The Science Of Salad: How To Make A Salad That Serves As A Real Meal, And Actually Keeps You Feeling Full

May 14th, 2014 - filed under: The Food » Recipes


This is what my lunch looks like pretty much every day: working on my computer with an enormous salad in my extra-large glass tupperware. This salad will keep me going strong until dinner time!

I love salad. I always have, for as long as I can remember. I haven’t always been vegan and I certainly haven’t always eaten healthy, but salad? Salad has always been my jam.

Even back in grade school when they would serve hot lunch on Fridays, and all the kids would line up to receive their plate, I would always get to the end and squeak, “Extra salad, please!” Back then it was some cheap mix of iceberg and romaine, a few sad carrot shreds, and some over-processed Costco vat of partially hydrogenated Italian dressing. But even so, I would go back for seconds, every time. I loved that salad.

So flashing forward many years, and my salads look a whole lot different than they did back then (thank goodness!) It’s taken me years to perfect the art of the salad, and to be able to construct a meal-sized serving every day that keeps me sated and going strong into the evening. Which is what I do, for lunch, almost every single week day.

While working with my Vegan Lifestyle Coaching clients, I quickly learned that many of you, out there on your own, have been trying to crack the salad code. You want to eat salad for lunch (or dinner), but every time you try, you find that you’re hungry just an hour or two later. So by the next meal, you’re ravenous and you overeat to overcompensate. Which sucks – I know ’cause I’ve been there.

The good news, my friends, is that constructing a salad is just simple science. Straightforward mathematics. And here, I’m going to share with you everything that I know about the subject.

So buckle up y’all. This here’s gonna be a long one (no but really, really long) (so if you’re in a hurry, skip on to the end for a super mini summary!)

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At left: romaine, shredded carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, green onions, and cannellini beans, with homemade vinaigrette. At right: baby mixed greens with green onions, leftover smoky fajita veggies, black beans, salsa, and homemade garlicky guacamole. Also with a light vinaigrette.

The Science Of Salad

Proper salad construction is a five-part equation, simple as that:

(greens) + (veggies/toppings) + (protein/legumes) + (fat) + (dressing) = a meal-sized salad

So let’s go through each of these one by one, and I’ll give you the “why” and the “how” as well as my best budget-friendly and time-sensitive tips. Sound good?

~ ♥ ~ Greens ~ ♥ ~

The base of any salad worth it’s salt (sea salt, of course!), greens are where we start. As far as nutrient density goes, you simply can’t beat greens. From spicy arugula to crunchy romaine, massaged and wilted kale to the modern salad darling, the mesclun mix, each variety of greens offers it’s own unique and fantastic nutrient profile. Stick with your very favorite, or mix and match each week for maximum nourishing potential! And don’t forget non-traditional salad greens such as thin-sliced red and white cabbage (I love these in my Mexican- or Asian-inspired salads), tender hardy greens like baby chard or baby kale (awesome in Mediterranean-style salads) or even shredded brussels sprouts or broccoli slaw (best when paired with a perky, flavorful dressing).

