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No More Boring Salads!

Seriously. Sometimes I feel like if I eat one more salad I'll cry. Probably because I'm so predictable and end up topping my lettuce with the same 3 things every time. Lately, I've been on a mission to branch out and spice up my salads. Trying out different combinations, and being a little more creative than iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and sliced cucumber. Which is basically what my salads used to be. Blech. I thought I'd put together a list of some amazing toppers to inspire you to make your own amazing salads for summer!

Mesclun Mix, sweet potato, sliced strawberries, almonds, dried cranberries, and green beans!
The Base: most of the time, salads start out with some greens on the bottom. Iceberg should only be the thing that cut short that Titanic movie---it doesn't belong on your plate! Try baby spinach, romaine, endive, red-leaf lettuce, kale, or baby greens. 

Veggies: In this category, there are no limits. With low calories and high nutritional value, veggies reign in the salad kingdom. Typical toppers are cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, and broccoli. Use these if you like them, but add to them as well, including bell peppers, green beans, snap peas, mushrooms, corn, cauliflower, radishes, and sprouts. 

Protein: If you're treating your salad as your meal, you need to include some protein. I'm officially over sliced grilled chicken breast. Delicious? Yes. But I've had it about a gazillion too many times. Different ideas include sliced lean steak, turkey, tofu, shrimp, canned tuna or salmon, fresh seared fish, eggs, beans, or edamame. 

Baby spinach, canned tuna, grapes, and diced pickles!

Fruit: Not long ago I would have been confused about this--growing up, salads did not include fruit. Definitely an error. Fruit can add a whole new level to a salad, increasing flavor and texture beautifully. Toss in sliced strawberries, kiwis, grapes, pears or orange segments. For a tropical salad, try pineapple or mango. Dried fruit can also make a great addition--dried berries pack an anti-oxidant punch to boot!

Fats: as with any dish, some healthy fats are necessary. Try slices of avocado, a drizzle of olive oil, or a handful of nuts. Sliced almonds add some major crunch to almost any salad. Seeds are perfect as well--try sunflower or pumpkin. Cheese is a flavorful way to add fat to the meal, but skip the chain restaurant style handful of grated cheddar. Instead, use your favorite flavor-filled cheese so you can add a small amount without breaking the calorie bank. Parmesan is my personal favorite!

Extras: Untraditional toppings are the ones that make for a memorable salad. If you have some leftover cooked grains like quinoa, couscous, or barley, toss them in cold. Slice up a sweet potato to make a salad super filling. 

Dressing: Think outside of the bottle for this one. While there are lots of delicious dressings that come pre-made, often the best ones are something different. Try a mix of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper for a delicious homemade vinaigrette. Salsa is also a great salad dressing, adding some serious heat (unless you're like me and have to choose mild because medium makes you cry)!

Mixed greens with grapes, sweet potato, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and side of rye and PB. 
I'd like to shout out to the hubs who joined me for my 100 Push-up Challenge last night. It's so much more fun doing that workout with someone else! Our first set even included this nugget of awesome:

Two people get in push-up position facing each other. After one push-up, extend opposite arms and slap each other's hands. Return to push-up position and continue. Alternate hands with each push-up that you do. This is way harder than normal push-ups, and is amazing for your core. Try it with a buddy! (I'm looking at you Rose!)

What are your favorite salad ingredients?
Lately I've been a fan of baby spinach, some protein, and fruit like grapes or strawberries. Yum! My top pick would have to be a salad with some nice seared tuna though, so good!

Do you prefer to work out alone or with someone else?
I definitely prefer to run on my own. It's my zone-out time and I love it. For everything but cardio, it's way more fun for me to have a workout partner. I push myself a lot harder and have more motivation in general. 


  1. I love fruits in my salad! I really have to have a good salad to feel satisfied, so I love this post! It's full of great ideas to build a "meal" salad instead of feeling like it's a side salad. I love to add cottage cheese as a protein to my salad and fruits and nuts. I like to work out alone, but my hubby and I play this game in the living room at nights while watching tv and its really fun and easy. We use a coin and give heads a # (like 15) and tails a # (like 30) and chose a move before we flip. So he might choose bicycle situps and then we flip the coin and where ever it lands we do that many. So if we choose push ups I always hope for the smaller #. We also tend to race each other while doing them so it ends up being cardio too.

  2. Yummmmy! My favourite salad is strawberry spinach salad-- spinach, strawberries, red pepper, onion, almonds and poppy seed dressing :)

  3. vanessa that first salad looks like my kind of salad!! how yummy! and AWESOME for having your hub do the pushup challenge with you... mine would NEVER run with me, but I think I could get him to do pushups with me!


