The One Formula You Need to Make a Killer Healthy Salad

Here are 5 tips for making a killer salad, plus a super-simple homemade vinaigrette recipe that will make you fall in love with salad again.

I try to make a ginormous salad every day for lunch or dinner. Healthy salad recipes pack in a lot of nutrients for not a lot of calories—as long as you pay attention to the ingredients. It’s easy to come up with healthy salad recipes in the summer when the market is overflowing with summer-ripe tomatoes, loads of veggies and a variety of salad greens. But dinner salads can be just as delicious and satisfying in the cooler months. I just adjust the mix for the season. This foolproof formula will have you tossing up healthy salad recipes whenever the mood strikes you!

Lay Down the Leafy Greens

For a single dinner-size salad, start with 3 cups of leafy greens. The sturdy bitter stuff (endive, arugula, escarole) is at its best in the cooler months.

Add a Rainbow of Veggies

Start with 1 to 2 cups of raw or roasted vegetables, such as beets, squash, broccoli, red cabbage, carrots and/or fennel.

Go for Whole Grains

Bulk up your plate with up to 1/2 cup of cooked grains, such as barley, farro, brown rice or quinoa.

Add Protein for Staying Power

Add 3 to 4 ounces of cooked chicken, shrimp or steak, a hard-boiled egg or 1/2 cup beans. Leftovers are your friends here.

Dress It Up

Now that your bowl o’ salad is ready, you need to toss it with a dressing. Don’t be a fat phobe! Dressing improves your salad’s flavor—and its fat helps you absorb certain nutrients, such as beta carotene. This basic vinaigrette goes with just about any healthy salad recipe: Whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon red-wine or white-wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon minced shallot, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Makes about 3 1/2 Tbsp., enough for 1 large salad. Short on time? Use 2 tablespoons of a store-bought dressing with a simple ingredient list.