The Daily Beet

19 Jan Guest post: Wendy from Healthy Girl’s Kitchen: How Healthy Girl Makes a Salad and Makes Salad Making Easier

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Today’s guest post is by Wendy from Healthy Girl’s Kitchen .

I make an effort to eat at least one huge salad just about every day. Besides finding them delicious (and you will too if you know how to make a kick arse salad!), they provide an endless variety of low calorie, high volume food for me to enjoy. Since I have never eaten like a bird, it is very important for me to eat “volumetrically.”  Like Doug Lisle says, eat your raw veggies first (the salad!), your cooked veggies next, and then your whole grains third. It’s almost impossible to over consume calories that way!

A salad can be a feast. A meal. Dinner. Not just a side dish or an appetizer or, heaven forbid, a garnish. Unfortunately, for many, the word salad conjures up visions of limp lettuce on a plate with nothing but a slice of tomato, a slice of cucumber and a white goopy dressing. And given what is typically served as a salad in a restaurant, I can hardly blame them!

Salads can be extremely quick to prepare and relatively economical. They can become one of your favorite meals, if you learn the basics of building a nutrient dense salad.

There are 4 major components to building a meal sized salad. You cannot mess this up. Use whatever you like or whatever you want to experiment with. It’s all good! The four components are: the greens, the other vegetables and fresh fruit, the beans, and the dressing.

The Greens

Romaine lettuce, green and red leaf lettuces, butter lettuce, spinach, arugula, spring mix or bibb lettuce. Choose one or a mix of two. This is the largest component of the salad, so fill the bowl at least ¾ full of raw leafy greens.

The Other Veggies/Fruit/Herbs

Raw or cooked, throw handfuls of them on top of the greens. Raw vegetables include, but are not limited to shredded green or red cabbage, mushrooms, scallions, red onion, carrots, tomato, radishes, chopped cauliflower, broccoli, finely chopped kale, celery, cucumber, hearts of palm and bean sprouts. Whatever you like!

Cooked and roasted vegetables of all varieties are also wonderful in salads. You can prepare them especially for use in your salad or just use up whatever happens to be in your refrigerator that day! Great examples are roasted cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beets, carrots and onions. Roasted sweet potato or butternut squash or frozen corn that has been defrosted can be tossed in. Artichoke hearts packed in water are also scrumptious.

Even fresh fruit like diced apple, diced pear, orange segments, blueberries, and strawberries and/or chopped fresh herbs can take a salad from “so-so” to “oh wow!

The Beans

Black beans, edamame, garbanzo beans (chick peas), cannellini beans, pinto beans and kidney beans are all great in salads. Beans can be purchased canned, you just need to drain and rinse them before tossing them in. If you are ambitious, you can buy dried beans and cook them yourself in larger batches. This saves mucho dinero but involves planning and time that I rarely have.

The Dressing

So many amazing no-oil salad dressing recipes are now at your fingertips. Many do include nuts or tahini, so watch out for those ingredients if you need to. My blog readers and I compiled “The Big List of No-oil Salad Dressings” a few months ago. I recommend printing that list out and inserting the pages into plastic page protectors (available at office supply stores). Maybe put them into a small binder. Keep these pages handy in your kitchen so you are never at a loss for a new and exciting dressing recipe.

Link to The Big List of No-oil Salad Dressings

A word about salad “indulgences” like dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, currants, etc), seeds and/or nuts: use these very sparingly or not at all if you would like to lose weight or have chronic disease.

Time Saving Tips


I like to wash and store a lot of lettuce at a time. I don’t buy pre-washed or cut lettuce, I think it’s treated with chemicals and it’s way to expensive. I use a Progressive Lettuce Keeper to store washed and torn lettuce and green bags to store all of my other vegetables. These newfangled storage products have worked amazingly well for me to extend the life of my vegetables.

Pre-washed baby spinach and spring mix can be purchased in large boxes–no chopping involved or storage issues, just grab and go.

Purchase pre-cut items

Every grocery store is different, but I’ll give you an example of what I picked up at a recent Trader Joe’s trip: shredded carrots, shredded green cabbage, cooked beets, cauliflower florets, and broccoli florets.

Own at least one very large salad bowl

My everyday bowl is very large ceramic bowl that I threw myself when I was a potter (another lifetime ago!). I own another humongous one for serving a crowd. These bowls can be plastic or ceramic.

My very large salad bowl holds enough salad for my husband and I for one dinner if all we are eating is salad. If a soup, stew, sauteed greens dish or casserole is also on the menu, that same salad would last us for two nights.

Salad is a great make ahead meal

Don’t dress all of your salad unless you are sure you are going to eat it. My undressed salads last for days in it’s big bowl in the refrigerator, which means you can prepare a lot of salad and not have to worry about it for days. Oftentimes I will make salad in the morning before leaving for work so that my evenings are more relaxed. Plus I’m usually extremely hungry when I walk in the door and having healthy food at the ready means that I am far more likely to make good choices.

Prepare Dressing in Advance (and a lot of it)

Consider making a double batch of no-oil salad dressing. You could store it in the refrigerator in a big canning jar and feel so hip. Use it up until it’s gone and then make another. Not only will this save you oodles of time, it will save you oodles of money on bottled dressings that don’t taste one iota as good as the dressings on The Big List of No-oil Salad Dressing.

Chop it if you Wanna

Have you ever had one of those wonderful chopped salads in a restaurant? If you don’t like the idea of doing all that chewing every day, simply take all of your salad bowl ingredients (before the dressing) and lay them onto a large cutting board. Dice and chop your heart out, scoop the salad back into the bowl and dress it. Viola! A wonderful meal sized chopped salad.

Some great salads:

Healthy Girl’s Kitchen

Thanks for great post Wendy! As we like to say… Your salad should be big enough that others ask who is joining you!

What do you like to put in your salad? Have you found a great salad dressing that is plant-strong? Leave it in the comments.

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Engine 2 Team
Engine 2 Team

The Engine 2 Team is dedicated to helping you become plant-strong! Each of us are on the plant-strong journey right along side of you!

  • Megan

    Wow, this is a super cool blog entry! I love chopping all of my vegetables and fruit on Sunday so they are easily accessible throughout the week. The chopping part for me is kind of my therapy. I also love to grill my lettuce for a smokier kind of salad. Thanks for sharing and I am definitely going to look into the no oil dressings!

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      Thank you Megan! I have never tried grilled romaine, but I see it sometimes being made on tv. Looks interesting!

  • wendy (healthy girl’s kitchen)

    Thanks for including me in the family of Engine 2 guest bloggers! I hope everyone enjoys my tips.

    • Engine 2 Team

      Thanks for the awesome post Wendy! :)

  • Beth

    Wendy! Thank you so much for all the helpful info…I’ve recently tried one of your salad dressings and it was fantastic! I’ve never seen my husband go back for thirds of a salad! I’m going to have to start making my salads ahead of time like you suggested because I always find myself saying “forget the salad” just before dinner simply because there just isn’t enough time in the day to chop so many veges!

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      I do the same thing. By the time I get home from work and the kids all need to be fed, my brain is always telling me to forget the salad. Unless the salad IS the dinner, which is really fun when your salad contains loads of awesome and creative ingredients.

  • Dina O’.

    Wendy – you rock!
    Thanks so much for the great tips on salad making made easier. I aim for two big salads a day and usually get in at least one really big one, your tips make it easier to get that done.

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      You are so welcome Dina! You are a salad superstar.

  • Chris-Anna

    Thanks for that great post Wendy.

    I used to think that there was no way a salad could fill me up……and the way I used to make them I was right.

    For me, the key now is in the beans. That is the partthat makes my salad heartier, more filling and I stay full way longer.

    My favories are black beans, chick peas and edamame……all three at once work too.

    I also like just a little bit of crunch from a nut or seed….but not too much, maybe a tablespoon or so.

    Goooooo salads!

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      Thanks Chris-Anna. Beans rock! It’s always a mystery to me that some people don’t even try to like beans. It think they are wonderful.

  • Jennifer Clement

    Great post! I learned some new tricks – like the order of eating my foods (raw, cooked, grains!) and I’m ordering one of those salad keepers – could use some help keeping things fresh. Thanks for the big list of no-oil salad dressings – I’m going to go print those right now! This one is getting “pinned”! 😀

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      Thanks for the pin Jennifer!

  • Meridith Larson

    Thanks, Wendy! When I first saw your list when you posted it, I was stuck (and very happy with) on the same “taco salad”. I ate it several days a week, sometimes twice a day. Now I’m ready to change things up! I’m excited to try all the dressings.

    We have Taco Tuesday every Tuesday so that’s the day I chop all my romaine lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and onions etc for the week. My salad bowl is a medium mixing bowl, while my 4 year old daughter uses the small mixing bowl. :) We use pinto beans, chickpeas, quinoa, rice, guacamole, salsa…..and now we’ll be venturing on to all the different dressings from the list.

    • wendy (healthy girl’s kitchen)

      I LOVE the idea of Taco Tuesday!

  • Jill

    Awesome post Wendy! Such great ideas and great recipes. My new go-to for dinner recipes during the week. Thank you for spreading the word and for sharing!

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      My pleasure Jill, it’s very fun for me to share these ideas.

  • Rob

    Thanks for the tips! Awesome stuff.