But before we continue here, a quick aside . . .

~~~ The Vessel ~~~

Greens will make up the bulk of your salad, and although greens are nutrient-rich, they are calorie poor. So you’ll want to include plenty of them! A real meal salad is sizable. You may need to adjust your expectations of what the volume of your lunch is supposed to look like. I know it can seem intimidating to dig into something so large, but I promise you – the number one reason people fail at the salad game, end up feeling haaaangry pains, and thus give up all together, is because they’re just too afraid to commit to a truly enormous salad. But you gotta do it! Trust me.

Every morning I pack up my 8-cup Glasslock container. I use this one and I LOVE IT. It is large and in charge, made of glass and easy to clean, and the perfect vessel for my daily dose of salad love.

Another option is to pack up the various salad parts in smaller (more standard-sized) containers and then construct it once you’re at work. Recently, Jeremy and I found a giant ceramic bowl for him to keep at his office for just such a purpose. He goes to the grocery store once a week, fills the fridge at work with all his salad fixins, and then dumps them all right in the bowl as needed.

I eat at school so I don’t have that option, which means it’s Glasslock for me. For you, you’ll have to figure out what works. Either way, giant container or giant bowl, the key point here is: GIANT!


Okay, so back to greens! There are a couple of different options as far as buying and preparing go. Here’s my best tips for . . .

Budget-Friendly Options

Skip the pre-washed, pre-cut, and individually bagged mixes. Aside from baby spinach or arugula, which is harder to find loose, these packages often cost quite a bit more as opposed buying the whole head and doing the washing and tearing yourself. My favorite lettuces of all are only sold as whole heads: red leaf and heirloom butter varieties. So I buy a lot of lettuce heads! Next time you’re at the store or even the Farmer’s Market, compare the price-to-weight ratio of the whole heads versus the packaged salad bags. You can save a lot of dough here!

Time-Sensitive Tips

Okay, so it’s a weekday morning and time is of the essence. The thought of washing and drying lettuce leaves is not so appealing! Which is why it pays to put in the prep time.

If you go with the whole-head as opposed to the bagged option, then the first thing you should do when you get home from the grocery store is give it a good wash. Invest in a large salad spinner (check local thrift shops, garage sales, or Craigslist to find a cheap used one) and clear out a space in the fridge. When you get your lettuce home, peel off each leaf, rinse them all, and cram ‘em in the spinner (tear in half if you need). Then spin dry, leave them sitting in the spinner, and put the whole thing in the fridge. Voila! Now each morning, you’ll be able to grab a handful of leaves from the spinner, tear them into your container, and you’ll be good to go. The leaves will last a week or so like this in the fridge – if you’re eating a salad every day for lunch, you’ll eat a spinner-full of lettuce faster than it could go bad.

Another true time-saving option is, of course, the pre-washed salad bags. No shame here! We are all busy people living big, busy lives. I always tell my clients – if the convenience of buying the bags is what makes it possible for you to eat salads every day, then my goodness – buy the bags! Lord knows I do. Do what works for you, in your life.


At left: romaine, carrot, tomato, black olive, and red onion topped with quinoa, navy beans, and homemade guac. At right: baby spinach, shredded carrot, crimini mushrooms, kalamata olives, nutritional yeast, and chickpeas with a homemade vinaigrette.

~ ♥ ~ Other Veggies and Toppings ~ ♥ ~

This is where you get to play, to really bring your salad to the next level using the endless abundance of amazing plant-based toppings. Any raw veggies. Any roasted veggies! Baked squash or sweet potato. Leftover side veggies from the night before. Jarred or canned toppings like green or kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, hearts of palm, roasted red peppers, pepperoncini, etc. And don’t forget fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts and seeds (no they do NOT count as protein!) (unless they’re peanuts) (and even then, only if it’s at least 1/3 cup), and flavor enhancers like nutritional yeast, Herbamere, or kelp/dulse flakes/powder.

I definitely have my favorites when it comes to salad toppers. For example, in the pictures in this post you’ll notice a few things are almost constant. Exhibit A: grated carrot.

Sliced or chopped carrots in a salad? I could care less. But grate that puppy up, and I am in LOVE! Something about grating really releases all the moisture, making carrots this perfectly crunchy, crispy, delicious addition to my salads. Grating a whole carrot (peel on, rinsed) takes about 30 seconds. It’s so quick and easy, and the grater is surprisingly easy to wash (I just run it under water, no soap required. I do this every day.)

And for 79ç for a bag of whole organic carrots at Trader Joe’s, they really have become an indispensable salad staple.

Exhibit B: Green onions. Also cheap, incredibly easy to dice up real quick each morning, and they just add that amazing allium-y goodness without being overpowering the way that other onions can be. I LOVE green onions.

And another quick aside . . .

~~~ Umami ~~~

One of the keys to a really satisfying salad, at least for me, is the addition of umami. An umami salad really does feel like a whole meal – it carries that weight, that grounding element.

And what is umami? Well, it’s the fifth flavor profile! Along with “sour”, “bitter”, “salty”, and “sweet”, “umami” is essentially the flavor of savoriness. It’s rich and earthy and totally complex.

Most veggies are not umami. And in fact, a lot of traditional vegan food lacks umami, which is, I think, why many people find classic “vegan food” sort of bland or underwhelming. That’s a little tangential and a discussion for another day, but if you’re interested, The Vegan RD wrote an awesome piece entitled Is Umami A Secret Ingredient Of Vegan Activism?. Definitely worth a read.

Anyway, almost every salad I eat tends toward umami, and I really do think it’s why they work so well for me. I know some people like sweet salads and salad dressings, but I urge you to enter the umami zone, if only to give it a little try. Some common umami ingredients include: mushrooms, vinegars (especially wine and balsamic), tamari, tomatoes, nutritional yeast, sea veggies, olives and other brined foods, sauerkraut and other fermented foods, etc.

