Salad 101: How to Never Make a Bad Salad Again

Salad 101: How to Never Make a Bad Salad Again

Why you should care

Salads don’t have to be lame; we explore how to make ones you’d actually enjoy eating.

Just a bunch of greens with dressing spritzed on them, right?  Nope. Learn the tricks to making a mouth-watering salad that’s anything but “just”.

Salads may never be pizza, but they definitely have a worse rep than they deserve. They can be a reasonably tasty and definitely healthy addition to your diet with the right tips and tricks.

Choose Your Greens

There are 3 factors that will affect your choices here – look at your priorities.

vegetable leaves


Leafy veggies are rich in fibre, calcium, iron, and vitamins. Darker coloured, ‘open leaf’ vegetables contain more antioxidants and nutrients than their lighter counterparts – kale, spinach, and Swiss chard lead the pack here with romaine and radicchio lettuce faring relatively well.

Iceberg lettuce pales in comparison but it does contain a whopping 96% of water, making it ideal for those who need the hydration.


Cabbage, romaine, radicchio, and iceberg lettuce give your salads a delectable crunch while butterhead, mesclun (a mix of young greens), and spinach are tender and smooth. Kale, chard, and collard greens can be ‘hard’, but you can remedy this by boiling or kneading them in a little olive oil and vinegar.

Delicate greens are best served with lighter dressings such as a vinaigrette or plain oil, while their crisp brethren are able to withstand thicker dressings.


Iceberg lettuce, regular lettuce, escarole, kale, and butterhead are mild in taste unlike other greens which can be bitter or peppery. The bitter and peppery ones (like arugula) do well with additional dressing to mask their flavour.

Regardless of what you buy, avoid leaf vegetables that are wilted, yellowing, or have brown spots. You can also mix and match for a greatest hits version, but this means buying several types – keep in mind that salad leaves don’t have a long shelf life.

Wash, Dry, and Store Your Greens

rinse vegetables

Salad leaves can start going bad on day 1 without a proper pre-game regime like this one:

Step 1

De-stem or separate your leaves before washing them. This ensures that dirt doesn’t stay trapped between layers.

Step 2

Pat your leaves dry with paper towels. This is very important! Excess moisture can lead to early wilting and prevents your dressing from sticking to your greens. It’s especially crucial if you’re making a chopped salad. You don’t want a soggy mess.

Pro-tip: If you eat salads regularly, invest in a salad spinner which both rinses and drains your vegetables beautifully. You can get a relatively affordable spinner from Ikea.

salad spinner


Step 3

Wrap your leaves in paper towels or leave them in the spinner. Then place them in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. Stored this way, your greens can retain their freshness for a good 7 – 10 days.

Chop Your Greens

How do restaurants get all those delicious flavours in each mouthful? Chopping gives you perfectly proportional pieces, allowing the dressing to coat each morsel.

Some shrinkage from dressing and chopping is to be expected, so pile your bowl high.

Salad Components

salad ingredientsIt’s time to add more nutrition, texture, and taste to the mix! Here’s how you can turn your salad into a well-rounded meal.

More Vegetables

Once you’ve chosen your main green, add 5 or 6 other veggies for a well-rounded salad. Keep your dressing and ingredients in mind: you want to balance the savoury, sweet, and salty flavours for an ideal taste profile.

Popular additions are carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes, radish, jicama, olives, and red onion which add contrasting colours to the mix – because we also eat with our eyes! Meanwhile, sweet potato, pumpkin, and eggplant add bulk and fibre to keep you satiated.


Give your salad a healthy dose of protein without unnecessary calories. Opt for grilled chicken or salmon, canned tuna (in light oil or water), tofu, hard boiled eggs, black beans, mushrooms, and low fat feta or cottage cheese.


These are the little things that add an extra bit of flavour and texture to your salad. Don’t be afraid to experiment here!

Toss in a handful of orange slices, pears, berries, or raisins for a hint of sweetness. Nuts also make a great addition – sprinkle some pecans, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, or almond slivers to take your salad to the next level. If you can’t do without the extra crunch – toast your croutons or use baked chips instead. You can also use non-sugary, high fibre cereal as a substitute.

colourful salad

Balance the sweetness with some saltiness – throw in lightly salted nuts, some grated parmesan or mozzarella, or even bacon bits. The key word – again – is moderation.


This is where many people trip up – a single serving of rich, creamy dressing can contain up to 200 calories. That’s a whole grilled cheese sandwich! No, don’t do it.

You don’t have to do without as there are plenty of low calorie dressings available at the supermarket. Always read the labels and remember that a moderate size salad will need about 2 -3 tablespoons of dressing. Alternatively, opt for light dressings such as lemon juice, salsa, light oils and vinegar, or swap the cream for a yummy yoghurt-based choice.


Why you should care

Salads don’t have to be lame; we explore how to make ones you’d actually enjoy eating.

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