Salad Generator: Healthy and Nutritious Builder Guide
This article is all about salad meals. People following a whole food plant-based diet usually love salads. A high-quality, nutrient-rich salad can be a great meal, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
However, it’s easy to start including just a few tried and tested ingredients into your salad. Continue reading to get some fresh ideas, or use a generator we created to make some random combinations to get inspired.
The salad recipe you'll get consist of:
- Leafy green base
- Nuts or seeds
- Dressing, herbs and spices
If you would like some whole-grains in your salad, please tick the checkbox below.
All recipes are whole-food, plant-based.
What Makes a Healthy and Delicious Salad?
Not only will healthy salad be great for your health and boost your mood and digestion, but it can also be a delicious meal.
A well-balanced salad should consist of various foods and provide enough macronutrients:
- Carbs: Complex carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source.
- Protein: Protein plays an important role in almost every aspect of the creation and maintenance of cells in our body. It will also keep you full after the meal.
- Fat: Healthy fats will improve absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, but also regulate appetite and improve satiety.
Healthy Salad Ingredient Ideas
Pick one or more leafy greens as a base: Iceberg, lettuce, arugula, baby spinach, cabbage, romaine, radicchio, leaf lettuce, escarole, watercress…
Leafy greens are the perfect base for any salad. They are low in calories but packed with dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and therefore provide many health benefits.
Not all leafy greens have the same amount of micronutrients, so you should try to incorporate different leafy green vegetables into your diet, and adding them to your salad is a very convenient way to do so.
Dark leafy greens, for example, collards, kale, and spinach are high in vitamin K-1, which can be converted to vitamin K-2 by intestinal bacteria.
For example, one cup of watercress (34 grams) contains only 4 calories but provides 106% recommended daily intake of vitamin K, 24% RDI of vitamin C, and 22% RDI of vitamin A.
It also contains some calcium (4% of the RDI) and manganese (also 4% of the RDI), and similarly to other leafy greens, it’s high in antioxidants.
Legumes are one of the staples of a plant-based diet. Not only are they high in plant-based protein and fiber, but they are also rich in many micronutrients, such as B-vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Legumes are easy to add to your salad meal, and you can use any type of beans, canned or home-cooked. Roasted chickpeas can also be a great addition and add extra crunchiness.
The best part is that according to Dr. Michael Greger’s research, the risk of death is reduced by 8% for every 20-gram increase in daily legume intake.
Pick fresh vegetables: Cucumber, carrots, olives, bell peppers, onion, beet, corn, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus…
One of the easiest and most convenient ways to boost your health is to increase your intake of vegetables. Plenty of vegetables should be consumed every day, as there’s not a single vegetable to provide all of the nutrients.
That being said, a diet that’s rich in vegetables can reduce the risk of some types of cancer, heart disease, and stroke and helps to keep healthy blood sugar levels.
There are so many vegetables you can choose from to add to your salad; including a variety of different types of vegetables will not only make you healthier but will prevent you from getting bored of one type.
Nuts and Seeds
Sprinkle with nuts and seeds: Almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, cashews, sunflower seeds…
When it comes to vitamins and mineral contents, most of them provide a decent amount of selenium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin E.
Of course, the amount of micronutrients depends on the type of nuts and seeds, so it’s recommended to include various types of these nutrition powerhouse foods.
Including healthy fats in your meal will also improve the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K) and keep you feeling full longer.
However, a handful of nuts or seeds provides between 128 and 204 calories, so you should be careful with the quantity.
Dressing, Herbs and Spices
Final touch: Vinegar (for example, apple vinegar cider), nutritional yeast, herbs, and spices such as dried cilantro, basil, turmeric, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, parsley, and black pepper…
Herbs and spices are often ranked highest among the highest antioxidant foods, so they won’t just add a flavor to your dishes and salads, they will boost their antioxidant contents significantly.
The body produces free radicals as the byproduct of turning food into energy, and antioxidants’ role is to defend us from them.
Oxidative stress is defined as an imbalance between the production of free radicals and antioxidant defenses and may damage cells and lead to chronic diseases.
