Salads can be a good way to get your important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. However, not all salads are healthy or nutritious. It depends on what is in the salad. It is OK to add small amounts of dressing and toppings, however, if you overdo it with high-fat or high-sugar add-ins, your salad may cause you to exceed your daily calorie needs and contribute to weight gain.
Prepare salads with colorful vegetables. If you have plenty of fresh vegetables in the salad, then you are getting healthy, disease-fighting nutrients.
- You want to include some fat in your salad. Mixing vinegar with olive oil or another vegetable oil is a good base for homemade dressings. You can also add nuts, seeds, and avocado to include healthy fats. This will help your body to make the most of the fat-soluble vitamins (A,D, E, and K).
- Use salad dressing or added fats in moderation. Prepared salad dressings can be high in fat and sodium and are often a hidden source of extra sugar. Large amounts of prepared salad dressing or toppings such as cheese, dried fruits, and croutons can turn a healthy salad into a very high-calorie meal.
- Chunks of cheese, croutons, bacon bits, nuts, and seeds can increase the amount of sodium, fat, and calories in a salad. Try to choose only one or two of these items to add to your colorful veggies.
- At the salad bar, avoid add-ons such as coleslaw, potato salad, and creamy fruit salads, which can increase calories and fat.
- Try to use a darker lettuce. Light green Iceberg has fiber but not as many nutrients as dark greens such as romaine, kale, or spinach.
- Add variety to your salad with high-fiber items such as legumes (beans), raw vegetables, and fresh fruit. Dried fruit is also a high-fiber add-in, but use this in moderation, as it is also high in sugar.
- Include a protein in your salads to help make them a filling meal. Examples include beans, grilled chicken breast, canned salmon, or hard-boiled eggs.
Hall JE, Hall ME. Dietary balances; regulation of feeding; obesity and starvation; vitamins and minerals. In: Hall JE, Hall ME, eds. Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 72.
Mason JB, Booth SL. Vitamins, trace minerals, and other micronutrients. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 205.
Review Date 3/11/2021
Updated by: Meagan Bridges, RD, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.