Building a Healthier Salad

Building a Healthier Salad

Photo by Kyle Edwards

Salads sound healthy. But get this: Some have more calories than a double cheeseburger from a fast food joint. With a little know-how, however, you can build a healthy yet delicious salad. Here are the basics.

• Use a variety of lettuce, vegetables and fruits. The more variety, the better the nutrition, textures and flavors.

• Go over the rainbow. Colors add not only visual appeal, but also different nutrients. Orange veggies like carrots and squash contain carotenoids, while red tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene.

• Roast veggies and fruits. This brings out natural sweetness without adding extra sugar.

• Add protein, but not too much. Watch out for fat and calories when adding meat, cheese or nuts. Use only two to three tablespoons for the whole salad. Try strongly flavored cheeses. Use blue cheese, feta or fresh chevre instead of milder Swiss or cheddar.

• Watch the dressings. Many store-bought creamy dressings have a mayonnaise base and can have upwards of 200 calories and 15 grams fat in only two tablespoons.

• Use less oil. Vinaigrettes can be as fatty as creamy dressings because many use a ratio of three parts oil to one part vinegar. Instead, combine equal parts vinegar and oil, then add fresh herbs, a little bit of honey or fruit juices (to balance acidity without adding fat) and a touch of mustard.

• Experiment with infused vinegars and oils. This adds flavor without additional calories.

Chickpea, Kale, Spinach and Roasted Grape Salad

Makes 6 servings

2 cups seedless red grapes

2 tablespoons balsamic or fig-infused balsamic vinegar, divided

5 ounces baby spinach, divided

5 ounces baby kale, divided

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, preferably low-sodium, rinsed and drained

1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced

½ small red onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon sea salt

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Toss grapes with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until shriveled and slightly caramelized. Let cool, then slice larger grapes in half.

3. Roughly chop half the spinach and half the kale. Mix together chopped spinach and kale in one large bowl, then toss together remaining spinach and kale in another bowl. In the bowl with the chopped greens, add chickpeas, red bell pepper, red onions and roasted grapes.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, garlic, mustard, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper and sea salt. Pour over salad and toss together.

5. To serve, divide remaining kale and spinach among six plates. Place 1 cup salad on top of bed of greens. If using feta, crumble ½ ounce over each salad.


A serving is 1 cup salad and 1 cup greens: Calories: 205; Fat: 6 g; Sat. Fat: 1 g; Trans Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 345 mg; Carbohydrates: 35 g; Sugar: 12 g; Fiber: 6 g and Protein: 6 g.

½ oz. feta adds: Calories: 20; Fat: 2 g; Sat. Fat: 1 g; Trans Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 8 mg; Sodium: 185 mg; Carbohydrates: 0.5 g; Sugars: 0 g, and Protein: 3 g.

Originally Published in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue