Color your plate with everyday ingredients for delicious meals that energize.

Spinach Grape Salad
Transform Spinach-Grape Chopped Salad into a heartier main dish by topping it with grilled flank steak or steamed shrimp.
| Credit: William Dickey / Styling Lisa Powell Bailey / Food Styling Angela Sellers

Salads make a nutritious meal. Or do they? We all know that eating colorful veggies and greens is a delicious way to pack in powerful antioxidants, but some toppings and dressings can add up to a lot of wasted calories and fat if you don't watch out. Your choices in lettuce and other greens can also affect the good-for-you factor. Choose your ingredients wisely, and include lots of color.

The Darker, The Better
Lettuce and greens vary in levels of nutrients. Though paler lettuces, such as iceberg, have some nutritional value and are typically less expensive, it's best to choose the deeper, brighter ones―that's where you'll find more of the cancer-fighting antioxidants. Avoid dark spots, wilted leaves, and yellowing. Mix and match a variety of colors and textures, such as crunchy romaine tossed with soft, nutrient-rich spinach leaves or peppery arugula with frilly red leaf lettuce.

Very Clean Veggies
Thoroughly wash all greens and vegetables, even prepackaged fresh produce. While rinsing under running water offers some protection against unsafe bacteria, we recommend these alternatives.

  • Prepackaged greens: Make a solution of 11/3 cups 3% hydrogen peroxide (it's perfectly safe and has no aftertaste) and 22/3 cups distilled water; keep it in a spray bottle. Spritz the greens with the solution, rinse with distilled water, and then spin or pat them dry. Replace the solution once a week.
  • Fresh greens: Soak and rinse several times with distilled water to remove dirt and grit. Make a double batch of peroxide mixture, and soak the greens in it. Rinse and pat dry.
  • Fresh vegetables: Purchase a vegetable brush (used only for cleaning produce). Gently scrub the veggies with the peroxide solution, and rinse.

Keep Dressings Light
You don't have to go completely fat free. In fact, we prefer light and reduced-fat dressings over fat-free ones, which tend to contain more sugar and other additives to boost flavor. Newman's Own and Girard's, for example, each have a great line of light salad dressings that taste just as good as the full-fat versions. If you want your bottled dressing creamier, add some nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt to thicken it, which also gives you an extra dose of dairy.

Or come up with your own creative combinations. Choose monounsaturated salad oils, such as olive and nut oils, when making your own dressing.

Tasty Toppings

  • Grate some carrots to sprinkle over your salad for an extra boost of beta-carotene, a strong antioxidant known to reduce the risk of heart disease, help prevent cancer, and promote good vision.
  • Nuts and seeds not only add extra flavor and crunch (especially when toasted), but they also contain heart-healthy fat and are rich in protein and fiber. Choose a small handful of almonds, pecans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, walnuts, or flaxseed.
  • Our staff loves adding edamame (green soybeans) to salads. Look for frozen edamame in the freezer section. You can also find them fully cooked and ready to eat.

Healthy Benefits

  • Red and purple grapes and juice contain flavonoids that help reduce cholesterol, protect against heart disease, and promote lung health.
  • A small handful of nuts or seeds on your salad can make your meal more filling, helping to reduce hunger pangs and overeating throughout the day.