How to Build a Salad Like a Boss

How to Build a Salad Like a Boss

When you think salad, your first thought may not be “mmmmm—yummy!”  Salad gets a bad rap for being plain or boring.  Many associate it with “dieting” or as something you shouldeat.  Well, I’m here to tell you that a salad can be delicious, filling and downright yummy.  Did you roll your eyes?  I’m serious!  So, are you ready to build a salad like a boss!  It’s easy if you stock up with a few of your favorite ingredients from five different categories.  You can even make these at the beginning of the week for an easy grab and go lunch (details below).


First – Choose Your Greens.   Your greens are your base.  Mix it up and try different greens.  You might choose Romaine, Spinach, Red Leaf Lettuce or even Kale.  Kale is very chewy and I recommend chopping it well.

Layer One – Fruits & Veggies.  It’s all about color!  Choose from red peppers, purple cabbage (shredded), tomatoes, broccoli, celery, cucumbers, red onion (mince or even roast for better flavor), strawberries, kiwi, apple, pineapple (If using canned, make sure it is packed in juice.  Try it grilled for even more flavor), red grapes (sliced), Jicama.

Layer Two – Protein.  You can choose from meats like chicken (use rotisserie to save time), tuna (canned in water), salmon (canned is okay), or even ground turkey (lean, browned with a little water, minced garlic and cilantro for a southwest flair).  You don’t have to stick with meat; you can get the protein you need from cooked lentils, hard-boiled eggs, canned beans—black beans, black-eyed peas or cannellini beans (tastes like tuna!).  Be sure and drain and rinse beans.

Layer Three – Whole Grains & Starchy Veggies.  Choose from quinoa or wild rice (try the 90-second microwavable packs), carrots, beets, bulgur (sprinkle), yams or corn (oven roast for more flavor).

Layer Four – Flavor Boosters.  Kimchi, salsa (look for ingredient list that reads like a recipe – no additives), hummus, guacamole, BBQ sauce (check ingredient list for things you know), pistachios, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds

Layer Five – Healthy Extras – You might like minced garlic, lime juice, fresh basil, Italian herb seasoning, crushed red pepper, fresh cilantro or ground pepper


One of my favorite ways to use quart-sized canning jars is to pack them with salads.  I can make them on Sunday night and just grab and go all week.  If you’re packing your salad in a jar, you might want to switch up your layers.  Here are a few tips:

  • Dressing first! – This keeps everything from getting soggy.
  • Hardier ingredients next – onions, carrots, beans, peas, bell pepper, olives, etc.  These will get great flavor from sitting in the dressing, too!  Apples will also work in this layer.  Be sure to give them a little lemon juice/water bath before adding to keep them from browning.
  • Keep layering – Pack your layers tightly.  The less air between layers, the longer it will stay fresh.
  • Last layer – Your healthy extras and/or cheeses.
  • One more thing – If you are using less hardy options, like guacamole, avocado or hard boiled eggs, you might pack them separately and add right before you serve.


Now you have packed a salad like a boss – to go!  Shake your salad out on a plate and enjoy!

Lisa Lewis, author of Healthy Happy Cooking, available in the First Place 4 Health online store.