Salad is a great healthy, clean eating meal option. However, calorie laden, carb loaded, sugar-filled salad toppings can make a good thing go bad real quick! But most of us would never even consider that salad could be making us fat. So let’s get the skinny on salad toppings and explore 35+ toppers that are as healthy as they are tasty and colorful.
Before we get started, I have to do a little mom brag. My boys have loved salad since they were tiny. It was always fun to see the waitress’s expression at restaurants when my tiny little guys would lean over and whisper to me, “Mommy, do they have salad here?” Thankfully for me, even entering teen years, their love of salad has not waned.
I think one of their favorite things about salad, and mine too, is “decorating” it. Seriously, have you ever noticed that beautiful food tastes better?
To keep our salads from becoming boring or getting into an eating, we started mixing up our salad toppings. Their mostest-favoritest-ever salad topping used to be dried cranberries. But when my husband and I looked at what we were adding to our bodies while eating a “healthy salad” we realized just how quickly a salad could become a dumping ground of sugar and bad carbs. Thus the quest for healthy (but tasty) toppings!
Not to sound like your mother, remember that the healthiest and best things you can eat, don’t come in a container. Foods that are packaged and processed = put me down, don’t even think about putting me in your mouth if you are trying to make healty choices foods. Raw fruits and vegetables are the best topping options. Although my hubby doesn’t fail to remind me that although it’s natural, fruit is still sugar and nuts and avocados are still a fat. So while these yummies are tasteful and healthy foods, remember to munch in moderation.
Now before you start rolling your eyes and decide this healthy stuff is not your jam, you gotta hear some of the delicious creations we love in our home and then scroll through the topping lists below to see what suits your salad fancy.
Carlson Fam Fav Salads:
Taco Salad — seasoned ground beef over a bed of lettuce, a light sprinkling of Mexican cheese, diced onions, crushed tortilla chips, salsa, guacamole, and sometimes sour cream. Super simple! And for those days when we’re calorie splurging, we’ll substitute Doritos for the tortilla chips. But keep that on the down low… I’m supposed to be giving you healthy options here.
BBQ Ranch Salad — grilled steak or chicken, black beans, and cilantro lime grilled corn over a bed of greens, tortilla strips (or tortilla chips), diced green onions, and sugar-free BBQ sauce mixed with Yogurt Ranch dressing drizzled over the top. Sooooo freaking good! This has become our newest salad craving!
Steak & Pear Salad — grilled steak thinly sliced over a bed of lettuce, with sliced pears and strawberries over the top, a light crumbling of feta cheese, and raspberry balsamic vinegar over the top. Dang delicious!
Healthy Salad Toppings
Straight from the farm…
Alfalfa Sprouts — try them oven roasted in a little bit of olive oil
Bell Peppers, green, red, yellow or orange
Eggs, hard boiled — only 1 or 2
Cheese is a tricky one. Consumed in small quantities, cheese can be a healthy source of calcium and protein for you. However, it is so easy to overdo it on cheese. So while I can’t classify this as a good choice or a poor choice, what I will say is be mindful of your portion and make a smart decision based on your body. Here are some healthier cheese options for you to consider:
Blue Cheese, crumbles
Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
What’s the deal with dressings?
A simple fresh-squeezed lemon or lime is a natural, flavorful salad dressing. Nothing artificial, no extra calories. While many people love it, my taste buds crave more. I crave creamy. But we know that typical creamy dressings = calories.
While balsamics and vinaigrettes have a thin consistency, the amazing flavors that they bring to the table are worth forgoing a creamy consistency. Vinaigrettes could probably take home the title of “best choice for healthy dressings”. A super simple, make at home viaigrette dressing the whole family will love is my Homemade Strawberry Vinaigrette.
In case I haven’t coverted your taste buds yet and they still scream cream? Yogurt-based dressings are great alternatives to creamy dressings. All the creaminess, all the flavor, less calories!
And of course, salsa can be a greatly delicious dressing and will give your salad a southwest flare!
In case you need a little more inspiration for how to add some pizzazz to your salad plate, check out these 24 Sensational Salad Ideas. In the words of Maui (from the movie, Moana, “What can I say except You’re Welcome!”
While it’s occasionally okay to splurge on some of the “other” salad toppings, my goal is to help me, my family, and you eat healthier and take care of our bodies better. And if that’s not enough, think of it this way… choosing healthier toppings gives you permission to splurge on dessert instead of worrying about all the unnecessary sugars, carbs, and calories in your salad!