  4. I MUST stop coming here. I am always left feeling hungry....

  5. I'm obsessed with salad, I will literally take what ever a normal person eats for a meal and put it over greens.

  6. Ahhhh. Love this!! I have totally been in a sweet potato mood, and i have never thought to put them in a salad. Yum, I am definitely going to try it. My salad staples are tomatoes, feta (or some other salty cheese), cucumbers, and almond slivers.

    Ohhh man. The push up challenge. It kills me. :) But great job on making it more intense!!

  7. I totally needed this post today! I'm starting my marathon nutrition plan Monday! Printing this post to help me plan! :)

  8. Great! I love sharing food ideas...I always make the same thing...

  9. I'm not a big salad as a meal person, but I'm starting to be more adventurous with my toppings. I try not to eat iceberg lettuce when I want a healthy salad. I love asian style dressings, creamy pesto dressings, and any other creamy dressings for that matter. I like crispy crunchy toppings, and protein like egg or chicken. I'm also a big fan of nuts.

  10. my hubby & i are fans of "taco salads"...we use chicken, a variety of peppers, tomatos, a little cheese, and salsa as our dressing. i however opt to add a dallop of chobani plain greek yogurt on top of mine, since growing up, mom used to always top a taco salad with sour cream....trying to be healthier i've been using greek yogurt as a sub for sour cream.

    great post!!! balsamic vinegar with tangerine juice & zest is also a great salad dressing!

  11. I am thinking of doing the 100 pushup challenge. What do you think of it?

  12. Your salads look super yummy!! I love putting sliced apples with chicken and walnuts, or chicken, bbq sauce and roasted corn or even some steamed veggies in the mix.
    I love poppyseed dressing too!!
    As for working out, I prefer to go alone. Dont know what it is about it, but I consider it my time to reflect on things in my life...I hate having to feel the need to talk to someone as I am huffing along lol.

  13. I do eat a salad almost every day for lunch. I love any fruit put on salad!
    Many time, I use salsa for a dressing (not with the fruit though).

  14. I love salad & try to eat it every day. I use cottage cheese as my dressing. Yum!

  15. No wonder u were sick of salad - iceberg is the worst!!

  16. Yes! I took your advice and spiced up my salad! I thought I only had romaine, tomato and onion for today's salad (uh, boring) but a little outside-of-the-box thinking and i chopped up some sun dried tomatoes (i am knew to these and, yum), feta crumbles and i found some sliced almonds in the pantry! So much better than expected :)

  17. I just don't like fruit in my salad. Dried fruits are ok but otherwise it's a no-no for me. Everything else is A-ok in a salad! I love hummus mixed with balsamic vinegar for salad dressing. :)

  18. Love love love fruit in my salads!

    It depends on what workout I'm doing, but as a general rule I like working out with people I'm close to. Otherwise, not so much.

  19. These are great salad ideas! Thanks for the tips. I want sweet potato on my salad now!

  20. They all look good. Too bad I can't have fruit right now. :( Love it on salads. Apples are great on salads too, I discovered that about 5 years ago and for a salad lover, it was life changing. :) I totally need to quit forgetting my healthy fat each's slowing down my progress I think.

  21. I love palm hearts. Love them!!

    I like long solitary runs when no one else is really out. Like In the winter when the cyclists aren't out. ;) but, I also like taking my border collie CB with me because seeing him so happy motivates me more and makes me happy.

  22. Oh crap, now I have to find someone to do push ups with me.

    The obvious choice is my brother, but the last time I tried to get him to do push ups he thought I was going to try some prank on him.

  23. All those salads look great!! I just need to eat more salads in general! And thanks for your sweet comment on my race report yesterday!

  24. I eat salad of some kind every day. Salad to me is anything that I put together in a bowl!

    My very favorite dressing right now is:
    cilantro chopped up
    minced garlic
    lemon juice
    olive oil
    white balsamic vinegar

    I also love grains in my salad - farro. whole wheat couscous, quinoa, bulgur, brown rice, wild rice, barley.

    I am always trying new combos.

  25. Great looking salads...Fruit (esp in warm weather) adds such a fun touch! And color too!

    I like the spin yo put on your push-ups!!! HARD CORE! GO hubs for supporting and joining you on this challenge!!

  26. I'm a pansy salad eater. I keep it simple and boring. Did you really eat a salad with diced pickles & tuna?! That's crazy...may have to try it some day.

  27. Aww push up buddies, great idea! But I doubt my sister will be wanting to join me lol
    I love baby spinach, it's been my new lettuce, I use it in salads and wraps, yum and super good for you! I actually used to put cheese on my salads, but now I don't and usually put boiled egg, cucumbers, tomatos and broccoli, yum!

  28. Lately I have been craving bbq sauce, corn, and avocado on my salads. I'm almost positive that the bbq sauce isn't healthy, but it really tastes scrumptious.

    I think it is sweet that your hubby is spending time with you by working out. I prefer to hit it alone because I like to be focused and not let my workout depend on how someone else is feeling. I guess this makes me a control freak, whoops.