Studies show that clove, oregano, and thyme are all among the spices with the highest total antioxidant capacity.
Optional: Whole Grains
Some people love grains in their salads and want more carbs if they are active, while others avoid adding grains to their salads.
If you’re on a keto or low-carb diet or simply don’t have that active day, you can avoid adding grains to your salad.
On the other hand, if you’re having an active day or just feel hungry, choose your favorite whole-grain or a mix of whole grains and add it to your salad.
Carbs are the primary source of energy for our bodies, and no, carbs aren’t bad for our health. Moreover, according to Dr. John McDougall, the author of “The Starch Solution” book, “optimal health is achieved by eating a low-fat, high fiber, minimally processed, a starch-based diet with fruits and vegetables”.
Whole grains are much healthier than refined grains and contain bran, germ, and endosperm. They are much higher in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
Unlike refined grains, whole grains won’t cause high blood sugar and insulin spikes and will slowly release energy over time.
Which Foods to Exclude or Limit in Your Salad Meal
If you stick to whole foods, it’s really hard to go wrong with a salad meal. However, there are some foods you should avoid:
Oil Fried Foods
Fried foods will add an unnecessary amount of fat and salt to your meal.
Although deep oil frying is a popular cooking method, even if you use oil with a high smoke temperature, it’s very unhealthy.
First of all, fried foods are high in trans fats, a type of fat which is very unhealthy. Eating fried foods are also very high in calories but are usually nutritionally low-dense foods.
Healthier alternative: Air frying is much better option if available. You can also add some crunchiness to your salad by adding cucumbers, nuts, seeds, roasted chickpeas, or baked tofu.
Fake meats are sometimes appealing to people who follow a plant-based diet. Although they don’t cause animal suffering and have a much lower impact on the environment, they are often not healthy.
Meat alternatives are often high in saturated fats and sodium and also high in calories.
Healthier alternative: It’s better to choose beans, air-fried falafel, or seitan instead of store-bought burgers, sausages, etc.
Most store-bought dressings, both creamy dressings and fat-free, are full of ingredients you actually shouldn’t eat, such as fats (sometimes even saturated fats), added sugar, and sodium.
However, some store-bought sauces, such as mustard, are usually made of just a few simple ingredients and are a completely fine choice.
Healthier alternative: Instead of these dressings and sauces, you should stick to high-quality homemade dressings, or at least be sure to check the labels of store-bought thoroughly.
In this category also fall, white pasta, crackers, and white rice. These are all refined carbs that will lead to insulin spikes and lead to many negative effects on your health, but also make you hungry shortly.
Healthier alternative: Whenever possible, choose whole wheat products instead of refined; you can swap white pasta with whole pasta, pasta made of chickpeas or lentils; white rice with wild rice, etc.
You can also add some crunchiness to your salad by adding cucumbers, nuts, seeds, roasted chickpeas, or baked tofu.
Candied Nuts and Dried Fruit
These foods have similar effects on your insulin levels and blood sugars as refined carbs.
Healthier alternative: You should always choose natural, unsweetened nuts and fresh fruits instead of dried (especially sweetened dried fruits).
Non-dairy alternatives to cheese aren’t always bad for your health, but many of these products are full of saturated fats and sodium, so you should try to limit their intake.
Healthier alternative: As a better alternative, you might want to try adding your favorite type of tofu or nutritional yeast.
Building a healthy salad meal can be a very fun task, where you can mix you can mix all your favorite ingredients and make a perfect nourishing meal.
However, if you’re out of ideas, you can use our generator and guide to make a healthy yet delicious salad every time.
Always choose plant-based foods combination of leafy greens, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds, herbs, spices, and some dressing.
If you feel like you need more energy or live a very active lifestyle, you can add some complex carbs as well.
To keep your salad super-healthy, avoid fried foods, store-bought dressings, refined carbs, candied nuts, and sweetened dried fruits.
- It's written and or reviewed by an expert.
- We cite relevant studies and trusted sources.
- It's regularly updated.
Read more about our process and team.
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