So you decide you want to be healthy. You figure in the midst of all the alcohol and free donuts that is college, you should probably start getting salads for lunch at least, like, once a week. You go to the salad bar, and you can't even pick between mixed greens or kale--WTF do you even choose for your toppings? The rest of the decision-making process is all a blur, and you end up eating a sad bowl of vegetables. Suddenly, eating healthy is a far-away dream, and mac and cheese is sounding a whole lot better than where you are now.

Katie Stone

I understand the struggle, and I am here to help. Don't worry, it takes experience to become a pro at building a not-lame bowl of soggy lettuce and random ingredients. Me being a ~salad connoisseur~, I can assist you in building the ultimate healthy lunch. The first step is identifying the problems.  Here are your biggest mistakes:


Katie Stone

Is your bowl just a mix of spinach, tomatoes, avocado, and cheese, a.k.a. a mushy mess?  Well, the problem here is you aren't varying your textures.  In order to actually enjoy your salad, you need to give yourself some crunch, some softness, and some chewiness. Some crunchy additions to your salad could be carrots, cucumbers, jicama, cabbage, celery, pomegranate seeds, nuts, grapes, apples, or croutons/tortilla strips. Add some softer foods like avocado, tomatoes, cheese, hard boiled egg, tofu (if you're into that), or even hummus. Don't forget about chewiness: dried fruit (figs, apricots), mushroom, asparagus, grains (barley, farro), bacon, chicken, and other proteins.


You're not really sure what to do about dressing your salad, so you play it safe and go for balsamic.  Or even worse -- ranch.  Dressings are a great way to add flavor to your salad so be adventurous!  Some fun ones are honey mustard, sesame ginger, champagne, white balsamic, or raspberry.  A note of caution: dressing can take your salad from healthy to the equivalent of a candy bar.  If you're trying to achieve maximum nutritional benefits from your salad, look for the light dressing options on the menu, or a simple squirt of lemon juice and olive oil does the trick.

#ProTip: Ask to try dressings before you commit!  Many establishments are willing to give you a sample or two.  Better yet, ask for dressing on the side.  That way you can use as much as you want, and you're not stuck with it if you start to get sick of it.


Katie Stone

Have you ever eaten a salad and then an hour later you find yourself pounding chips in your room?  That's because you neglected a crucial aspect or your meal--protein.  The whole reason you're eating this salad is to provide you with energy to continue on with your day, so it is absolutely necessary to put some protein into your body.  Some obvious ways to up your protein intake are chicken, salmon, shrimp, and steak, but vegetarian options like tofu, quinoa, hard boiled egg, beans/lentils, and nuts are also common.


Katie Stone

Simply put, your salad sucks. The tastes are just boring and you are just miserable while you're eating it. The trick is to add some fun, flavorful ingredients to make eating healthy more enjoyable. Personally, my favorite way to do this is add fruit to my salads. Plenty of places offer fruits like grapes, apples, pears, oranges, or even dried cranberries that are perfect for adding some sweetness to your lunch. You can also add flavors by using an acidic dressing or spiced nuts.

Hard to Eat

Katie Stone

This one may be simple, but it's a big factor.  I don't know anybody who enjoys shoving enormous leaves of lettuce into his or her mouth, especially in public. Not to fear, there is a quick fix to this terribly annoying issue. Just ask for the people behind the counter to chop your salad!  If you're making your own, cutting your lettuce into smaller pieces is worth the extra few seconds it takes. Now you can eat your meal in manageable-sized bites and actually enjoy it.

Bonus Tip: Make It Into Your Favorite Food

Who says your healthy salad can't have aspects of your favorite, indulgent dishes?  Instead of dreaming about the chicken parmesan you're not eating, simply make a salad that incorporates the major ingredients.  Fill your bowl with greens, chicken, tomatoes, herbs, and mozzarella cheese and you have the best of both worlds.  Create a sushi salad by eliminating sticky rice and topping your lettuce with cucumber, carrots, avocado, ahi tuna, and sesame seeds.  Healthy food really doesn't have to taste so bad.