Salad Toppers Better and Healthier Than Croutons

Healthy salad toppers
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Like Elaine from Seinfeld, we love a BIG salad. There are so many ways to change it up and keep things interesting! But be wary of duds like croutons, which bring no nutritional value to the table. You can still get that crunch, though! We’ve got eight salad toppers that beat the stuffing out of boring croutons!

Real Crumbled Bacon

Surprised? Take bacon off the no-no list, because it can have a place in a balanced diet. (And the crowd goes wild!) Brands like Oscar Mayer and Hormel sell real bacon bits that are precooked and crumbled. A full tablespoon has only about 25 calories and 1.5g of fat. Bonus? Bacon gives your salad an added boost of protein. Yes, please!

Baked Tortilla Chips

If you're dining out, we recommend skipping tortilla strips on your salad, since they're usually fried. But, if you're making your own salad (possibly in a mason jar), buy baked tortilla chips, and crush 'em up! There are tons of these chips on the market. The line by Guiltless Gourmet even features fun flavors, like chili lime and black bean! Those will really pump up your salad experience.


Apples are some of the crunchiest fruits around, and they add a sweet touch to your salad! Pick your favorite kind (mine’s Fuji), chop it up, and throw it on top of your greens. Apples are super nutritious; they're full of fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Studies have even shown they may help ward off diseases and prevent obesity. Plus, the fiber they contain will make your salad even more filling. P.S. Apples make great emergency snacks!

Sliced Almonds

Almonds are a total superfood. They contain protein, healthy fats, and many other good-for-you nutrients. However, the calories can add up quickly if you're mindlessly munching on almonds by the handful. That's why sliced almonds are awesome on salads—a small amount goes a long way! Sprinkle on a tablespoon for around 40 calories and 3.5g of healthy fats. You can sometimes find these in the produce section. If not, look for them with the other nuts!

Roasted Garbanzo Beans

If you’ve never had roasted chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans), then you are missing out! We enjoy these crispy beans as both a snack and a salad topper. They provide protein, fiber, and major crunch! Biena makes flavored garbanzos that we just can’t resist. Pick up a pack, and elevate your salad. Try 'em in Rockin’ Ranch, Barbeque, Habanero, Sea Salt, Honey Roasted, or Cinnamon Crunch!


When it comes to nuts, we like pistachios because they give you the most bang for your buck, meaning you can have the largest amount of nuts for the least amount of calories. Look for raw or dry-roasted pistachios, and toss 'em on your salad. A tablespoon of the shelled nuts has around 43 calories and 3.5g of healthy fats. Tip: Pistachios complement a fruity salad really well!


This veggie has flown under the radar for way too long! If you haven’t experienced one, it looks like a round potato but tastes like an apple that isn’t sweet. For convenience, you can buy them pre-cut in the produce section. Jicama is seriously low in calories (43 for an entire cup), which means you can eat a lot of it. Woohoo! 

Seaweed Sheets

If you crave something salty, go for seaweed! You can buy sheets of it in the chip/snack section, and then crumble them up for a unique salad addition. These are low in calories, but they bring major flavor. Next time you make an Asian-style salad, try seaweed on top. That's one of the ways to elevate your salad!

By Lisa Lillien
Lisa Lillien is a New York Times bestselling author and the creator of Hungry Girl, where she shares healthy recipes and realistic tips and tricks.