Okay, umami plug over.


Obviously, when it comes to salad topping combinations, the list is literally infinite. If you’re looking to cut time and/or money, here are some suggestions . . .

Budget-Friendly Options

Know thy produce. Pay attention everywhere you go, and compare the prices. Those 79ç carrots at TJs are a steal! They’d be three times that price at my Farmer’s Market. But avocados? Way cheaper at the FarMar. Same goes for sprouts and greens. And nutritional yeast is actually cheapest (around here) at Whole Foods of all places, in the bulk bins. So scout around, know what to grab from where, and you’ll really be able to save.

Time-Sensitive Tips
Here is where prepping ahead can really help you. Like I said above, grating a carrot real quick in the morning is negligible. But all that chopping of all those veggies for an entire salad? Well that can be daunting.

You have two options. First, you can shave time by buying pre-cut when possible. Pre-sliced mushies, broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes, etc. Buying canned and jarred items also cuts down on prep time since they’re already small (in order to fit in the jar/can). Capers, peppers, pickles, etc are all great options that will add tons of flavor (umami!) to your salads, while also saving those precious morning minutes.

The other option is prep. When you buy your veggies, take them home, wash them, and then cut them. Investing the time up front in one big chunk is economical, especially if you can make the time do double duty by catching up on your favorite podcasts, audiobooks, or TV shows (yes, bring that cutting board to the couch and chop chop chop on your coffee table!) Keep each ingredient – minced onions, shredded beets, sliced cucumber, cubed bell peppers, etc, wrapped in a wet paper towel in a sealed container (they’ll keep like this for a week or so). Then, each morning you’ll just have to grab a handful from each one, and you’ll be good to go!

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At left: romaine and purple cabbage with pinto beans, green onions, black olives, salsa, and a quarter large avocado with a homemade vinaigrette. At right: baby greens and baby spinach, lots of grated carrot, green onions, quinoa, and kelp powder, with a store-bought tomato balsamic dressing.

~ ♥ ~ Protein / Legumes ~ ♥ ~

Where do you get your protein?

Are you rolling your eyes? You shouldn’t be! EVERYbody, regardless of diet, should be including concentrated sources of protein in their meals. So when omnis make a salad, they usually choose eggs, or cheese, or meat to hit that spot. Why do we as vegans think that we can remove those foods, but not replace them?

You’re going to tell me that everything has protein, especially those greens we’re using as the foundation of our salad. Which is true, in a technical, un-useful sort of way. There’s a reason omnis add eggs or cheese or meat instead of just relying on that kale and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds (NOT enough protein, my bunny rabbit buddies). And that’s because, as we already talked about, greens (and all those other veggies) are calorie light! They’re full of fiber, and water, and if you wanted to eat enough greens to meet your entire protein requirement, your tummy would pop and your jaw would ache from the chewing.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole, but seriously. You’re not going to get enough protein from your greens and veggies or even a few tablespoons of nuts or seeds. You need vegan sources of concentrated protein, just like omnis “need” omni sources of concentrated protein. That doesn’t make veganism inferior, okay?

Protein, most often in legume form, makes you feel full. It provides lasting energy. It gives you a sense of satiety, and adds “staying power” to your meal. Protein is important, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s an absolutely integral part of a salad.

And why legumes? Because legumes are high in lysine, which makes them “complete” in a way that some other sources of plant-based protein are not. Now before you jump on me, I know that food-combining-for-complete-proteins has been debunked, and I know that our bodies disassemble proteins into their building blocks, amino acids, and then reassemble them as needed. Trust me, I’m the girl who developed protein depletion on a vegan diet, so I assure you – I know. I’ve spent a LOT of time researching this topic (which is why I know that it’s so contentious, and man I’m just bracing myself for the outrage I’ll receive for even daring to suggest that vegans need to think about protein – I mean the horror!)

So without getting too tangential (too late!), if vegans don’t eat enough legumes we can fall short on lysine, which means that even though our bodies are disassembling, there won’t be enough of all the right building blocks when reassembly time comes. Make sense? You can read a more comprehensive discussion of this topic here, on The Vegan RD.

So. Legumes, and their protein-dense counterpart the “pseudograins” (which also contain nice high levels of all essential amino acids including lysine), will give your salad that gut-sticking gravity that you’re looking for. Legume options include lentils (probably my fave), all beans (like black, pinto, navy, kidney, etc) hummus (but a lot, not just a few tablespoons), falafel, tofu (mmmm leftover tofu scramble is SO GOOD on salad), and tempeh. Pseudograin superstars include quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth.

