Build a Better Salad
To help you enjoy your salad more, we’ve put together a guide of popular ingredients. Click one below for its nutritional benefits1,2 and to get delicious recipes.
High in Dietary Fiber, High in Folate
Sweeten up your salad with a crunchy bite of apple! Apples in salads can really bring out the flavors of cheese — different varieties work better with different cheeses. Green Granny Smith apples are a little sour and go great with a sharp cheese, like cheddar. Sweeter apples like Fuji or Gala pair well with pungent cheeses like blue and gorgonzola.
Good Source of Folate, Good Source of Calcium, Excellent Source of Vitamin A, Excellent Source of Vitamin C
Arugula has tender, dark green leaves and an almost peppery taste. Smaller leaves have a milder flavor. Mix arugula with sweet, mild lettuces such as Boston or Bibb. When buying arugula, look for slender leaves that are dark in color.
Good Source of Vitamin A, Good Source of Vitamin C, High in Folate
Asparagus grows in stalks and is purchased in bunches. Look for firm spears with closed, compact tips and eat it as soon as possible. Store asparagus covered in the fridge, upright, standing in about ½ inch of water. It tastes great with cheese and onions.
Low in Saturated Fat, Low in Cholesterol, Contains Nearly 20 Vitamins, Minerals & Phytonutrients
Cool, creamy avocados have a soft texture and smooth taste that contrasts very well with crisp lettuce and veggies. It goes well on salads with seafood or southwestern flavors. When picking your avocados, if the fruit gives a little when you push it with your finger, it’s ripe. If it caves in or doesn’t budge it’s either overly ripe or not yet ready to eat.
Excellent Source of Folate, Low in Sodium, Low in Calories
Beets have a sweet, earthy flavor that pairs well with oranges, grapefruit, goat or feta cheese, mixed greens and a balsamic dressing. Choose beets that are small or medium-sized and firm, with a smooth skin and deep color. Beets damage easily so don’t pick any with spots, bruises or wet areas.
High in Vitamin C, Low in Sodium
Bell peppers come in multiple colors — the most popular are red, green and yellow. Look for bell peppers that are shiny and smooth with no bruising. You can slice them into strips and serve them raw in salads — they taste great with Mediterranean-style ingredients like fresh mozzarella and olives. Just be sure to remove the seeds and stem first!
High in Vitamin C, Low in Sodium
Blueberries are: Good Source of Dietary Fiber, Good Source of Vitamin C
Cranberries are: Good Source of Dietary Fiber, Good Source of Vitamin C
Strawberries are: High in Vitamin C, High in Folate
Raspberries are: High in Vitamin C, High in Fiber
Berries add a sweet and fruity flavor to salads. Blueberries are best fresh, so use them before they become overly ripe. Cranberries are available fresh too but are sweeter dried, which is how they are most often used in salads. Strawberries taste as sweet as they smell but perish easily, so purchase them only a few days before use. Raspberries are tiny but very big in flavor. All berries go great in salads with cheeses, other fruits and nuts. Choose those that are firm, plump, and deep in color.
High in Vitamin C, High in Folate, Good Source of Dietary Fiber, Good Source of Calcium, Good Source of Potassium
Broccoli florets are often sold pre-cut but you can also buy a head and prepare them yourself. Enjoy broccoli in your salad raw or blanched. Blanching preserves the color, texture and flavor. To blanch: Place the broccoli in a pot of boiling water, boil until tender but not fully cooked, and then immediately place in an ice bath.
Excellent Source of Vitamin A, Good Source of Vitamin C
Carrots add a great crunch and bright color to salads. If using whole carrots, peel and cut them into coins, chop them matchstick style, or try shredding them. To save time, choose baby carrots, which are already peeled and ready to eat!
Grapefruit is: High in Vitamin A, High in Vitamin C
Tangerines/Mandarin Oranges are: High in Vitamin C
Citrus fruits like grapefruit and mandarin oranges add a sweet burst of flavor to your salads. Tart and tangy, with an underlying sweetness, grapefruit is extremely juicy. Tangerines and mandarin oranges peel easier than regular oranges, are smaller, and have a sweet, zesty flavor. Choose citrus fruits that are unblemished and heavy for their size.
