How to build a better salad

Using shaved Brussels sprouts is a great alternative to using lettuce in a salad. They add crunch, flavor, fiber and a variety of nutrients. (Thinkstock)

Kait Fortunato
WTOP Contributor

WASHINGTON – At the start of a new year, it seems everyone is looking for ways to lighten up meals and eat healthier.

And while I am all about focusing on nutrient-dense foods, there is no need to sacrifice taste or satiety.

Salads, for example, are an easy go-to meal when you’re trying to eat healthy and increase the amount of nutrients in your diet. However, many salads can be boring and leave you feeling hungry, which can cause you to overeat later on.

But there are ways to build better salads. Here are a few ideas to fill you up and leave you light:

  • Color up: Make sure the vegetables in your salad vary in color. Each different color represents a different nutrient.
  • Include a carbohydrate: That’s right, have a carbohydrate. Whether you choose fruit, beans or starchy vegetables, make sure to add a serving of carbohydrates to help keep you energized.
  • Include a serving of protein: Cottage cheese, grilled chicken and tuna are all examples of lean protein that help work with the carbohydrates to keep your blood sugars stable.
  • Don’t forget the fat: Fat will help keep you fuller longer. My favorite sources include avocado, nuts, seeds or an oil-based dressing.

Here are some of my favorite salad recipes:

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad

This salad was inspired by a side I ordered at The Hamilton in D.C. I love the texture of the shaved Brussels sprouts — they provide a nice alternative to standard lettuce. To bulk this salad up, add shaved parmesan, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds to shaved Brussels sprouts. Then, top everything off with a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.

Turkey Burger Salad

This salad came together when I ran out of bread one day while packing my lunch. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite salads. Here’s how it works: Dice up a pre-made turkey burger with spinach, tomato, mozzarella cheese and some frozen corn. Mix it all together in a bowl. Then, to keep with the theme, toss it together with a dressing made of Dijon mustard and olive oil.

Grain-Based Salad

Using a base of beans or quinoa allows for a filling, healthy salad that can be made in advance. As opposed to lettuce-based salads, the grains hold up very well and do not wilt when dressing is added to them ahead of time. I love making a Mediterranean-based quinoa salad with feta, olives, tomatoes and a spiced olive oil dressing.

Guacamole Salad

This salad is another D.C. restaurant inspiration. I love the guacamole salad at sweet green and have been successful with recreating my own. I start with a base of spinach or kale and add a mixture of tomatoes, beans, onions and mashed avocado. Garnish the salad with a sprinkle of tortilla chips for some crunch.

What are some of your favorite filling salads?

Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates and serves on the board for the DC Metro Area Dietetic Association. Kait focuses on individualizing her recommendations to have each client see results and live a healthier, more productive life, and she works to help people enjoy food and eat the foods they love. Kait lives in the D.C. area and loves trying new restaurants and activities around the city. Visit Kait’s blog, Rebel Dietitian, and tweet her @Rebel_Dietitian for recipes, nutrition tips and activities in the Washington area.

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