Budget-Friendly Options

When it comes to saving scrilla, you can’t beat dried beans in the bulk bins. Yes, it takes a bit of planning and forethought. But if you can get it down, especially if you can develop a system, you can save big bucks. Buy your beans or pseudograins in bulk, then prepare a big batch over the weekend (or over night in the crock pot). Keep them in a container in the fridge, stealing a scoop for your salad each day. Freeze the extras in smaller portions so that over time you can build up a back stock of variety. Then, all you’ll have to do is pull out a different jar to thaw over night, and you’ll get a new bean or grain every few days.

Time-Sensitive Tips

Planning?? Forethought??? Surely you jest!

But seriously, that’s the sort of stuff I was able to do back in Portland and it was awesome. Anyone who has the time and the wherewithal, it’s well worth it. But these days, these grad school with a 4-year-old and on-my-own days, I can barely keep track of my own fleeting thoughts.

Canned beans to the rescue! Soooo many of my clients feel guilt, this weird internalized shame, over buying canned beans and pre-cooked lentils (the ones in the cold case at Trader Joe’s are my life’s blood, I swear. Those lentils are amaaaazing), like it makes them a bad hippie for not buying dried bulk goods. To which I say:

Man! We are being too hard on ourselves! We are all just doing our best.

I know you, and I see that you are really doing the very best you can do.

Canned beans are not a crime against humanity. Good lord, buy the beans and save yourself the stress!

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At left: mesclun, green onions, heirloom yellow carrots from my CSA, button mushrooms, kalamata olives, navy beans, and a whole half avocado. Fatty fat fat fatty goodness. At right: from the salad bar at my university, with romaine, cucumbers, sprouts, broccoli florets, red bells, green onions, kidney beans, and hummus, topped with red wine vinegar and the Braggs Sea Kelp Delight Seasoning. This was a salad fail that left me hungry within an hour, because I didn’t follow the rules! NOT ENOUGH FAT!

~ ♥ ~ Fat ~ ♥ ~

Just like protein, fat can also be a controversial subject among vegans. So I will just speak for myself (and every one of my clients who I’ve ever worked on this with – anecdotal but worth noting I’d say, because yeah, every. single. one.) when I say that fat is the thing that makes a salad stick until dinner time. Protein is key, but fat is really the clincher. And sooo many people, especially women, try to leave off all the fat. No wonder we’re all walking around starving and fighting cravings!

I love fat in all its (unrefined) forms, and happily eat it up. But even if you’re in the low-fat or no-oil camp, you can add healthy, whole foods-based fat sources to pump up the satiety factor of your salads. Avocado is easy and delicious, and it’s super duper healthy. Nuts and seeds come into play here, adding richness and texture while contributing all sorts of important micronutrients (hello, zinc!)

I also love to add olives which are relatively high in fat for what they are, and I adore me some extra virgin olive oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. Yes please. Oh, and coconut bacon!

Budget-Friendly Options

Plant-based whole foods fat sources (now that’s a mouth full!), like avocados and nuts, do tend to be expensive. Avocados are so healthy and delicious, so when you catch them on sale, make sure you take advantage.

Nuts are usually more expensive than seeds, so, for example, choose sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds over almonds, walnuts, or cashews.

Time-Sensitive Tips

Fat’s easy, no time-input required!


~ ♥ ~ Dressing ~ ♥ ~

Dressing is the pièce de résistance of any proper salad. The right dressing elevates those veggies, takes your salad from a disjointed collection of parts to a unified cohesive commune of YUM. Dressing is the bomb and you need to find a dressing you adore.

Dressing comes in all shapes and sizes. They can be oily or oil-free, nut butter-based or bean-based, light with vinegar or thick with cashew cream. They can be homemade or store-bought. Thick like a dip, or delightfully light like vinaigrette. It doesn’t matter really, as long as you find one that you love. Because finding the right dressing is what’s really going to make you craaaaave a salad!

Budget-Friendly Options

The most cost-effective dressings are homemade, of course. I suggest making one or two batches each weekend so you have them on hand, easy access, all week. Most of these last at least a week (maybe even 2) in the fridge. Some of my favorites:

The Tahini Dip That Done Stoled My Heart

Piquant Cilantro Peanut Sauce

Or, one of my secret weapons: hummus thinned with a little vinegar or lemon juice and water!

