Scrumptious Salad Ideas

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but sometimes we forget that lunch is the second most important meal of the day. Eating a hearty meal mid day gives active people the fuel they need to sustain their work-out and provides them with the mental energy to make it through their day. Salads tend to be a lunch time favorite for many active, health conscious people but they can often be too much food or not enough food to sustain an active person until their afternoon snack. Here are some tips for creating a salad that you can rely on to fuel you through your day.

1. Carb up

If you want your body to run for you then you need to give it the proper fuel! Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred source of energy and should not be avoided by athletes.  Add healthy carbs to your salad such as:

  • Carbohydrate rich veggies  (corn, peas,  beets, and carrots)
  • Beans and legumes  (chick peas, kidney beans, black beans, and lentils)
  • Cooked whole grains (Couscous, brown rice, or quinoa )
  • Fruit (diced apples, raisins, bananas, or berries)
  • Add a slice of whole wheat bread

Black Beans and Garbanzo Beans

*Try to avoid croutons and fried noodles because they can be high in saturated fat.

2. Go for a variety of colors

Generally the richer the color of the vegetable the more nutrition’s it contains.  In fact a salad made with spinach contains 7 times more vitamin C than a salad made with iceberg lettuce. Additionally, different colored vegetables contain different nutrients so create a colorful salad to receive the most nutrients. Here are some of the top ranking vegetables in six nutrients and fiber according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

  • Spinach
  • Red pepper
  • Carrots
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Green Peppers
  • Green peas
  • Avocado
  • Tomato

Fresh tomatoes.

3. Pile on the Potassium

Potassium helps to control blood pressure and is lost through sweat. Salads are a great way for athletes to add back in the potassium they lost during their work-out. Some potassium rich vegetables include:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
Bag of broccoli.

Bag of broccoli food

4. Pick your Protein

Protein is an important ingredient in salad in order for it to do its job keeping you full and satisfied. If you’re a meat eater be sure to choose lean options to avoid saturated fat, If you’re a vegetarian be sure to include plant based proteins to avoid anemia or illness. Here are go –to protein options:

  • Low fat cottage cheese
  • Tuna
  • Sliced turkey
  • Grilled chicken
  • Tofu
  • Chick peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Walnuts


5. Remember the Calcium

Athletes especially runners are at an increased risk for poor bone health. We all know that calcium helps keep your bones strong so be sure to it add in your salad with these foods:

  • Part skim mozzarella cheese
  • Tofu
  • Low fat cottage cheese
  • Feta cheese
Feta cheese food

Feta cheese.

Resource:  Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook

For more salad ideas and recipes from our Rebel Dietitians:

Steak and Asparagus Salad

Making the most of the salad bar

Need help and inspiration making healthy lunches? Follow our blog!

Blog updated: November 2019

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Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients.  Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and  Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.

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