When I’m packing lunches to take to campus for busy school days, salads are one of my go-to options. They’re easy to throw together last minute, they help you get plenty of veggies into your diet each day, and they are incredibly versatile. However, when you’re having a salad as your main dish and bringing that salad on-the-go instead of eating from a giant bowl at home, there are a few things to take into consideration so that your salad fills you up and satisfies your cravings.
The most nutritious recipes generally consist of a combination of protein, fat and carbs. With salads, I usually follow a more specific formula: something leafy, 2-3 different kinds of chopped veggies (or fruit!), a source of lean protein (which can be either meat or plant-based), a source of healthy fats, delicious add-ons (for extra flavour, crunch, and nutrients), and a dressing.
Below I have outlined the top ten tips I follow so that my on-the-go salads are delicious and nutritious every time.
1. Use the right containers
I find that the best way to transport my salads is a BIG container with a clasp lid to hold the main salad, and a small container for the dressing (also with a clasp lid, to prevent leaks). I use a glass container like this one, although I have a few different shapes and sizes. You’ll want to use a really good sized container when you’re bringing a salad on the go, because it will generally take a large volume of veggies to keep you full until your next meal. If you skimp on the container, your salad may end up being a snack before a bigger meal (and usually a less healthy one) that you purchase while you’re out and about. I also like to use a lunch bag with an ice pack in it to keep my salad cold.
2. Pack the protein
Including a source of protein is an important part of preparing a nutritious and filling salad. If you don’t have any meat prepared, a hard-boiled egg is the perfect option! Just place your egg in a small pot, cover it with water, and bring it to a boil. Once it starts to boil, remove the pot from the heat and wait for 10 minutes before draining the pot. Then, peel the shell off your egg and add it to the salad! I like to boil a few eggs at once and then store them in the fridge so I can easily access them for snacks and salads later in the week. The other easiest source of protein I use is canned tuna. Other options include poached and sliced chicken breast, or some baked fish, broken into pieces.
3. Dress with Apple Cider Vinegar and/or Tahini
If you’re taking your salad dressing in a separate container and adding it while you’re at work or school, dressings that have a lot of oil can get messy. When I bring salads to school, I love dressing with apple cider vinegar because it’s healthy, tastes great, and helps minimize the mess. Tahini is also great for a creamier dressing. If you drizzle it on top prior to heading out the door, it won’t make your lettuce soggy by the time you eat it, like many other dressings do. Plus, it’s a great source of healthy fats and with a little effort you can transform it into a healthy Cesar dressing like this one from Naturally Ella.
4. Put rice on the bottom of your salad
Now, this may be heading out of salad and into nourish/macro bowl territory, but putting a layer of rice on the bottom of your salad adds some carbs to help keep you full. It’s also great because it soaks up any excess apple cider vinegar that reaches the bottom of the container. And, if you are in need of some extra protein, add black beans to the rice and you’ve got a complete protein!
5. Top with healthy fats
Did I include this tip just so I could add a picture of an avocado? Possibly. But aesthetically pleasing avocados aside, adding healthy fats to your salads will help you stay full (and they promote glowing skin!). Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids, they’re full of fibre, and they contain more potassium than bananas. Other sources of healthy fats that are great on salads include walnuts, and salmon.
6. Mix up your greens
While lettuce salads are great, experimenting with different leafy greens is a great way to add some variety (and some extra micronutrients) to your salad. While I occasionally make my salads with lettuce, most of my salads contain baby spinach, which is a great source of vitamin A and antioxidants. I also like to use kale, which is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can consume.
7. Get colourful
There’s nothing better than a beautiful rainbow salad. Not only will adding a variety of vegetables improve the taste of your salad, different colours also come with a whole host of valuable micronutrients. To create your colourful salad bowl, I recommend adding cherry tomatoes, corn, cucumber, celery, any colour of bell pepper, blueberries, purple cabbage, or red onion.
8. Use fresh herbs
Chopping and adding fresh herbs to a salad is the ULTIMATE secret for taking a good salad to a fantastic one. Honestly, this piece of advice completely changed my meals. My favourite herb to add is cilantro, but mint, basil, and parsley are other great options.
9. Add sweet potato
Sweet potato is a miracle vegetable in salads. It adds colour, helps to balance savoury flavours with sweet, and is an excellent source of healthy carbohydrates. It tastes great boiled or roasted, depending on the texture you prefer. If I prepare a batch of roasted sweet potato at the beginning of the week, it is easy to add a little to my salads each day.
10. Add-ons for texture, crunch, and sweetness
Last, there are so many options for delicious toppings that will add a little extra flavour and texture to salads. You can mix and match your add-ons depending on what flavour profile you’re going for. Options include: raisins, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, slivered almonds, goat’s cheese, hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
What are your favourite salad ingredients? Any favourite dressing options?