Or, if you prefer not to make dressings ahead of time, you can whip up a quick vinaigrette in the morning while you compose your salad. This is what I do roughly 95% of the time. And vinaigrettes are easy, soooo easy, no recipe required. Mine usually include red wine vinegar and either dijon mustard or nutritional yeast to thicken them, maybe a crushed clove of garlic (breath alert!), and I very rarely add oil. That’s just my preference.

What I do add is a bit of a dirty secret. I’m actually nervous to admit it because I think you’ll think I’m such a weirdo! But here goes: olive juice. True story! The brine from kalamata olives is an awesome addition to my vinaigrettes (and actually, sometimes from canned black olives, but that’s only for certain types of salads). Brine is salty and flavorful, brimming with umami. I’ve also used green olive juice, brine from marinated mushrooms, sauerkraut juice, etc. Are you giving me the side-eye?

But I’m a girl who loves a LOT of flavor. If you like things lighter, lemon juice is great. A little olive oil and lemon juice can go a long way. Rice wine vinegar is milder too, and a little sweet. Flavored vinegars are also fun!

Whatever you prefer, the point is that it’s super quick and easy to throw together a 2- or 3-ingredient vinaigrette each morning. I put mine in a small mason jar, shake to mix, and keep it separate until I’m ready to eat.

Time-Sensitive Tips

On the flip-side, if you’re all about saving time, then store bought is the way to go. There are a ton of amazing, whole foods-based salad dressings available out there. Check for local brands (co ops and FarMars are great for this) to find the healthiest and most delicious available, like the drool-inducing tomato balsamic I pick up at this awesome little hippie restaurant in the next town over.

If you don’t have access to anything like that, nationwide brands like Follow Your Heart are pretty widely available.


Salad with tofu scramble and avocado. It’s like a vegan Cobb, and the flavor explosion can’t be beat. ♥

And that, my friends, is pretty much everything I know about the science and the art of salad construction. So . . .

To Summarize

A proper, serve-as-a-meal, keep-you-full salad has five major components:

1. The greens. Bagged or head lettuce, spinach or romaine or arugula or baby spring mix, it doesn’t matter. Make greens the foundation of your salad, and make sure there are a lot of them. Your container should be GIANT.

2. Veggies and Other Toppings. Raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, canned and jarred goods, fermented foods, sea veggies, nutritional yeast, whatever you like. Mix it up and don’t forget umami!

3. Protein / Legumes. Beans like black, pinto, navy, kidney, plus other legumes like lentils and soy foods. And don’t forget those honorary legumes, the pseudograins! These include quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth.

4. Fat. You need fat to keep you feeling full, for sure. Don’t be afraid of healthy fat! Avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, and extra virgin olive oil-packed preserves are all awesome choices.

5. Dressing. Whether it’s homemade or store bought, finding a dressing that you crave is the thing that will keep you coming back to salads. So find one you love, and keep it in stock.


Aaaaaaand, I’m spent. Whew!


  • Emma –

    Such a great post, Sayward! I was wondering, do you put both avocado and an oil based dressing in your salads? I feel silly admitting this, but I do feel guilty if I do this – like I’m having too much fat.
    Thanks! xo

  • Bon

    That is a brilliant, brilliant guide, thank you so much! I am one of the many who have been struggling with this issue to make salads both nutritious and something to look forward to – and this answers all my queries!

  • The Vegan Cookie Fairy

    This is epic, thank you!!! I needed a bit of salad inspiration lately. THANK YOU for pointing out that we need to eat more fat. Thank you thank you thank you. As someone who’s recovered from an eating disorder and had issues with hormones, this is an important topic for me and it irks whenever someone says you should avoid fats. My naturopath told me it was likely that I wasn’t getting my period because I wasn’t eating nearly enough fat. I want kids someday. So I went home, bought a boat load of avocados and some coconut oil, and I started eating. My period came back.

    I wish I had a glass container. Someday I’m sure I will. But for now I don’t have a car (probably won’t for a while), I just have a bicycle and I’m already lugging around a lot of stuff, so I think plastic will have to do for now. But someday I do want a pretty, eco-friendly glass lunch box.

    I also wish I knew where to buy bulk foods in the UK, but we don’t seem to have any shops like your Trader Joe’s (we’ve got a Wholefoods, but that’s all the way in Glasgow, so again with the car issue), unless we buy online, but then I wonder about the eco-friendliness of the packaging and posting. Hm.

    Anyhoo, thanks again, this is super fantastic and I’ve shared it on my Facebook page.

