5 Easy Ways to Make Gorgeous and Delicious Complete-Meal Salads
Do you think making a salad or eating it is a chore? What if it could be the most delicious thing you eat all day?
I wonder if you’ve ever had this attitude: “If there’s a bit of salad on the side of my plate, I’m covered.” I’m going to challenge that, too!
How to Make Delicious Salads the Healthy Way
In this article:
- Nutritious Whole Meal Salads
- 5 Easy Ways to Make Salads Healthy, Gorgeous and Delicious
- Changing to a Plant-Based Diet
- 6 Tips for Making QUICK Complete-Meal Salads
- Complete-Meal Salad Recipes
Nutritious Whole Meal Salads
One of the most life-changing shifts I made, away from my toxic Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods lifestyle I actually love (and never feel “deprived”)…
…was learning to make a salad a complete meal, and a PARTY.
I completely changed my attitude about salads—and I’ve helped thousands of others do the same.
Salads that make your mouth water. Salads that are colorful, and have a lot of variety. Salads that cover a lot of nutritional bases. Fiber, micronutrients, healthy fats.
Know Just What to Toss In
Let me show you how to put foods you’ve been meaning to get more of, in your diet—but you haven’t found a way to get them to make a common appearance.
The Ultimate Complete Meal
Salads that are a fabulous main dish. (Might even be the only dish.) You think I’m over-promising, here? Stay with me.
Making a commitment to complete-meal salads doesn’t have to be a chore. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming. And it certainly doesn’t have to be boring and bland, to make a salad the star of the meal.
Leave Out the Bad Stuff
I’m always asked to bring a salad to the family, church, or tennis team party. And I don’t think it’s just because I’m notoriously the “health nut.”
I think it’s because I just make a mean salad—no bacon, croutons, or dairy products required.
And over the years, I’ve learned five amazing tips to make a salad that isn’t just the recipe everyone asks for. (Take copies of my salad recipes to the party—people will ask!) These are also complete -meal salads, even for your whole family, including your picky eaters.
Leaning Away from a Meat-Based Diet
If you were raised with the “main dish” being chicken, steak, or pork, remember, that’s all just conditioning. It doesn’t have to be so.
It’s now clear, from nutrition research, that eating more plants is the #1 key to ideal weight, plenty of energy, and resistance to disease. That’s the conclusion of Yale University’s meta-study reviewing 10,000 pieces of published research, over 10 years. Many things, in nutrition, are controversial, but this is not:
Eating plants prevents disease.
Looking for Healthy Salad Recipes?
So, salads are available in virtually every restaurant, so you’re covered when you travel or don’t eat at home. And you can actually request, in most eating establishments, many of the ingredients added to the restaurant salad, in these amazing 5 Fabulous Complete-Meal Salads and Dressings eBook recipes.
(You can channel your inner Meg Ryan, in When Harry Met Sally with or without the fake orgasm. Just look at other items on the menu for clues about what they have. Most servers want to earn their tip, and they’ll get the kitchen to oblige!)
Meat vs Vegetables
When you eat meat for dinner, your body has to work, most of the night, to digest it. (It takes many hours to digest animal products.) When you eat salad for dinner, especially, digestion is complete within 2 hours. Take note of how much better you sleep!
Here’s what to toss on top of a plate of thin-sliced cabbage, spring greens, spinach, butter lettuce, or romaine.
5 Easy Ways to Make Salads Healthy, Gorgeous and Delicious
You know to buy organic.
You know to toss in cabbage, and spring greens, romaine for crunch, butter lettuce for a softer mouth-feel.
Some arugula for a “kick.”
But these are “must-haves” on top of the greens, for a complete meal that lasts you till bedtime. Vegetables, legumes, and grains digest in less than 4 hours, whereas animal products take 8 hours or more, causing your body to “work” all night.
Add these foods for satiety, for nutrient density, and for a much more restorative night’s sleep:
1. Add Some Kind of Fruit
Make it something you like. My favorites are berries. Blueberries top every list of superfoods, for nutrient density and disease prevention, and they happen to be brilliant on a salad. But don’t forget raspberries, blackberries, or sliced strawberries.
