two ounces of cubed or shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese may add up to 200 calories.

Sprinkle a few nuts. Walnuts, pecans, almonds, or cashews add a nice crunch. Just a few nuts will do, as a one-eighth cup of nuts adds about 90 calories. Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and all nuts add protein and heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Finish with salad dressing. One tablespoon of regular commercial salad dressing adds 50 to 80 calories. Low-fat and reduced-calorie dressings are available, or you can top your salad with freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice.

Healthy, Low-Calorie Salad Recipe

Here's a big healthy salad that has lots of vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber, plus it's low in calories (about 400). And best of all, it's simply delicious:

  • 2 cups of green leaf lettuce
  • 1/4 cup raw green beans
  • 1/4 cup snap peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/4 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/4 cup apple slices
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped chicken breast
  • 1 chopped hard-boiled egg
  • 1 ounce of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/8 cup walnut pieces

Top the salad with juice squeezed from a few wedges of lemon or lime. Or, if you prefer, use a light commercial salad dressing, or a bit of oil and vinegar. Just remember, dressing and oil add extra calories.

Serve your salad with a slice or two of fresh whole-grain bread and a tall glass of sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime.

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