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    Wunderbar! Bookmarked, link shared with friends who are in salad ruts, and I’ll probably hop onto the dreaded FB and share it there as well. I really appreciate your attention to the protein component: the vegan pledge I used to mentor for goes out of its way to downplay the role of protein in a vegan diet, and I had to pull away. I’ll be sending your article to all of my former mentees.

    And lady, thank you for the lovely comment you left on my blog! My posts are few and far between, I’m so grateful to still have a readership. :)

  • theveganchickpea

    you’re amazing. thank you for this.

  • Kendra

    Longest salad post I’ve ever scene, but awesome! Love salads and I made it my new year resolution to have greens everyday and usually 2-3 days of “throw everything leftover in the fridge” on them. And the info on needed fats is great. My research on fats has always shown that they are essential for hormone production, storing nutrients, building proteins, etc and we should be eating the healthy ones, avocado, nuts/seeds, flax, coconut…but then I see a ton of vegans eating super low fat and I wonder why they seem to be doing so well, unless it will catch up to them eventually?!?
    Thanks for the info!

  • Meg

    Sayward, what is your advice on folks that are trying to lose weight? I believe in using avocados but if you then also add nuts/seeds AND oil-based dressing (or dressing with a cashew/tahini base) then won’t that hinder weight loss?

  • Angie

    Thanks for breaking this all down, especially the portion of protein. Very useful!

  • Emily

    This post is amazing. You just inspired me to do a much better job with my salads because seriously every salad picture is mouth watering. Thanks for taking the time to break it down – it’s really helpful!

  • chantel

    how do you prepare your amaranth? I bought some and made it once (tried first in the pressure cooker and then moved to stovetop) but it remained very goopy and unappetizing. was hoping it would be more like quinoa. would love any guidance because i am on an ancient grain kick! (have mastered quinoa and millet, failed with amaranth and haven’t yet tried the teff!)

  • Carol Morgan Cox

    This post is amazing! Makes me want to go eat a big salad. :-) Great tips about including fat and umami.

  • LIndsey at TheGreenPenn

    This post is fabulous! I made sure to share it with my FB friends since they all think I eat like a rabbit. ;-) I’ve actually been following this style for my dinners since I’m usually in a hurry (having a toddler and all), and it’s my favorite way to eat. One thing I’ve done is buy my greens along with fresh herbs from a local farm on Saturday and then, on Sunday, mix all of the green stuff in a huge bowl, which I then separate into five reused clamshell packages from previous lettuce purchases. I know plastic isn’t the best, but these work great as single serving salad containers. Plus, I feel better about getting extra usage out of those awful packages. Eventually, I’ll have to invest in some glassware.

  • Lacy Davis

    I am totally going to be using this with my clients! So many people are trying to get plant-based and veggie rich and this is a perfect how-to.


  • Marfigs

    This is such a wonderful post! I usually pack hefty salads for lunch and dinner, but this has made me realize I need to use my big tupperware and expand my horizons, especially with the inclusion of nom fats! Yum!

  • erosan

    Making a good salad is a basic skill to have, regardless of your food habits… at least, this salad loving omni is bookmarking the article for future reference.

    That said, I would add that a great salad should also keep a balance between flavours, colours and textures. Making sure your salad is not just one color is easy, and different textures are easy to acomplish if you follow these guidelines too, but I feel like more most people, upon thinking on a salad immediately default to a “savoury-bland” salad (e.g. only lettuces, tomatoes, carrots and dressings)… they neglect the sweets, bitters, sours and spicy ingredients… I’d urge you to try mix on your next salad some pickled veggies and jalapeños… or some fresh pineapple, chile flakes and grated ginger in a salad with some radiccio…

    Also do not forget that salad dressings is not the only way to get a great salad. bow to the power of vinaigrettes… a good one to try next time is tequila, lime juice, chopped chiles, salt and pepper (and a little xantham gum to give it a “dressing” consistency)…

    And one last tip for those pressed for time if time is scarce, take hint from us mexicans and top whatever veggie/fruit you have handy with lime juice, salt and if you feel inclined to do so, ground chile (I usually go for piquin or habanero powder). It does not matter what you are eating, lime juice and salt works perfectly… lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, avocados, watermelon, papaya, grapefruits… everything is lime juice friendly.

    Happy salad building everyone!