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)


  • kathy

    WONDERFUL POST, WENDY! What would we do without you to vet all our recipes!
    Thanks to E2 for having her as a guest.

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      Kathy-I love doing it, so I’m really glad you are enjoying it too! I completely helps me to stay the course.

  • Marcia Zimmerman

    As one recovering from disease and obesity, this post gets a huge AMEN and round of applause from me. Thank you so much, Wendy for taking the time to write this. I recently discovered your blog and have referenced you on several entries on my own blog. I hope you don’t mind.
    Thank you, Engine 2 for all the work you are putting into getting the message and the ‘how to’ out so we can keep going and growing in this plant strong way of eating for health. My family and I have watched the DVD and it has helped us all to understand and be even more convinced that this is the way to eat for health.
    God bless.

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      Marcia-you are so welcome! I take great pleasure in problem solving. Please, mention HGK all you want on your blog. It’s an honor!

  • Cindy B.

    Fabulous and informative post, Wendy!

    I eat a “big arse” salad everyday, finding it replenishes my energy (from all those veggies) for the rest of the day. I rely on your BIG list of No-oil salad dressings to make my salads so tasty.

    So glad to see you guest blogging on Engine 2…

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      Thanks Cindy! :)

  • Cassandra~

    Thank you so much for posting the salad dressing recipes.. I have been eating plant strong for over a month now and love it. I’ve always loved salads, so much that I could eat salad for every meal.. Even breakfast!! My challenge, however, has been that I very much dislike the ‘fat free’ dressings I have tried… ick…
    My hope is that I will find a bunch of dressings that I can love on this list!

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      Cassandra-I totally agree. Most fat free bottled dressings taste gross to me! That has never been a problem with any of the homemade ones–because they are made from real ingredients, not pseudo food trying to masquerade as food! Can’t wait to hear which ones you try first!

  • val

    Wendy & HGK rock! This past Tuesday, Wendy did a fabulous presentation at Whole Foods for their Immersion Program offering lots of inspiration, ideas, recipes, and science-based facts. This guest-post is an example of her high caliber work.

    • wendy (healthy girl’s kitchen)

      oh my gosh! thank you Val!

  • Tammy K.

    Another great post from Miss Wendy! Always love your suggestions and your recipes are delicious. (Ate the last of the Farmer’s Pie the other day! Yum!) You all need to check out her site! She does Ohio proud!

    • wendy (healthy girl’s kitchen)

      Thanks Tammy. I hope Ohio leads the nation in turning this health crisis around!

  • Lynne

    Wendy! I didn’t know you potted! (Is that a word lol). My favorite bowl at home is this gorgeous blue bowl I threw to serve veggies in…too small for serving now…it’s for devouring salads!!
    At work, when eating from my collapsable lidded “serving bowl”, I often get comments about the size of the salad…I guess I must be getting the size right :-)

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      Yep, I was a potter for many years in my twenties. I worked in a studio in Santa Monica, CA called The Clay House. It was awesome.

  • Rebecca

    Great post. This is what I needed to ramp up salad ideas!!

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      You are so welcome Rebecca!

  • Renee

    Wendy, you’re blog has been inspirational to me. I look forward each day to see what I get to learn. I decided to make the change based on your site, E2’s book and site ( my husband is another uber healthy firefighter captain) – my knees have never felt better, meaning my arthritis is so.much.better.- makes me happy and a believer of a plant strong eating style. I am appreciative of your efforts, especially with having a family too! My sincere thanks.

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      Renee-Wow! Thank you for letting me know! It means a ton to me.

      I too was seeing signs of arthritis before going plant strong, and I wasn’t even 40 years old at the time. I woke up every morning feeling stiff all over. Well, that’s not the case any longer! Gone!

  • Kate

    Thank you for the giant list of no-oil dressings!!! I bought a few dressings at Whole Foods last week to try them and spent wayyyyy more on each tiny bottle than I normally would, but I wanted to taste-test… I will definitely be printing out this list and experimenting. I was also looking for a list of different sauces to use on top of veggies&rice… I think of these dressings would work, but if anyone knows of a good resource for sauces, please let me know!

    • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

      Kate-these dressings really are more like sauces than what typically is served as a salad dressing, because the no-oil recipes result in a much creamier thicker texture. So most would be wonderful on top of veggies and rice. Also check out Mama Pea’s Um Sauce from the blog Peas and Thank You.

  • Kelly @Leafy Not Beefy

    Thanks for this! Chopped salads are my favorite :) I also like using leftover cooked veggies on top of my salads to up the veggie intake even more.

  • wendy (healthy girls kitchen)

    Kelly, you’re welcome! Love the name of your blog BTW!

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