A Nutritionist’s Guide To Healthy Salads
A Nutritionist’s Guide To Healthy Salads

A Nutritionist’s Guide To Healthy Salads

If you find healthy salads boring, we’re here to prove that with the right ingredients and a decent dressing, they can be nutritious and delicious. From store-cupboard essentials to topping ideas, we asked three nutritionists for some inspiration…
By Tor West

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Make It Balanced

“The key to a well-balanced, healthy salad is getting a good mix of fibre, protein and healthy fats. Start with the base of your salad – spinach, rocket, cucumber, green beans, cherry tomatoes, cabbage and kale are all nutrient-dense options – and then choose your protein. This can be animal protein such as chicken, prawns or halloumi, or plant-based protein like lentils, chickpeas, tofu or edamame beans. A source of complex carbohydrates is also essential, especially if you are active. You can’t go wrong with brown rice or quinoa. Healthy fats will also keep you full and satiated – fats could be part of your dressing, or you can add them directly to the salad in the form of avocado or nuts and seeds.” – Reema Patel, registered dietitian for Dietitian Fit & Co

Get Creative With The Base

“We’re all guilty of buying a bag of lettuce and using it for a salad, but just using one type of lettuce won’t deliver decent levels of nutrients, fibre and goodness. You can stick with your lettuce, but add in a variety of colourful leaves, finely sliced red cabbage, grated carrot, sliced spring onions, pomegranate seeds and sauerkraut. These are all fantastic options that will bolster your salad in terms of nutrients and flavour – and will also make it more filling.” – Alice Mackintosh, nutritionist & co-founder of Equi

Be Mindful Of The Fat Content

“Healthy fats are essential, but there can be too much of a good thing. Adding too many fat sources, such as cheese as well as nuts, avocado and a rich salad dressing can take away some of the overall balance. My favourite way to add fats to a salad is a handful of crushed walnuts and a simple dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and mustard.” – Reema 

Make Your Own Dressing

“Shop-bought dressings often use poor quality oils, processed ingredients and sugar, and have the ability to make or break a salad. Consider making your own dressing – use extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil as your base and add in mustard, vinegar and lemon to flavour. Greek yoghurt is a great addition to make it creamy, while a teaspoon of honey can sweeten. If caesar salad is your thing, look for healthy ways to make it – Deliciously Ella has some inventive and flavoursome ideas using nuts, seeds and nutritional yeast, and the Goop website is a great resource for recipes.” – Alice 

Consider making your OWN dressing – use extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil as your BASE and ADD in mustard, vinegar and lemon.

Stock Your Cupboards

“Having the right ingredients on hand helps. Good4U’s seed toppers are a great way to add crunch as well as protein, healthy fats and minerals such as magnesium, calcium and selenium. Merchant Gourmet ready-to-eat grains are also a must – they are perfect when you need a quick option for grains or legumes.” – Alice 

Make Healthy Versions Of Your Favourites

“You can’t beat a healthy slaw in the summer months, but shop-bought coleslaw is far from a nutritious option. Try grating apple, red onion and carrots, and combine with finely diced red cabbage. Make a dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard, greek yoghurt and a generous tablespoon of Hunter & Gather avocado mayo.” – Alice 

Think Outside The Box

“It’s so easy to get into a rut when it comes to salads – we often default to the same vegetables, protein and toppings. With summer approaching, consider adding in vegetables that you may not typically use – seasonal blanched asparagus, beetroot and radishes are great options. If you’re low on protein, bump things up with a tin of beans or lentils, which also provide fibre. Adding fresh fruit also works well in warmer weather – chopped mango works particularly well and adds sweetness and flavour.” – Reema 

Go Greek

“A greek salad is the ultimate nutrient-dense option. Make yours with cucumber, cherry tomatoes, olives, feta, fresh mint and top with a dressing made with lemon juice, olive oil and oregano. To boost the protein here, add tinned tuna or cooked prawns. For something different, try combining a tin of mixed beans with blanched asparagus tips, cooked peas and red pepper. Top with grilled halloumi and drizzle with a balsamic dressing.” – Reema 

Ready-to-eat GRAINS are a store-cupboard ESSENTIAL for a dose of healthy carbs, protein and fibre.

Be Generous With Portion Sizes

“So many of us assume a salad has to be small and low calorie, but a common mistake is making a salad too small and feeling hungry immediately afterwards. Don’t be afraid to add lots of colourful vegetables and complex carbs. Adding herbs is a simple way to add flavour and nutrients – think parsley, mint, basil or even coriander for an Asian twist.” – Hannah Norris, registered associate nutritionist & Omnos partnerships manager

Be Careful With Pasta Salad

“There’s nothing wrong with pasta, but pasta salad is essentially just pasta, not a salad. If you are having a pasta salad, add a source of protein – such as chicken, prawns or falafel – to keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the afternoon.” – Hannah 

Buy A Shop-Bought Salad

“If you’re out and about, and don’t have time to make your own salad, head to Pure, The Detox Kitchen or Crussh. If Pret is your only option, the salmon and mango salad is a good choice, as is the tuna niçoise and smoked salmon protein box. I sometimes combine one of these with a Pret soup to ensure I’m getting enough veg into one meal. M&S also makes it super easy to ensure you’re getting a good balance of the right food groups – try mixing and matching a couple of their smaller snack-sized salads. Tyme and MunchFit also do great salads that can be delivered to your door for the week ahead.” – Alice 

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For more information, head to EquiLondon.com, DietitianFit.co.uk & Omnos.me


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