Updated: Feb 16, 2022
I often hear many people say salads don’t fill them up - and rightly so! Lettuce, tomato, cucumber and carrot is not a meal by any means, and will not leave you feeling satisfied! Salads can be a meal, you just have to build it right! They don’t have to be bland and boring, they can be delicious, full of flavour and leave you full for hours. Gone are the days where you dread having your “healthy salad” for lunch and end up buying a sausage roll 5 minutes later. Here is a guide to make a filling, balanced and healthy salad. (These are just some suggestions, feel free to swap and change with your own choices)
1. Pick your favourite base.
Dark leafy greens are more flavoursome an have more nutrients compared to iceberg lettuce (which is watery and bland in my opinion).
Tip: Chop the leaves very finely, the salad tastes better and you end up eating more greens this way.
2. Pick a protein
It is important to include a serve of protein in your salad. Protein is satiating, meaning it helps you to stay fuller for longer. It also helps with muscle grown and repair, so its very important after a workout. Adding protein is an integral part of turning a salad from a side dish into a meal.
3. Pick a carbohydrate
Opt for complex, low GI sources of carbohydrates. Complex carbs are slow releasing, meaning you will have sustained energy throughout the day. Additionally, low GI carbohydrates are often higher in fibre content, which helps you to stay fuller for longer.
4. Pick at least 3 veggies
Picking different veggies adds variety of different nutrients and flavours. For example, tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, while broccoli is a great source of vitamin K. Adding more variety can increase the nutritional content of your meal. Having variety is also important for gut our health. Research shows that individuals who eat 30 different plant based foods per week tend to have more diverse populations of microbes in their gut.  Having a diverse microbiome profile is important. The “good” bacteria in our gut play a role in metabolism, immune function, synthesis of enzymes and much more. Comment if you’d like a more detailed post about gut health and the role of the gut microbiota.
5. Pick 1-2 serves of healthy fats.
Adding healthy fats to your salad gives it flavour, richness, creaminess and makes your salad filling. Heart healthy fats from avocado, nuts and seeds help to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase your “good” HDL cholesterol. Hemp seeds are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and assist with heart and joint health. It’s important to make sure you are getting adequate amount of omega 3 every day and sprinkling some on top of your salad is an easy way to do so. Nuts and seeds are also a good source of protein, Vitamin E, magnesium, B vitamins, copper and selenium.
6. Add some extra flavour.
Finely chopped herbs are a great way to add flavour into your salads, as is citrus fruits like lemon and lime. A spoonful of hummus on top of your salad is also great option, not only does it give it lots of flavour and creaminess, it also contributes to the protein content. Red onion, spring onion and chilli are also great options for adding flavour.
7. Add a dressing
Choose your favourite dressing for your salad. Opt for home made ones over store brought if you can. Store bought dressings tend to be high in salt, sugar and fats. It’s quick and simple to make dressings at home, you can control what is going in, and its also cheaper. My go to is balsamic vinaigrette. I mix some EVOO with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and a dash of salt.
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Disclaimer: The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek the advice of your dietitian of GP.
1. McDonald D, Hyde E, Debelius JW, Morton JT, Gonzalez A, Ackermann G, et al. American Gut: An Open Platform for Citizen Science Microbiome Research. mSystems. 2018;3(3):e00031-18.
Copyright: 2021 Melissa D'Elia. Sprout Nutrition & Dietetics.