Dear friends, we have more options for making healthy restaurant-style salads at home than ever before! We’ve come so far from the sad iceberg and ranch salads that graced our family dinner tables growing up. Of course, iceberg and ranch have their places (don’t think I’m hatin’), but we have so many options available now – it’s easier than ever to make restaurant-style salads at home.

When you think about making a healthy restaurant-style salad at home, I want you to keep a couple things in mind…

  1. Always consider the nutritional value of what you’re about to eat (because food is fuel and it has to be purposeful) and,
  2. The rainbow. Yes, Roy G. Biv has a place in salad styling. We’ll get to that in just a sec.

How do you know if an ingredient is valuable or not?

While candied nuts, dried fruit, and super sweet dressings may make a salad more attractive initially, we need to strongly consider what those ingredients will add to our day and if they will ultimately inhibit our weight loss (or maintenance). These sugary additions are what we consider “silly foods.” They are okay from time-to-time, but they are meant for fun and not weight loss; They can easily be replaced with something that has nutritional value and tastes every bit as amazing. And, furthermore, iceberg lettuce may be what we are used to (and it does have some nutritional value), but is there a better option? Could we swap it for something tastier and even more nutritive? Most restaurant style salads use a variety of greens. If you are a devoted iceberg or even romaine lover, let me encourage you to try these greens next time you make a restaurant-style salad at home. Let’s take a closer look at what goes into making healthy restaurat-style salads at home.

Five tips for making healthy restaurant-style salads at home:

  1. Vary your greens. One hard and fast way to create a boring salad is to use the same greens all the time (I’m looking at you, iceberg). Next time you’re at the store, pick up a carton of spring mix; romaine; spinach; arugula (one of my favorites) or even a cabbage (purple and green if you’re wild like that) to shred. You can absolutely mix and match greens for a super gourmet salad experience. My favorite is spinach and arugula. The arugula adds a perfect bite. It’s low in calories; high in nutrients and contains some beneficial phytochemicals, too! If you have greens leftover, you can easily toss them in another recipe later on. Greens make a great addition to omelets, cauli-rice dishes, smoothies, meatloaves and more.
  2. Add color – Here’s where Roy G. Biv comes in. When I make a salad, I like to see if I can include one item for each color of the rainbow (I learned this tip from Ilana Muhlstein, creator of the 2B Mindset). I recently took a salad to a party following the Roy G. Biv concept and it was a big hit. My salad included: radishes; carrots; yellow peppers; spinach and arugula; red onion; a Honeycrisp apple and some pecans. I brought along homemade dressing (the best balsamic vinaigrette) that is now one of my staple dressings. As you can see, the majority of this salad is very low in calories and for the higher calorie additions, I didn’t go overboard and included a reasonable amount.
  3. Make healthy swaps – instead of adding candied nuts (which are silly food and just for fun) or dried fruit (which is very high in sugar) try to incorporate something sweet and crunchy in another way. Adding a chopped apple as I did in the recipe above, or a pear is a great idea. You can also add nuts that have been roasted or lightly seasoned/salted for a fun addition – just use them sparingly. They are, again, just for fun and not to make a meal out of. Don’t forget to use this opportunity to up your veggie intake. Mushrooms, carrots, spinach, onions, raw broccoli, cucumber, jicama, and beets are all excellent additions.
  4. Add Protein and/or fibrous carbs – Incorporating protein in your salad can keep you full for hours! Try adding a hard-boiled egg; chopped cooked chicken breast; roasted chickpeas; salmon; tuna; tofu and more to your salads. This will make them your healthy restaurant-style salad more satiating and will up the flavor-factor, too.
  5. Check your dressing – Instead of a sugar dressing – try lemon and olive oil (use an olive oil sprayer to lightly mist your salad and then squeeze lemon on top); look for a low sugar balsamic and dilute with water; use a creamy dressing and dilute with lemon or water. Use a little bit at a time – you need way less than you think. You may also try a tangy dressing (great on Italian salads) of olive oil and white vinegar. The simpler the better!

Now you are ready to make your own healthy restaurant-style salad at home.

Simple, right? If the kitchen isn’t your favorite place to be and this all sounds like too much work for you, don’t worry! Many stores now sell amazing bagged salad kits. They are so great and contain many of the items I mentioned above. Just watch the serving size; dilute the dressing, and check on the added toppings. Make sure they contain value before you assume they are good. Bagged salads can also serve as a great base for you to use while incorporating some veggies and proteins you already have at home.

I hope this post was helpful to you. Feel free to comment and let me know your favorite homemade salad recipe. I’m always up for trying new recipes.