Salad has long held a reputation as a boring side to the main event. But, when topped with the right ingredients, it can be so much more flavorful!
We all know that salad is a healthy option, and one of the main reasons why is that its nutritious base is leafy greens. Sure, the benefits of leafy greens are seemingly unending, but the problem is, greens don’t taste all that great on their own. In fact, they range from bitter to downright bland. Rather than adding all kinds of unhealthy toppings to make your salad flavorful, try topping it with a secret, healthy ingredient—fruit!
The benefits of fruit are endless.
One of the best ways to spruce up your salad is by adding fresh fruit. It not only brightens up your salad and makes it appealing to the eye (it’s not just a bunch of veggies), it also adds the perfect level of sweetness that’s often missing from your lettuce mix while boosting your fiber and overall nutrient intake.
A secondary benefit is that fruit can also help to minimize the amount of dressing you use (usually people drench salad with dressing to mask the bitter flavor and moisten the dry, leafy greens). In short, less dressing reduces the (fat) calories you consume.
Finally, as an added bonus every woman LOVES: naturally sweet fruit that everyone loves will help to get your family on board, which makes mealtime much less stressful.
Check out these combos and take your salad from bland to grand!
Perfect fruit, nut and cheese combos
When building your salad, you’ll want to choose fruits that are complementary in flavor to the rest of your ingredients. While fresh fruit goes well with almost any green (spinach and arugula are personal favorites), it doesn’t necessarily complement all nut and cheese varieties.
Start by choosing the fruit you’d like to feature on your salad and use the ideas below to build your ultimate combo! If you have a nut allergy, opt for pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or roasted sunflower seeds instead of nuts.
- Aged cheddar, mozzarella or Parmesan + almond slivers
- Goat cheese + pistachios
- Gorgonzola or blue cheese + pecans, walnuts or almond slivers
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries
- Feta + pecans or walnuts
- Goat cheese + pistachios or almond slivers
- Gorgonzola or blue cheese + pecans or walnuts
- Parmesan + almond slivers
Clementines and oranges
- Goat cheese + almond slivers or pecans
- Feta + pecans
- Goat cheese + pistachios, walnuts or pecans
- Feta + walnuts
- Gouda + almonds
- Gorgonzola or blue cheese + walnuts
Tip: Buy pre-seeded pomegranates. They’re typically sold in small plastic cups in the produce section of the grocery store. They can be tricky to find and are usually only sold in the United States from October to February.
- Feta or goat cheese + pecans or walnuts
- Blue cheese + pistachios
- Goat or blue cheese + sliced apple or pear + pecans or walnuts
Dried fruit such as cranberries
Tip: Sprinkling a few dehydrated cranberries or raisins on your salad is totally cool, but slapping on 1/4 cup can easily add several servings of fruit in one sitting, which is A LOT of sugar. So, if you decide to top your salad with them, keep portion control in mind. Also, be sure to check the ingredients listed—there shouldn’t be any added oil or sugar.
- Goat cheese + almond slivers
- Feta + almond slivers, pine nuts or walnuts
- Parmesan + pine nuts, roasted sunflower seeds or almond slivers
Salads topped with fresh fruit tend to pair best with vinaigrettes.
We personally love homemade vinaigrettes with apple cider vinegar (ACV) used as the base because of its surprising health benefits. From being a natural probiotic to supporting potential weight loss and blood sugar control, when balanced out in a dressing with olive oil and sweetened with a little honey or maple syrup, ACV is an incredible ingredient.
Our favorite homemade dressings
Rather than buying a HUGE bottle of store-bought dressing and being stuck with the same-old flavor for weeks to come, consider making a homemade dressing that you think your family will LOVE!
Homemade dressings not only allow you to control the flavor and the amount you make, they’re often WAY HEALTHIER than their store-bought counterparts. A tip from one busy woman to another: Consider doubling the recipe, so you’ll have enough on hand for the entire week. Then, try something new the next week!
Our favorite SUPER SIMPLE homemade dressings
- High quality 100% EVOO and balsamic vinegar—that’s it!
- A drizzle of honey, a little EVOO, salt and pepper
Other homemade dressings we LOVE
Our favorite store-bought dressing
While we believe that the majority of our diet should come from home-cooked foods made with simple ingredients, knowing when and how to sprinkle in store-bought real-food options to simplify our busy lives is equally as important.
Shop the aisles for simple, real-food alternatives to your homemade favorites. Avoid dressings with ingredients that are clearly unrecognizable and those with artificial sweeteners and refined sugars, like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). We have an entire article dedicated to choosing healthier FfL-friendly versions of Dressings, Sauces and Marinades.
Our favorite FfL-friendly store-bought dressing
The brand Primal Kitchen is one of the only salad dressing brands we’ve found that tastes good AND uses simple, real-food ingredients you can feel good about serving your family.
- If you want to put a fancy spin on your salad, check out our recipe for Cinnamon Maple Candied Nuts. You can make these ahead and keep them in an airtight container for future use.
- Add 1/4 teaspoon of chia seeds to your salad. They’re rich in protein, antioxidants, fiber and omega 3’s. Their powerful benefits range from heart health to aiding in weight loss. We love them so much, we wrote an entire article on The Benefits of Chia Seeds (+ Creative Ways to Use Them).
- Not only do nuts and seeds add crunch and flavor to your salad, but they also give you a boost in minerals, protein and polyunsaturated fats that are great for your heart and brain.
- Nuts can be extremely expensive. If you’re looking for a more cost-effective option, try roasted sunflower seeds and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Both pair with ANY of the combos above and are much less expensive.
- We often buy a big block of cheese to save money. Because cheese expires quickly, we break the block apart and freeze what we won’t be using in a week’s time. If you take a peek in our freezer, you’ll find an entire gallon-size bag dedicated to a variety of portioned-out cheeses for us to choose from. Just remember, when serving up your salad, moderation is key!
Try it out!
Make a side salad this week and top it with one of the fruit, cheese and nut combos listed above. Trust us, if you’ve never tried supercharging your salad with fresh fruit then you’re in for the salad of your life!
Did you make one of the combos above?
Tell us your thoughts or share your tips for bringing a boring side salad back to life. We always love hearing from you! Plus, your feedback can inspire others in the FfL community.
Other articles your may enjoy:
One of the best ways to spruce up your salad is by adding fresh fruit. It not only brightens up your salad and makes it appealing to the eye, it also adds the perfect level of sweetness that’s often missing from your lettuce mix, while boosting your fiber and overall nutrient intake. As an added bonus: naturally sweet fruit that everyone loves will help to get your family on board, which makes mealtime much less stressful.
- Depending on your mood and what the main dish is, mix and match the fruit, nuts and cheese listed above for your salad.
- Clean, deseed and peel (if necessary) the fruit of your choice. Using a serrated knife, cut the fruit into small slices.
- In a salad dish, add spinach, sliced fruit and a small handful of nuts (about a tablespoon). Top with two teaspoons of cheese and drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar and EVOO.
- Serve and enjoy!