Salads are a great way to eat healthier, but they don’t have to be boring. Our printable infographic shows 50 creative ways to enjoy tasty salads, plus we’ll teach you how to make simple, homemade dressings.
To kick off the new year and healthy eating, we’re featuring fun, creative ways to #eatmoreveggies all month long. Last week, we turned veggies into fritters for a meal or snack that everyone will enjoy. The week before that, we kicked off the first idea for this series: noodle-fy your veggies.
This week’s idea: salads for every season!
When people think of adding more greens and veggies to their meals, the first thing that comes to mind is salad. It’s easy to throw together, you can use whatever is in your fridge or pantry, and it requires no cooking.
But after many side salads and bottled dressings, you either run out of ideas or get bored with eating a bunch of raw veggies.
So today, we’re going to make your salads tastier and healthier by 1) teaching you how to make your own vinaigrette at home, and 2) providing you with a printable list of salads that you can enjoy all year round.
With 5 basic homemade salad dressings and 50 salad ideas for every season (infographic below), you will never get tired of the salad course again.
Types of Salads
First, a quick overview of the different types of veggie salads. (And for the record, they don’t always have to be raw!)
- Garden salad – made of leafy greens and tossed with chopped veggies, fruits, herbs, beans, seeds, and / or nuts
- Vegetable salad – composed of raw or cooked veggies other than leafy greens (such as cauliflower, cucumbers, or mushrooms) and tossed with other veggies, fruits, herbs, beans, seeds, and / or nuts
- Bound salad – held together with a thick sauce so that it can be scooped and will hold it’s shape. (Think: potato or tuna salad)
Each of these salads can be dressed with some kind of vinaigrette or dressing, which helps add flavor to the entire dish.
Components of a Salad
To simplify these salads, we break them down into 3 main components – the base vegetables, the toppings, and the dressing. Here’s the rundown on each component:
1. The Base Veggies
These veggies are the foundation of the salad. They’re the main part and there’s a larger amount of these ingredients than the other parts of the salad. Popular base veggies are:
- Lettuce – iceberg, romaine, green leaf, red leaf, butter (or sometimes called Boston or bibb)
- Baby spinach
- Kale – dino / lacinato, baby, curly
- Arugula and dandelion greens
- Mixed greens – a mix of young salad leaves including baby spinach, arugula, frisee, radicchio, leaf lettuce
- Cabbage – red, green, Napa, savoy
- Chunky veggies, like cauliflower, broccoli, and various root vegetables
You can mix and match these base veggies for a bunch of different tastes and textures. Try different base veggies for your salad to determine what you like or don’t like. For example, if you find arugula too bitter and peppery, but like the bite, mix it with baby spinach to add some sweetness.
2. Veggie Toppings
This is the fun part. You can add whatever kind of veggies, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, cheese, and herbs that you like to your salad. Anything goes! Here are some things to consider when creating your salad:
- Buy and eat seasonally – Fresh produce tastes the best (and is less expensive) when they are in season. Use our Veggies by Month and Fruits by Month charts to determine what veggies are in season and your salads will have the best and freshest flavor.
- Add different textures and tastes – A balance of these is pleasing to the palate, such as a combination of sweet, salty, tangy with ingredients that are tender and have crunch.
- Look through your fridge and pantry – This is a great way to use leftovers and save money. Jarred and canned goods like olives, artichoke hearts, and roasted red peppers are delicious salad ingredients. Frozen veggies, such as corn and edamame can be quickly microwaved and added to salads too.
3. Salad Dressings
We talked about salad dressings and 3 Ways to Make Salads an Even Healthier Part of Your Life last year, so we’ll keep this short and simple.
The main point we’re trying to get across: Forget about bottled dressings! Not only are bottled dressings filled with ingredients you can’t pronounce and are generally not very healthy, they also take up fridge space, and you have to worry about using them before they expire.
Making your own vinaigrette is very easy, and you can adjust the taste according to your personal preferences. If you like it more tangy, you can add more vinegar. Sweeter, add a touch of maple syrup.
Here’s our video on how to make your own personal, healthy vinaigrette:
How to Make a Vinaigrette
Vinaigrettes are a wonderful way to dress up not just salads, but proteins and vegetables too, and they're very easy to make.
There are many different types of salad dressings out there, such as ranch, Italian, French, honey-mustard, Thousand Island…but we’re going to separate it into two basic categories:
Made with a vinegar or something acidic, a sweetener, Dijon mustard (as a binder), oil, and salt and pepper. By adding different types of these ingredients, you can make a ton of vinaigrettes. Here are some of our favorites:
- Vinegar – balsamic, red wine, sherry, apple cider, rice. Or do a fruit-based vinaigrette by using citrus juice instead – lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit.
- Sweetener – brown and granulated sugars, maple syrup, honey, Stevia, jam or jelly
- Oil – grapeseed, avocado, olive, sesame, canola or cooking oil
And just like your salad ingredients, feel free to mix and match! Use a combination of balsamic and apple cider for a balsamic-apple cider vinaigrette. Or use grapeseed oil for a mild taste, but a touch of sesame oil to add nutty fragrance to your Asian-inspired salad.
Flavor tip: Add aromatics to vinaigrettes, such as shallots or garlic, for more flavor.
Usually made with a lot of mayo, sour cream, or buttermilk, but we prefer the healthier route by using yogurt instead. Our favorite combination is yogurt, something acidic, a bit of oil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, and for a little punch, minced garlic.
Creamy salad dressing is so easy to make, you won’t miss that heavy, bottled stuff anymore!
For the infographic below – which you can download and print for free! – we came up with 5 tasty and different salad dressings that you can use year-round, but treat them as basic recipes. Get creative and tweak them to make your salad outstanding, whether it is by adding spices or fresh herbs.
This chart also includes 50 of our favorite salads, so that you can consult it whenever you want to make a tasty and healthy salad.
Our infographic makes it easy to see the best kinds of salads to enjoy each season, since using fresh and in-season ingredients is always the tastiest way to enjoy produce.
Try roasting root veggies in the fall for a balance of sweet and hearty flavors. Brighten up winter salads with citrus fruits and crunchy vegetables. Make the most of spring produce by keeping salads light and simple. In the summer, the best kinds of salads are those that are refreshing and can also be a main course.
We hope this post has encouraged you to add more variety to your salads and also to get creative with combining different tastes and textures. It’s such a healthy way to #eatmoreveggies, and you can enjoy them all year!
If you want your dinners to be healthy, full of veggies, and stress-free, we’d love for you to check out our meal plan service. We also have creative salad ideas on our menus all year long! And if you’re looking for more helpful cooking resources and tips to help you cook smarter, sign up for our newsletter below, and you’ll receive all our best cooking info right in your inbox.