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Nutrition Expert Joy Bauer Shares How to Make a Healthy Salad That Satisfies

Follow these five simple steps to whip up the perfect salad that is both delicious and filling.

Headshot of Joy Bauer, MS, RDBy Joy Bauer, MS, RD
salad bowl
Larissa Veronesi//Getty Images

Maybe your lunchtime salad has seemed less wow-worthy and more womp, womp lately — or your stomach is still rumbling after you devour it. Or maybe it's yummy but you know in your heart that it's loaded with diet saboteurs (bacon bits, tons of cheese). A healthy salad has the potential to fill you up and energize you throughout the afternoon — if you build it right. Follow these easy steps, and you'll find a nutritious sweet spot packed with flavor.


Lay a Healthy Foundation

leafy greens for salad
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Using a variety of greens provides a range of important nutrients. Swiss chard, lettuce, kale, spinach, and endive all offer a long list of vitamins and minerals. Aim for 2 cups total — that adds up to only about 20 calories.


Pile On Veggies

colorful vegetables for salad
Mohd Hafiez Mohd Razali / EyeEm//Getty Images

Get creative! Think carrots, celery, artichoke hearts, green beans, or Brussels sprouts. At the salad bar, limit vegetables that look shiny (a sign that they're coated in oil).


Boost the Protein

grilled salmon salad
Burcu Atalay Tankut//Getty Images

If you usually finish a healthy salad for lunch but are hungry enough to dig into stale cookies by 3 p.m., add more protein. It takes salad from a side dish to a meal because it's slow to digest, keeping you full longer. Chicken is a no-brainer, but some of my other favorites are hard-boiled eggs, shrimp, wild salmon, tofu, chickpeas and other beans, and edamame.

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Enjoy a Little "Extra"

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Add something you're craving (like creamy guac, crunchy croutons, or sweet sliced strawberries) — but stick to about 1 small scoop or 2 Tbsp of it.


Dress It Up!

joy bauer cilantro salad dressing
Mike Garten/Studio D

Instead of store-bought dressing, make your own slimming version at home whenever you can. Try my super-easy, delicious recipe!

Cilantro-Lime Dressing
1 cup plain low-fat kefir or Greek yogurt
¼ to ½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp lime juice
Kosher salt and pepper
Herbs to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together kefir or yogurt, cilantro, lime juice, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Add extra herbs if desired. Makes about 1 cup.

Per tablespoon: 5 cal, 0 g fat (0 g sat), 1 g pro, 35 mg sodium,
1 g carb, 0 g fiber

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