Healthy Salad Toppings: What To Put In A Salad

what to put in a salad

Eating Your Greens Doesn’t Have to Be Boring

We all get told to eat more vegetables. Most of us admit we should eat more salads… but they’re so boring! You know they don’t have to be, right?

DIY Nation, let’s up to your salad game this year with these fresh tips for increasing your salad’s appeal.

What Should You Put in Your Salad?

Leafy Stuff

Yep, okay, we agree: you pretty much need to start with leafy greens if you’re making a vegetable salad.

You can make other kinds of salads, but we’re looking to increase veggies specifically, so let’s look at that.

So what are your options? Happily, there are a few more than you think. The best part is, they all have their own unique properties and flavors. And seriously, don’t dis the iceberg lettuce just because it’s not as action-packed as kale!

Iceberg lettuce has vitamins K and A in good quantities and has lots of water in it. So it’ll fill you up, give you some vitamins, and it is crisp and refreshing.

Of course, we love our B-vitamin and folate-rich spinaches and kales. These guys make for a great base to any salad — just be sure not to overdo it. You want to keep it to one or two handfuls, max, so your body can digest and process all the nutrients efficiently.

They will give you iron and vitamins C, A, and K, as well, and covers a variety of minerals (particularly magnesium).

What about romaine lettuce? Well, by now you’ve seen the pattern — lettuces (of all types) give you lots of vitamins A and K. Romaine lettuce will punch up your folate intake, though, and provide an assortment of minerals.

Arugula makes for a spicy addition to any salad. Its peppery taste comes with the added benefit of providing potassium to your salad.

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Other flavorful greens include the herb family, which have their own unique offerings which you should play with for both taste and nutrition.

Dandelion greens are tasty, unique, and contain lutein (for your eyes) and calcium. Other leafy green choices like chard (great for magnesium, fiber, and iron) or cabbage (beta-carotene, fiber, and manganese) can really round out your salad game.

The bottom line is: green is good for you, so mix it up! A standard serving size is two cups, so try a bit of each, see what you like mixed together, and change up your salad so you don’t get bored.


You’ve picked your base, now you need to build on it. One of the most important additions to your salad is protein. We’re not going to get into the nitty-gritty of weighing and measuring your protein because chances are you won’t do it anyways (and we don’t blame you!).

However, we will inspire you to make good choices that keep you interested in salads this year.

Meat is the option that comes to mind first. Beef, pork, chicken, fish, shrimp, and even eggs are all pretty easy to toss into your salad.

Whether you’re using leftover steak bites from dinner the night before or prepping chicken breasts specifically for salad use, you’ve got some quick and easy protein options here. Full of protein, iron, and a multitude of vitamins and minerals, these tasty morsels will fulfill your protein needs.

Non-animal alternatives like tofu, nuts, and seeds, protein-dense grains like quinoa and barley, or beans can all provide tasty and economical options to meat. And hey, maybe one of your goals this year is to eat less meat anyway, so why not start with your salad?

These guys are also nutritional powerhouses in that they have a variety of other associated nutrients.

Dairy proteins can be pretty fun additions to a salad, too. They’re rich and flavorful, filling, and have other unique attributes like calcium and vitamin D. Now because they are so rich, we suggest mixing your cheese with another protein for balance.

Goat cheese and pecans, feta and black beans, or cheddar and beef are all great pairings.

And what about alternative-alternative sources? Did you know cricket protein may be the game-changer we need in terms of sustainability and affordability when it comes to securing meat-like protein sources? Check it out!

Mixing and matching any of these will have you running the nutritional gamut, providing you with tons of vitamins and minerals.

Veggies and the Like

Well of course you’re going to want to have some more vegetables in here than just your leafy greens.

You have almost unlimited options here. Why not try something a little out of your normal range, like beets (cooked), corn, homemade salsa, Brussels sprouts, peas, cauliflower, etc., and really up to your game?

Load up your salad with veggies and add a touch of fruit to keep it interesting. Spinach and strawberries, cucumbers and blueberries, bok choy with watercress and oranges.

You have so many options, your best bet is to choose from the rainbow to ensure you get the most nutritional bang-for-your-buck.


Go nuts. Well, you may have already added nuts, so go anything else! Cranberries, cooked sweet potatoes, coconut… you can add whatever your heart desires.

Whether you’re using this as a topping for your salad or as another layer of flavor, you’re the master chef here, so pick something you enjoy to round out your salad.

Using dried fruit adds natural sweetness and can provide a nice contrasting texture to something. Pair them with creamier cheeses to create a delightfully tasty dish.

Tossing in a source of carbohydrates is an underutilized tool when it comes to increasing your salad’s appeal. Cooking up some kind of potato to give that rich texture — and even eating it when warm! — can totally change your approach to the salad.

Maybe you like good, old-fashioned croutons? Perfect, throw a handful on there. Or maybe you want to try some kind of grain like quinoa, spelled, or hemp hearts? Great!

Fried eggplant, pickled anything, artichoke hearts… anything you can dream up, you can put in your salad. Don’t be afraid to try new things! What’s the worst that happens? You pick it out? Oh no!


Everyone’s favorite part, right? Whether you’re going oil or cream-based, you really have an unlimited option to how you choose to top your salad. Making them at home is very easy. Want a recipe? Here you go:

Take an oil. Add a vinegar (usually 2-1 ratio, but taste test it and make it to your liking).

Then add some kind of sweetener (sugar, honey, fruit juice, whatever floats your boat). After that, spice it up! Rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, or just plain old salt and pepper.

Take a cream (whipping cream, plain yogurt/sour cream, avocado). Add a vinegar (or an acid like lime or lemon juice). And then add in your sugar and spice. Bam, done!

… Those were not very specific recipes, were they? Salad dressings really are that simple to make. As long as it doesn’t taste terrible and can be poured over your salad, you’re a winner.

Plus, now you can match that funky cheese/nut/pickle concoction you just thought up!


Salads do not have to be boring or something you leave behind at lunch in favor of your favorite comfort food.

Explore your grocery store to freshen up your typical salad. Whether you’re taking it to work or making it as a side for dinner, you can make your salad anything you want it to be.

Keep in mind you can choose to cook, spice, dehydrate, pickle, or otherwise dress up anything in your salad to keep it interesting. What’s your favorite combo you’d like to share with DIY Nation?