The seeds of a pomegranate are available in the winter, and nowadays, often you don’t have to do the work of breaking the fruit open—often you can buy a small tub of these brilliantly-hued little superfoods that famously protect against urinary tract infections. They add flavor, but they also add color to your complete-meal salads!
2. Add Some Kind of Nuts or Seeds
This step not only adds crunch, but virtually all seeds and nuts contain the best kinds of fats. Fats help you absorb the minerals in greens, better, and so they’re a great food combination.
I especially love the green-white of pumpkin seeds on a bed of greens—and walnuts…sliced or toasted or even candied almonds…or salty pistachios add a lot of flavor, requiring less dressing.
3. Add Some Legumes
Most Americans eat very few split peas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and other legumes in their diet, whereas in the Mediterranean diet, well-documented to be the healthiest diet on the planet, they’re a staple.
I like to pressure-cook large batches, and then, when they’re cooled, freeze them in baggies. This way, I can leave them on the counter in the morning, and by dinnertime, they’re thawed and ready to sprinkle on a salad.
Choose Low Sodium Beans
Canned beans are convenient, while more expensive, and sometimes you can buy no-sodium or low-sodium organic versions that you can still feel good about feeding your family.
Rinse canned beans well, to eliminate some of the salt, if you can’t find low-sodium or “no salt added.” Besides this being a way to get more legumes in your diet, it makes salad a complete meal that will last you until bedtime.
Rich in Fiber
They’re high in fiber, as well, and fiber deficiency is one of the biggest problems with the Standard American Diet. While beans on salads are more familiar, split peas and any variety of lentils are some of the most nutritious of the legume family.
4. Add Some Cooked Whole Grains or Pasta
Nowadays, you can find organic, whole-grain orzo pasta, which is perfect for salad, and no one will know it’s not rice!
Organic wild and brown rice add bulk and fiber to “salad-as-a-meal,” and couscous, quinoa, cracked wheat, and bulgur add a “chewy” texture to round out the “crunch” of nuts and seeds.
As with legumes, you can cook up a large batch, and freeze one-cup portions in baggies, to add to future salads.
5. Use an Amazing Homemade Dressing
Prepared salad dressings have a lot of junk ingredients, including refined oils, refined salt, refined sugars, and preservatives.
If you don’t know how to make easy and quick, flavorful dressings, don’t worry. I do, and I’ll share!
Better than Commercial Dressings
I’ve got the most delicious dressing recipes that substitute for the commercial dressings, in just about every dressing type you like.
Both refrigerated and shelf dressings are high in toxic, rancid fats, refined salts and sugars, and even the neurotoxin monosodium glutamate that manufacturers now hide in many seasoning ingredients.
Salad Dressing for Your Health and Taste Buds
My dressings use the freshest, most delicious, high-nutrition ingredients. And because they’re so zippy and flavorful, you need very little to make your salad taste amazing.
When you’ve tried even a couple of my magic dressing recipes, you’ll never buy commercial dressings again. My secrets are to use only the finest, cold-pressed oils, herbs and seasonings that are superfoods rather than just “flavoring” and citrus juices are magical additions.
The Right Combination of Flavors
My secret, amazing dressings combine the salty, sweet, sour, and bitter in the perfect proportions. Some are creamy, some are vinaigrettes, and some use little or no oil at all. I even give you suggestions for perfect salad + dressing pairings.
At the bottom of this post, you can check out the 5 salads and 5 fresh dressings recipes in my 5 Fabulous Complete-Meal Salads and Dressings eBook. They’re all a snap to make, and dressings can be frozen for later use.
Nutritious Versions of Every Dressing
Just about any dressing you love, I’ve got a healthy version of it! Only healthy ingredients—the fats, sweeteners, and seasonings. You’ll like them better, taste-wise, too, versus high-fat commercial dressings.
I am one of 8 children, and as the oldest, every night for dinner, my job was to make “salad for 10.”
Changing to a Plant-Based Diet
When my grandmother beat cancer with a plant-based diet, my mother was inspired. I was raised eating a 95% plant-based diet, and I’ve raised my own 4 healthy kids to adulthood, the same way.
Enjoying the Lifestyle Change
So that’s how I became a bit of a salad ninja. Nothing about the process is daunting for me—from ideas to shopping, to quick prep, to considering them a complete meal. And finally, to totally enjoying them!