  29. What a great post--those salads look TASTY!!! My fave right now is as you know, that Greek Salad...yum yum yummy!!

    And.. I think I *prefer* to workout alone when I'm going 90 to nothing, but having a workout buddy is great too. I've always workedout (lifting) with either my brother or boyfriend; however I'm started to branch out now that I'm outside of a gym, and it's kind of nice:)

  30. That second salad looks awesome!!

  31. I made a salad for lunch for my hubby and myself once that had baby spinach, romaine, pineapple, diced red bell pepper, crushed pistachios, grilled chicken, and was topped with some lemon juice mixed with a little bit of olive oil. Oh man, so good!!

    I usually work out alone. In fact, the only person I've ever worked out with is my hubby. I tend to get kinda embarrassed if I can't do something as well as another person, so I usually go solo.

    And to answer your question: I'm looking at doing the Run for Their Lives 5K in Athens, GA on July 9th. :) Let me know if you think you might do it too!!

  32. My new salad obsession is: arugula, roasted beets and carrots, fresh mint, shredded chicken breast or seared ahi tuna, feta cheese, goji berries, and homemade mustard vinaigrette. I can't get enough of it!

    I'd say about half my workouts are alone and the other are with a friend. Sometimes, like you, I just need to zone out! But I do love that push-up idea!

  33. I really WANT to like salad. Right now I just prefer Romaine lettuce and I dip it in either a light ranch dressing or put on a little bit of Italian dressing. I HAVE to learn to like salad.

    Right now I am finally sick of pasta. I've done so much pre-race carb loading and the thought of more pasta right now makes me say blah.

  34. My fav salads start with baby spinach. I use the same boring toppings every time. I have never tried fruit but your pic looks beautiful.

  35. yum! i have had so much fun creating new salads lately. my favorite is grilling some frozen fruit on the stove with honey and then throwing it on a bed of spinach with lots of craisins and some sort of nut when I have them :) yum!

    I LOVE working out with other people is so much more motivating and gets me out of bed and to the gym in the morning! LOVE that you and the hubs can push each other in the push-up challenge. that is one thing I have to do on my own...blah. I need to motivate like my dog to do a push-up or something. haha! have a good night :)

  36. That top salad looks delicious!Why have I not thought of putting half the things you mentioned on my salad... I'm cutting back grains and extra carbs so I really needed something to break up the monotony of my salads lately. Thanks for sharing!!!

  37. the salad you described sounds amazing! I'd say cheese and nuts are a must (haha and super high calorie) along with tomatoes and spinich.

    I love to run with other girls! In fact I finally convinced a couple of the other bloggers to run with me tomorrow...woo hoo!

  38. I was the same way. I was always so confused with fruit showing up in my salads..luckily I wised up and discovered the glory of it.

  39. Great tips!! Love spinach, don't even usually use lettuce! Also love fruit on salad and I never use dressing out of the bottle either!!

    I do most strength training with a few friends. We meet and workout together. I do most of my running alone (which I like) but I do have a partner for a few long runs!

    This really is a good blog-so informative!!

  40. I've eat salad the past 5 days in a row and every single one has had cherry tomatoes, haha. Thanks for all the fun, fresh ideas!

    As for your questions... I haven't tried the cinnamon roll bars yet, or the Biscoff. I'm terrified to break the seal on the jar, haha. But you NEED to try those high protein pretzels. You won't know how you ever lived without 'em!!

  41. Hope you like your Brooks! I have loved them for years! My favorite salad toppings are Mexican!!! Guac, sour cream, pico, beans, meat, and of couse cilantro!

  42. My salad yesterday:
    Black beans, roasted brussel sprouts, grape halves, yellow pepper, zucchini, baby carrots, baby spinach, olives, corn salsa.

    Also, I'm glad my poop stories drew you in. I'll try to maintain that level of intellectualism.

  43. Oooh! I've never thought of sweet potato on a green salad! That looks amazing! I love adding fruit, nuts, and seeds to my salads!

    I am similar to you. When I run, I love to be alone. It's kind of like my time to zone out and think about random things. I love having a partner when I'm weight training and I love group fitness classes like spinning :)

  44. This post was MADE FOR ME!!!! I am so bored with my salads and you gave me so many great ideas!! I LOVE cottage cheese on my salads!!! I love working out with other people. Have a great day gorgeous girl!

  45. I am pretty sure we are the same person. Half the time I read your blog I think,, oh I was totally going to post something about that, haha. Great minds think a like! I am a salad animal, I agree, you can NEVER get bored with salad because you can put ANYTHING in them! There really is NO limit.

  46. Thanks for the great post! I was about to do a blog entry on the same subject when I found this post and decided to link your content rather than try to do as great a job as you've done here!



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