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Does your heart sink a little when you think about eating salad for lunch or dinner? Well, we need to fix that. It’s totally possible to create a hearty, satisfying salad that doesn’t taste like rabbit food—and does taste like something you’ll actually want to eat every day.

5 essential tips for making the perfect salad

1. Be creative

First, it’s important to rethink your definition of “salad.” One of the reasons salad gets such a bad rap is it tends to presented in the boring lettuce + more veggies + dressing (and maybe some croutons) format. You can make salads every day of the week and never buy a head of lettuce if you don’t want to. Some leafiness is a nice base, but you can get that from pea shoots or any number of other greens.

2. Contrasting Textures

This is key to enjoying your salad! Only have crunchy veggies on hand? Make a chopped salad and top it with beans, chicken or avocado for textural variety. If you’ve found yourself with more greens than you can deal with, add in some roasted chickpeas, croutons, celery, sprouts, berries or hard-boiled eggs for variation.

3. Fiber + Protein

If texture is the key to enjoying your salad, soluble fiber and protein are the key to staying full after you eat it. Some veggies, like carrots and cucumbers, have a lot of soluble fiber to keep you full, and some (like spinach and peas) have protein. But adding other soluble fiber and protein sources can transform salad from side to main dish. Insoluble fiber won’t keep you full, but is necessary for gut health and digestion. You can get insoluble fiber from whole grains, zucchini, broccoli, dark leafy greens and fruit.

4. Salads Don’t Have to Be Raw

Just like there’s no rule that everything in your salad has to be a veggie, there’s no rule that everything has to be raw. Use raw, steamed or sautéed greens—or even grilled romaine lettuce—as a base, then pile it on. (By the way, this is where leftovers really come in handy.) Here are just a few ideas to start:
pickled beets or carrots
grilled veggies or meats
charred corn or tomatoes
marinated mushrooms
roasted broccoli or cauliflower
grilled halloumi cheese
kale or radish chip
smashed root veggies
bacon or veggie bacon
caramelized onions
blanched green beans
leftover stir-fry or kebabsrice, 
quinoa or other grains
seared tuna
baked salmon
roasted nuts and seed
srotisserie chicken
baked chickpeas
refried beans
baked tofu or tempe
hover-easy or hard-boiled eggs

5. Don’t Forget the Dressing

For some, bottled dressing will do the trick. (Personally, I’m a huge fan of tahini-based Annie’s Goddess dressing and Brianna’s Zesty French, which has a nice paprika flavor.) However, salad dressings, like all condiments, tend to contain a lot of sodium, hidden sugars, preservatives and oils that we’d maybe rather not consume all the time.

This is why homemade salad dressings are a genius option. If olive oil and lemon juice sounds totally boring, try making homemade ranch, blue cheese, French or honey mustard, or experiment with a simple ratio of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil (to taste) with minced shallots, herbs, spices, mustard, tahini or other accoutrements whisked in. Shake it all up in a mason jar and there’s no need to buy dressing.

How to Make the Perfect Salad

Follow this formula to make salads you’ll want to eat every day.

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