Good Source of Vitamin C, Sodium Free
Add a burst of flavor with corn! Its sweetness is a great complement to southwestern or Mexican-inspired salads. Corn tastes great in salads with red onions, black beans, and salsa.
Chickpeas are: High in Dietary Fiber, High in Folate
Red Kidney Beans are: High in Dietary Fiber High in Folate, Good Source of Potassium
Black Beans are:
High in Dietary Fiber, High in Folate
Legumes come in many shapes and flavors. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have a deliciously nutty taste and buttery texture. Red kidney beans are large and plump and shaped like a kidney, hence the name. Rich and flavorful, black beans have a velvety texture. Throw any of these in your salads with garlic, tomato, onions, and corn to enhance their flavor.
High in Riboflavin, Good Source of Niacin, Good Source of Copper, Good Source of Pantothenate
Mushrooms come in a number of varieties and typically have a deliciously earthy flavor that offers a wonderful contrast to the crisp, bright flavors of many vegetables. When buying fresh mushrooms, look for ones that are intact and firm. Pass on any that are wrinkled, slimy, ragged, or spotted. Store them in a paper bag in the fridge for up to seven days.
Nuts & Seeds
Almonds and Sunflower Seeds: Low in Cholesterol, Excellent Source of Vitamin E
Peanuts and Hazelnuts: Low in Cholesterol, Good Source of Vitamin E
Pine Nuts: Good Source of Vitamin E, Good Source of Vitamin K
Walnuts:, Low in Cholesterol, Low in Sodium
Pecans: Good Source of Dietary Fiber, Low in Cholesterol
You can find nuts raw, toasted or roasted at most supermarkets. Nuts and seeds are tasty (and crunchy) additions to your favorite salads. For a good source of Vitamin E, try almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pine nuts and sunflower seeds.
Toss into salads or enjoy as a snack on their own. Nuts pair very well with fresh or dried fruit. Buying them in bulk can save you money. Recommended serving size is 1 oz.
Source of Monounsaturated Fats
The rich, sometimes salty taste of olives provides a wonderful contrast to fresh, crisp veggies like cucumbers and peppers. Drain and serve sliced or whole with any type of salad. Olives go especially well with Mediterranean ingredients like roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, and artichokes.
High in Vitamin C, Good Source of Dietary Fiber
The sweeter, gentler varieties of onions, like Vidalia and Red, are an old standby in salads of all kinds. Store them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area, not in the fridge or wrapped in plastic. To further bring out their sweeter side, try caramelizing them.
Excellent Source of Dietary Fiber, Good Source of Vitamin C
To make an elegant salad, layer pears with walnuts and Brie or gorgonzola on a bed of fresh spinach. Any variety will work but Red, Anjou, Bosc and Bartlett are the easiest to find. Leaving the skin will maximize the amount of nutrients you get.
Try them in:
High in Vitamin A, Good Source of Folate
Romaine has a slightly nutty, sweet flavor and pairs well with Bibb lettuce, spinach, watercress, and arugula. Look for crisp, green outer leaves with golden-yellow inner leaves and avoid browned edges.
High in Vitamin A, High in Vitamin C, High in Iron, High in Folate, Good Source of Magnesium
Spinach has small leaves that are green to black-green. The deeper the color, the higher nutritional value, so for the biggest nutritional punch pick crisp, dark leaves when shopping. Avoid those with slimy spots. Spinach’s slight saltiness pairs well with Bibb lettuce, Boston lettuce, and radicchio.
Try them in:
High in Vitamin A, High in Vitamin C, Good Source of Potassium
These sweet vegetables are a big part of most salad recipes! Experiment with different types like plum tomatoes, hot house, or vine-ripened. Grape and cherry tomatoes are sweeter, but easier to prepare (no slicing or cutting necessary). Toss them with onions, Italian dressing, and parmesan cheese for an easy snack or appetizer!
- Fruits & Veggies More Matters. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org
- Gebhardt, S.E., Lemar, L.E., Pehrsson, P.R., Exler, J., Haytowitz, D.B., Patterson, K.K., Nickle, M.S., Thomas, R.G., Showell, B.A., Holden, J.M. 2009. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. http://www.ars.usda.gov/nutrientdata