It will be an absolute game changer for you to take on this mindset, and habit—I promise.
So let me share with you 6 tips for “making salad the star” easy and quick. It all starts with mindfulness. When you’ve committed to “more salads this year” as a goal, you’ll start to notice some amazing things available to you, almost anywhere you shop!
6 Tips for Making QUICK Complete-Meal Salads
1. Start Out Simple
Keep an eye out for what’s available, wherever you shop, that simplify your salad making. Don’t be afraid to adopt a recipe. Options are exploding, these days, as more people get interested in being healthier. Let me give you a few examples.
First, I’ve never been one to get out the spiralizer and make zucchini and yellow squash noodles. I absolutely LOVE steamed or sautéed squash noodles, though. I’ll choose them over pasta, at a restaurant.
But as a busy executive and single mom, I confess to being a little bit too lazy for the spiralizer.
Ready-Made Squash Noodles
Just this month, I stopped by a store I don’t often shop at, and they had “Squadoodles!” Noodles made from squash…I was thrilled!
I steamed them lightly, for five minutes, and topped them with organic spaghetti sauce mixed with pesto, and some sliced bell peppers.
You might love tomatoes, and if you do, grab the hot-house grown (almost always pesticide-free) or organic cherry or grape tomatoes at Costco—a party in your mouth!
Lately, I’ve been seeing fresh pomegranate seeds in a cup—all the hard work of tearing that fruit apart, done for you! A pretty addition to your salad, adding a tangy pop, and crunch.
Broccoli isn’t my favorite food but I adore its cousin, the cauliflower. Now I don’t even have to pull apart the head of cauliflower: I can buy a bag of “flowerettes” at Costco, cut the top of the bag off, rinse its contents, and steam the whole batch.
I toss in some cherry tomatoes, whatever sliced veggies I have on hand, and pesto sauce. Voila, lunch!
2. Use Marinated Food
Keep some marinated yummy foods on hand, to toss into your complete-meal salads. I like to keep Costco’s marinated asparagus and artichoke hearts on hand, as well as green and black olives.
Just a handful of any of those makes your salads very flavorful so that you need very little dressing or none.
You Don’t Always Need a Salad Dressing
I used to think that dressings were mandatory, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that all four of my children like salad better with no dressing! Who knew?
Then I tried salad-with-no-dressing myself, and, wow—I loved it when greens are topped with something both healthy and tangy, like raw sauerkraut or marinated carrots.
3. Prepare in Advance
Shred or chop a bunch of vegetables, and refrigerate them in one big container, with a tight-fitting lid. As I was feeding a family of 6, this was a lifesaver for two decades.
Young children do better with shredded vegetables, so I’d use my food processor to shred even the stems of broccoli. The big tub of veggies last a week, and I’d vary the bed of greens for my complete-meal salads.
4. Have Fun with Salad Bars
Present dinner as a salad bar. I’ve done this, many times, with my own family, and even when company’s coming.
Put a small bowl of each raw or steamed veggie, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, sprouts, and marinated yummy things, next to a giant bowl of mixed greens. Then everyone can have the salad they want!
Kids love choice and frankly, we all do. We don’t feel deprived if we get to add more of the things we’re attracted to.
5. Steam the Vegetables
Steam big batches of vegetables you prefer better than the raw version and add them plentifully to your salads.
Many people don’t want to take much time, to eat a plateful of vegetables, steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and beets. But when they’re steamed, you still get a lot of nutrition and bulk, in ways that are very easy to eat.
6. Make Multiple Batches of Dressings
Double-batch your fresh dressings, and freeze half, in a jar. The work is almost the same, for a small batch, or a large batch, so go big.
The recipes last two weeks in the fridge. My recipes that don’t contain fresh produce (such as green onions) last much longer.
Complete-Meal Salad Recipes
- Spinach-Strawberry Salad
- Southwest Salad
- Everyday Salad
- Cabbage Salad
- Craisin Salad
- Basic Salad Dressing with Variations
- Strawberry-Poppy Seed Dressing
- Asian Ginger Dressing
- Avocado Dressing
- Healthy Ranch Dressing
What’s your favorite salad and dressing? Share them in the comments section below!
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on May 9, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.