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    Erosan! It makes me happy to see you commenting here. Also – habanero powder! How did I not know such a think existed? I like to make sweet pickles out of them, but in powdered form . . . wow.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Emma, that’s a great question. And of course, the answer will vary for everyone. Personally, I often will have more than one fat source on my salads. Sometimes less, sometimes more. I kind of try to follow my intuition.

    In my experience though, for both myself and my clients, the biggest issue with food is not the food itself, but the guilt it brings up. Stress is the most harmful thing for total health and well-being. Stress does more damage than an avocado EVER could. Letting go of guilt and stress around food is one of the best things we can do for our overall health, and it also allows us to eat more intuitively.

    So I would say, if your body feels drawn to higher fat meals, not in a “binge-y” self-destructive way, but in an authentic desire way, maybe give it a shot? Allow some higher-fat choices and see how you feel? My body actually feels better when I eat more fat (and it doesn’t add weight, because I feel fuller and more satisfied and overall, eat about the same amount of calories). I’d say it’s possible that if you’ve been restricting fat, your body might be craving it for god reason!

    Obviously I don’t know you or your specific situation. Just my thoughts, kind of using your question to address a larger issue that I see many people experiencing. But I hope that helps!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yay! You’re welcome Bon, I’m so happy it helped!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    The hormone-fat connection (also depression/mental health-fat connection) is one I see over and over. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way, because sometimes I feel very alone in the vegan world! It can be lonely, paying attention to protein and enjoying some fat, haha.

    I totally get the light plastic vs heavy glass quandary. I lug my Glasslock all over campus and yeah – it’s heavy as hell! =D

  • Jared Bigman

    THANK YOU, Sayward! This is a brilliant compilation.

  • Sarah C.

    Yes, yes, and yes. I eat a salad every day for lunch and I do lots of the things you suggest here – prep toppings ahead, bulk-cook beans in my crockpot, add in the nuts and avos for fat – but you’ve also convinced me to work on variety. I tend to do the same thing every day: red leaf lettuce, shredded carrot and red cabbage (THE CHEAPEST YUM), walnuts, beans, chopped broccoli, and those fun spicy cherry peppers from the olive bar (man oh man, you should try that sometime when you have a bit of $ to splurge). I also love your container (I’m always dissatisfied with mine and searching for a better one that will fit in my bag without spilling).

    May I also suggest one more item worth the purchase: I got an OXO salad dressing shaker at target for $15, and it has changed my life. The vinaigrette we shake up in that thing STAYS EMULSIFIED. It’s a like a miracle. Spending that $15 has allowed us to save big bucks on store-bought dressings, and avoid processed dressings (which, no harm no foul, but I’m glad to be able to avoid when I can).

    Also, I’ll second your protein thing. Ever since I became a vegetarian more than 20 years ago, I’ve made sure to get a source of protein in every meal. It’s just how I do this thing. And I think it’s partially responsible for the longevity of my veg*ism and my stellar health (and my veg kid’s great health). Vegans are blase about protein at their peril (as you of course know better than most).

  • amber

    Love this! I enjoy your salad pics on IG and appreciate you making this post so detailed.
    P.S. I put olive juice in my salads, too. ;]

  • Sarah C.

    I personally do both avo and/or nuts AND an olive-oil based dressing. The olive oil is honestly only about 1 Tbs or less, and according to the Mediterranean diet (which has been found to be the healthiest way to live; I do a veg version of it basically) we should be getting about 4Tbs a day. So I think that getting more of the good fats in there is BETTER than not. I had to work to get over the guilt too, but honestly – the science does not bear out the fat=bad equation we were taught as kids.

  • Melissa Ferrante

    The salad doesn’t get enough credit! I never thought to thin out hummus for a quick dressing. Did that today and THANK YOU! Great post.

  • Ginny Messina

    This is such a fun post! I eat a huge salad (in a mixing bowl) for lunch every day, too. Always with a hefty dose of protein (thanks, Sayward, for speaking about the importance of this) and fruit (mandarin oranges) and with chopped nuts plus an olive oil-based dressing. (Yay for healthy fats.) Although I sometimes do skip the beans and the dressing and toss it with a whole bunch of hummus instead.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks for all the share-love, lady! And of course, your blog is in my reader and I love your posts, however few and far between they are. ♥

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Aw thank you Caitlin! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yes, totally totally agree on the fats and especially the hormone connection. I couldn’t say for sure as far as no/low-fat diets catching up to people eventually, every time, but I’ve seen it enough that I would never recommend a very low fat diet for anyone. Just my opinion though . . . ;-)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    My personal opinion is that even people trying to lose weight still need to consume fats. But, of course, they’ll need to keep the overall calories low and one of the easiest ways to do this is by reducing (but not eliminating!) fats. So yeah, I would not advise an oil based dressing + nuts + avocado, but instead choose one source per meal (and preferably the whole foods-based fats over the extracted oils)

    That’s what I would do with my clients. I think it’s important to maintain pleasure and reduce stress, and keeping some fat can do that. When done correctly, it may slow weight loss a little, but it shouldn’t stall it completely. But remember, I am a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, so I’m going for long-term sustainability and whole-body wellness (including mental wellness) as opposed to a quick-fix rapid weight loss “diet” approach.

