Cooking Basics

How to Make a Satisfying Salad



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Last week I tackled creating a deliciously satisfying smoothie– let’s talk how to create a satisfying SALAD!

Why is it that salads you get at a restaurant feel SO much more satisfying than the ones you make at home?

Chances are, it’s because they’re designed to excite your tastebuds! Often we think of salads as ‘the healthy choice’ (and veggies are GREAT) but not always the DELICIOUS choice- I think they can be BOTH! It’s just about knowing what combination of ingredients, tastes and textures make a salad both delicious and filling. I love a good salad, and I want you to love them too!

Rather listen? There’s a Healthy Mama Hacks episode all about this! Click here to listen.


Let’s dig into making a deliciously satisfying salad.We know there are two components to satisfaction: Sensory + Satiety. On the satiety side of things, we know we want our salad to have some produce (obviously, it’s a salad), often times, but not always, this means a base of greens (it could also be a grain-based salad, or roasted veggies). This is going to provide nutrients and fiber- but we also need a protein (because we know protein is the most satiating nutrient)– I don’t know about you, but just a salad with protein is not appealing. Then we want some sort of a fat- this is often the dressing, and/or toppings– and maybe a carbohydrate source. Often this comes in the form of fruit, dried fruit, a starchier vegetable (like sweet potatoes or potatoes) or a grain- sometimes your salad won’t have a more dense carb and that’s ok, too.

On the sensory side of things, there are a few things that make a restaurant salad stand out:

When it comes to recognizing food that is delicious, our tastebuds want VARIETY and BALANCE. This comes down to three flavor foundations: taste, texture and temperature.

  1. Taste: If it all tastes the same, it’s going to be boring! Think: iceberg lettuce with cucumber and tomato and green pepper. Not much variety there. It gets a little better when you add a dressing, but still not quite there– what if you added some olives or cheese (saltiness) or some fresh or dried fruit or candied nuts (sweetness)- just not together, we want contrast, but we don’t want to go too crazy! Also, PLEASE dress your greens. This is going to make a WORLD of difference. Restaurant secret, right there.
  2. Texture: texture is important here, and there are a couple things that stand out. 1. Make sure your ingredients are bite-sized. No one wants to be trying to chomp on a giant half-dressed chunk of lettuce! 2. Variety, variety, variety! Add some croutons, tortilla strips, chopped nuts, something creamy like cheese or avocado- vary that texture for more interest.
  3. Temperature: One GREAT way to make a salad stand out is through temperature. This can be physical temperature from a warm protein or veggie on top of a cold salad, as well as perceived temperature- something more spicy with something cooling, think buffalo chicken + a cool ranch or blue cheese.

So let’s put this into action and build a satisfying salad, start to finish:

Let’s take a steakhouse salad.

1. Base: lettuce, I like romaine and radicchio for this one. Crisp and cool.

2. Let’s mix up the veggies a little bit. Cucumber, tomato, red onion.

Tomato adds a bit of acidity, red onion adds a hint of bitterness and some texture- we’re going to balance that out with the creamy dressing.

3. Protein: Hot steak + hard cooked egg, also adds some fat to it for more mouthfeel. 4. Variety: blue cheese adds some tanginess and a little saltiness, we’ll also add some sliced black olives. 5. Top with a blue cheese dressing.Not a HUGE variety in texture, here– but there’s enough that this one is satisfying and flavor-packed.

Let’s shift to a more sweet variety, and build a superfood kale salad.

1. Start with kale- kale is a little bitter, so it needs some love. Massage it with a honey mustard dressing, the sweet and sour will counteract the bitter- and bonus, the greens are dressed.

2. Top with some fresh berries- I like strawberries and blueberries- these also add some color. 3. Add some creaminess from goat cheese.

4. Let’s add some fresh, crisp texture- thinly sliced radish and cucumber.

5. We need some more texture- so let’s add some chopped candied walnuts and pumpkin seeds.

6. Need a protein (the answer is yes if this is a main!) Top it with some chicken or roasted chickpeas.

These are two VERY different salads- but they’re each satisfying on their own!

Now it’s your turn! Consider some of the MOST satisfying salads you’ve had– and recreate that feeling, at home. Did it have components that were… creamy? salty? crispy? crunchy? fresh? tangy? Consider ingredients in the salad or similar ingredients you love- and start to experiment! Remember this is supposed to be FUN! Enjoy the process!

Here are a few of my favorite satisfying salads:

Don’t forget to download the satisfying salad printable:

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