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How to Build a Better Salad

How to Build a Better Salad

bigstock-Close-Up-Pregnant-Woman-In-Blu-294404002We all know the saying; April showers brings May flowers. Well along with those flowers (and the unfortunate resulting allergies), May brings us National Salad Month. There is no better time than now to seek out local farmers markets, produce stands, and grocery stores to grab ingredients to put together a healthy, filling, and delicious salad. Below you will find some tips and recipes to bulk up your salads that will have the whole family eating those leafy greens all the way into the cooler months ahead.

1. Make your own healthy salad dressing. 

Most store-bought and restaurant salad dressings are filled with tons of sugar and unidentifiable ingredients you can hardly pronounce. Skip the dressing aisle and turn to your kitchen for the ingredients that are most likely already stored in your pantry. Mix and match different oils, vinegars, and other staples such as mustard, honey, shallots, herbs, and spices to really liven up the dressing. Make a big batch of dressing (see below for an easy and healthy recipe) and use the leftovers for marinades and sauces on fish, poultry, and veggies.

2. Add natural sweetness with seasonal fruit. 

Consider scooping up some of Maryland’s most delicious fruits that come in season at the beginning of the summer months. Apricots, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and strawberries all peak in the months of May and June. Top your salads with nature’s candy for a dose of extra antioxidants, fiber, and flavor.

3. Be creative with crunch.

Garnishing salads with a crunchy topping can be a great way to add texture and round out a complete meal. Instead of croutons, throw in chopped nuts or roasted chickpeas. These delicious and nutrient-filled ingredients not only add crunch but they amp up the protein and healthy fat for a filling meal. Store-bought nuts and roasted chickpeas can be convenient options but see the recipe below for an easy, inexpensive, and delicious homemade chickpea crouton recipe.

4. Mix up your greens.

Keep your salads exciting by mixing flavors and textures of various greens. Romaine and iceberg lettuce both deliver a satisfying crunch and mixing these with spinach or kale can add additional nutrients. Tossing in arugula or watercress will give a peppery bite as compared to a mild Bibb lettuce, which is great for lettuce-wrapped tacos and sandwiches! While greens seem to be the choice of many when it comes to the base of a salad, get creative by using roasted veggies, such as squash, zucchini, or even sweet potatoes as the foundation.

5. Bulk it up with grains.

Give your salad staying power by adding in healthy whole grains that pack protein, fiber, and valuable vitamins and minerals. Try batch cooking quinoa, brown rice, farro, bulgur, or spelt and tossing those grains into your salad. Even play around with including leftover whole wheat pasta for a satiating and filling salad that will keep hunger at bay for several hours.

Many local farmers markets and produce stands have just opened their “doors” for the season and have a variety of fresh and local options to give your salads a boost. Celebrate National Salad Month by branching out of your go-to store-bought salad mixes and create your own healthy and nutritious salad with the above tips and below recipes. Get creative and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

Salad Recipes

Simple Vinaigrette Dressing (Makes 5-6 Servings)


  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar (or other vinegar of your choice)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • A turn of freshly ground pepper
  • Optional: 1-2 Tbsp of chopped herbs (dill, basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, or thyme), finely minced garlic, finely chopped shallots, or grated parmesan cheese


  1. Add all of the ingredients to a small mason jar, screw on the lid, and shake until blended. You can also whisk the ingredients together in a bowl or whirl them together in a blender.
  2. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired. Add to salad, toss, and serve.
  3. Refrigerate leftover dressing for use as a sauce or marinade.

Garlic Herb Chickpea Croutons (Makes 3 servings)


  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Pour rinsed and drained chickpeas onto a clean dry kitchen towel or paper towels and rub vigorously until the skins come off. (Not necessary to remove all skins but they taste better if you do)
  2. Combine chickpeas, oil, and seasonings in a large bowl or re-sealable plastic bag. Pour onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until the chickpeas are golden brown and crispy, about 20 to 30 minutes. Stir or shake the baking sheet every 10 minutes.
  3. Cool completely before storing in an air-tight container. Toss on top of salads or eat them alone for a healthy and filling snack.

Summer Power Salad (Makes 1 Serving)


  • 2-3 cups of mixed greens (romaine, spinach, kale, etc.)
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • ½ cucumber, sliced
  • ½ cup fresh sliced strawberries
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ oz. chopped walnuts
  • ½ oz. Garlic Herb Chickpea Croutons (recipe above)
  • ½-1 Tbsp Simple Vinaigrette Dressing (recipe above)

Directions: Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well and serve immediately. Enjoy!