Salads are the most versatile of meals.  They can be small and eaten as an appetizer, or they can be eaten as a main meal.  They can be eaten as a dessert when filled with a selection of fruits and sweet veggies, or used as a filling for wraps.

While many of us associate the word "salad" with "healthy," in the standard American diet, the opposite has become much more typical.  Healthy salads quickly turn into unhealthy, high fat, dense foods that rob us of our energy and degrade our health.  Let's talk about what the main ingredients of a healthy salad should be and what to avoid completely.  Then, we'll check out some exciting combinations of foods and flavors we can create.

What salads should have...

Salads should always have a main base (75%) of either fruits or vegetables that are less dense and high in water content.  These whole foods not only digest much quicker in our bodies, but because they are high in water content, they naturally hydrate the cells and tissues of our bodies.
High in water content
(Lighter, less dense foods)
Low in water content
(Heavier, more dense foods)
  • Greens (lettuce, kale, Swiss chard)
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Tomato
  • Carrots
  • Sprouts
  • Onion
  • Bell peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet corn
  • Jicama
  • Avocado
  • Root veggies (potatoes, beets, yams, parsnips, turnips)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Winter Squash (butternut, acorn)
  • Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
  • Grains (rice, wheat berries)
  • Pseudo grains (quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth)
  • Animal products* (meat, eggs, dairy)

What to avoid...

Avoid refined food of any kind.  Let's take a look at a few examples:
  • Soy Products
    The only soy that should ever make its way into your mouth is non-GMO whole soybeans (also known as edamame).  Processed soy meat and soy derivatives are now found in most packaged foods and is the main item in many vegetarian and vegan foods.  There is nothing healthy about processed soy.  Nix it from your diet completely.

  • Liquid Oils
    Liquid oils are a 100% fat fractionated product.  If you often use olive oil, coconut oil, flax seed oil, avocado oil, or other oils, nix them in favor of getting your fats from whole foods instead (avocado instead of avocado oil; flax seeds instead of flax seed oil, olives instead of olive oil).

    If you use liquid oils, use them in very small quantities (no more than 1 tsp. for an individual portion) and aim for:
    - Unrefined / cold pressed
    - Non-GMO
    - Nut or seed oils (olive, coconut, avocado, walnut, flax seed, hemp, pistachio, etc.)

  • Factory-farmed Animal Products*
    If you include animal products in your diet, always make sure your dairy is unpasteurized and that your eggs, meat, and dairy come from organic and pasture-raised animals.  Seafood should be wild-caught, not farmed.  Limit portions to 2-3 times each week at most.  By choosing organic and pasture-raised, you help make sure that you avoid purchasing any "factory-farmed" meat.  If you are not familiar with what factory-farmed meat is and why you should stay away from it, read the following articles:

    Why you should avoid factory-farmed meat & dairy...
    How to make responsible & safe meat purchasing decisions... 
    Making safe seafood decisions... 
    Raw vs. pasteurized dairy:  A big difference...

  • Unnatural Ingredients
    Always aim for whole food ingredients that come from nature.  If you are including anything from a package, pay very close attention to the ingredient list.  If you see chemicals such as flavorings, colorings, artificial preservatives, or something you don't recognize as healthy, then put it back on the shelf and don't look back.

A word about salad dressings...

When it comes to salad dressings, ditch the packaged dressings and make your own instead.  Why?  Because most commercial dressings contain processed sugar, high sodium content, and a concoction of food colorings, flavorings, and other chemicals that are very unhealthy.  
Experiment with the following combinations of ingredients:
  • Citrus juice and/or rind (lemon, lime, orange...)
  • Herbs & Seasonings (sea salt, cracked pepper, oregano, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, sage, turmeric...)
  • Vinegar (balsamic, white, apple cider, red wine...)
  • Natural sweeteners (honey, coconut sugar, sucanat...)
  • Tomato paste
  • Garlic / onion / shallots
  • Mustard
  • Ginger
  • Nutritional yeast (for a cheese flavor)
  • Liquid oils* (olive, avocado, grapeseed, coconut, walnut, pecan...)
If you choose to use oil, choose a high quality, healthy oil and use it in VERY small quantities (see above, in "what to avoid").
One More Thing

Make sure your produce is ripe when you eat it, or it will be lower in nutritional value and more difficult for your body to digest.  Wherever possible, choose organic produce over conventional.  Here's why...

Fun Combo Ideas

When it comes to making a salad, have fun mixing and matching your favorite veggies together.  Mixing in fruits and dried fruits and trying different combinations of herbs and spices is a great way to make a salad more flavorful and tasty.  Experiment and see what tantalizes your taste buds!