    Hope that helps!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Awesome Angie, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    So glad you found it helpful, Emily! Salad should always be mouthwatering, in my opinion. ;-)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Oof, yes, I’ve had the same issue. Never been able to get it light and fluffy like quinoa. Thus, my favorite way to prepare amaranth is as cakes! mixed with diced veggies and herbs, then pan-fried (or baked) like little crab cakes or patties. It’s soooo good!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Carol, so glad you liked it! And yay for fat and umami!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    That’s a great strategy! it’s amazing how far a little time spent up front will take you.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Awesome, thanks Lacy!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yes! BIGGER tupperware, and yay for healthy fats!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    EROSAN! I agree with Monika, it’s so great to see you here. ♥

    And yes to all your tips. I was so tired by the end of writing all this up last night, I totally spaced the vinaigrette portion. I amended the post to include all the info – thanks for the reminder!

    How’s the baby boy???

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yay Jared, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Ginny! Your daily lunch salad sounds awesome, I do a similar salad with oranges, toasted almonds, and sesame oil + rice wine vinegar dressing. SO good!

    Glad you liked the post, and thank you for all that you do. I send my clients to your blog all the time for nutrition info. ♥

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh I’ve never heard of a specific salad dressing shaker! Geeze, where have I been, that sounds awesome! Thanks for the heads up Sarah!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ohmigod Amber thank you, so glad I’m not alone there. ha!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yay Melissa! Hummus dressing is one of my faves – I had it today too! =D

  • erosan

    yeah, I still lurk ;)

  • erosan

    He is doing great… I’m still having the time of my life with him… he is very active, very smart and getting more talkative everyday. And he is a proper omnivore, i.e. he is not picky about food and will try anything at least once and that makes me happy, as I can serve him my fancy cooking and he’ll eat with gusto ^_^;

    I noticed your kid is all grown up now (and rocking a new look)…

    Also, the eternal question… when are you coming to Merida?

  • Gemma

    This is AWESOME! You have been my inspiration and how-to when transitioning to a vegan lifestyle – you explain things in a way that is somehow simple, yet seems so thoroughly researched & considered.

    Just wondering about portions – how much is a good amount of protein and fat? Like half a tin of beans? Half an avo? A tablespoon of tahini? And is the greens portion about 1/2 a bunch of kale/silverbeet/lettuce or the whole bunch?

  • Lynn

    Awesome Post! Really useful! I’ve had the exact problem you’re describing here! I try bringing salads with me to work but I guess they really are too light on protein and fat, because they basically never fill me up. I’ll have to start adding more of both! Question about the dressing. I find that I struggle with dressing consistency. I tend to make my own vinaigrette at home. Sometimes I get it right, but other times it’s an oil slick from too much EVOO, and other times it’s too runny from too much vinegar. Anyone have any tips about ratios?

  • veganinbrighton

    Grrrl, this post is THE best. So helpful, seriously. I just followed all of your tips and made such an amazing salad! I started with my 8 cup glass lasagne pan and then added lettuce as a base (not sure what kind just the local organic one they had at the health food store this morning) then raw broc, grated carrot, black beans, spring onions, black olives and half of an avocado smooshed like super lazy guac. I topped it all off with nooch and my favourite miso tahini dressing from Appetite For Reduction. Epic! I also cut and washed the whole lettuce and am gonna be keeping it in the spinner in the fridge, you might just be a genius!

  • Sarah C.

    This is the one I use and swear by:

  • Candice

    Thank you for the left over tofu scram idea! I just had that for lunch and it was really perfect. :D

  • Rebecca Carnes

    I think I’m in love with this post…no, seriously….I love EVERYTHING about it. As I eat my very sad wimpy salad, definitely not going to keep me happy for long, I thought I really need to up my salad creations….and BAM! Here it is:) Heaven sent!! Its perfection and my belly thanks you ;)