During hot summer months when the only thing you’re craving is something cool and refreshing, it’s easy to reach for a plain old salad.

Salads can be healthy and easy go-to options but all too often they fall short, leaving us unsatisfied and craving something more.

The secret to building a better salad is to add interest in every bite with a variety of textures and fresh flavors. Consider mixing in a variety of interesting greens, hearty vegetables, beans/legumes, whole grains, and even fresh fruit. If you need some inspiration, this article should help.

So, join me in setting aside the basic iceberg lettuce with light dressing in favor of a heartier bowl!

Starting with selecting your greens and ending with mixing up a heart-healthy dressing, the components detailed below are sure to help you build a better salad:

Leafy Greens – You can stick to more typical salad base options like an iceberg, romaine lettuce, or baby spinach but I encourage you to elevate your greens with some kale or cabbage. Both add flavor, fiber, and a nice crisp crunch. Often, grocery stores will offer bagged combinations of these greens already chopped, washed, and ready to eat!

Hearty Vegetables - Standard salad toppings may include shaved carrots, crisp cucumbers, and maybe sliced mushrooms. Don’t feel you have to stick to this list! Try adding hearty vegetables like chopped broccoli or cauliflower, seasonal zucchini, squash, or even roasted beets.

Protein Loaded Beans and Legumes - There are a wide variety of beans/legumes out there to choose from. Some of my favorites to add to salads include black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and navy beans. If using canned beans, be sure to watch out for sodium and choose No-salt-added varieties! Other excellent choices in this category include lentils, sweet peas, or cubed tofu.

Fiber Rich Whole Grains – Whole grains help to provide added texture, flavor, and a blast of belly-filling fiber. Some great choices would include brown rice, faro, tri-colored quinoa, and whole wheat couscous.

Fresh Fruits – No salad would be complete without a little added sweetness and/or tartness! Fruit is the perfect way to round out a salad. Some of my favorite fruits to add to salads include ripe tomatoes, crisp apples, mandarin oranges, and strawberries.

Dressing – With so many commercial dressings brimming with oil, sodium, and sugar, how do we complete our healthy salad? Some simple suggestions would be a squeeze and zest of citrus or a splash of vinegar with a pinch or two of garden herbs like fresh basil or dry oregano. Then top with fresh cracked black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes.

With these tips in your back pocket, you will never have to struggle through another boring salad again!

Our Chopped Salad with Horseradish Balsalmic Dressing is a perfect example of a salad built with all components listed above. Give it a try!

Chopped Salad with Horseradish Balsalmic Dressing

♦ 2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
♦ 1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
♦ ½ cup shredded carrots
♦ ¼ cup thinly sliced red onions
♦ 1 cup cooked tri-color quinoa
♦ 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
♦ 1 cup thinly sliced cucumber
♦ 1 cup no-salt-added garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
♦ 1 cup diced broccoli
♦ 1 cup diced cauliflower

♦ ½ cup balsamic vinegar
♦ 1 teaspoon horseradish
♦ 1 teaspoon no-salt-added stone ground mustard
♦ 1 teaspoon undiluted orange juice concentrate
♦ 1 teaspoon minced garlic
♦ 1 teaspoon dried oregano
♦ Pinch granulated garlic and onion
♦ Pinch black pepper

1. In a small mixing bowl, combine all salad dressing ingredients and whisk together. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

2. In a medium-sized salad bowl, add chopped romaine, sliced red cabbage, shredded carrots, sliced red onions, and cooked tri-color quinoa. Add about 1 to 2 ounces of salad dressing to the salad mixture and toss, coating evenly.

3. Layer tomatoes, cucumber, garbanzo beans, diced broccoli, and cauliflower on top of the salad mixture.

4. Gently top the salad with 1 to 2 ounces additional dressing, or as desired.

♦ This Horseradish Balsamic Dressing can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 5 to 7 days.

♦ Undiluted apple juice concentrate is a fine substitute for orange juice concentrate in this dressing if you already have some on hand, or if it is more convenient.

♦ For a bit more elegant look and feel, substitute white or golden balsamic vinegar for the standard dark balsamic in this dressing.

♦ To help balance out the savory components of this salad, consider topping it with some sweet diced apples or strawberries, or even tart pomegranate seeds when in season.