How To Build The Perfect Salad plus FREE Recipe

Nutrition // Lisa Donaldson // 22 February 2016

If the thought of eating a salad makes you turn up your nose and say ‘rabbit food’, it’s time you got creative! A salad that consists of simply iceburg lettuce, tomato and cucumber is not going to win you any new friends, but a salad that is bursting with flavour, colour, lean protein, spices and smart carbs may even lure Homer Simpson to your front door! Here’s some tips to make the best salad you’ve ever eaten.

Go Green

Choosing greens for your base doesn’t necessarily mean eating a mountain of iceburg lettuce. Mix up those greens – crisp cos, mild baby spinach, peppery baby spinach or a mix of leaves. You could even grate some carrot or shred some purple cabbage for a more vibrant salad base,.

Build a Rainbow

Adding colour makes a salad interesting. You can toss through some cold leftover vege (pumpkin and sweet potato work well), some bright yellow capsicum, some crunchy green beans or snowpeas, some yellow corn or even some thinly sliced mushrooms.

Smart Carbs

Adding legumes or grains to a salad is a really simple way to make a salad a little more filling. Kidney beans, chickpeas, brown rice, quinoa or even 4 bean mix, is a simple way to really boost the nutrition (fibre, carb, protein). Cold cooked potato or a tin of corn is another way to add some interest.


To keep you fuller for longer, you need to think about the protein component in a salad. A hard boiled or poached egg, some thinly sliced chicken, marinated tofu, smoked salmon, a sprinkle of feta or a tin of tuna or some leftover roast meat.

Salad Gems and Jewels

Think about adding some surprising morsels to a salad. I call these salad ‘gems and jewels’. Foods like pomegranate seeds, blueberries, toasted hazelnuts, some grated apple, tamari almonds, dried cranberries, thinly sliced pear, sunflower seeds, pine nuts and pepitas. These are sweetness or the crunch and make the salad special.

Dress It Up

A great dressing can really transform a salad. Avoid the shop bought fat-free salad mixes and try making your own. A simple dressing of lemon, olive oil and garlic is always a crowd pleaser. You could even make a creamy dressing with seeded mustard and natural yoghurt. Don’t drown your salad in dressing, it’s a fast way to make a salad very calorie dense if it has a large oil base.

Fabulous Fats

Don’t go overboard with the fat content in a salad, but certainly include some. Avocado, nuts, seeds or some feta are great ways to add some nourishing fat and flavour.

Spice It Up

If your salad tastes a little bland, jazz it up with some fresh or dried herbs. Toasted coriander seeds and chili flakes work well, or fresh basil and dried oregano are lovely. Have a play! Get creative.

Free 12WBT Recipe: Vietnamese Chicken Salad


200g Lean Chicken Breast
1/2 Carrot (30g), cut into matchsticks
1 Celery Stalk (55g), thinly sliced
1/4 Red Onion (36g), thinly sliced
1/2 Green Apple (62g), cut into matchsticks
1/4 Cups Fresh Coriander (10g)
2 Tablespoons Mint Leaves (6g)
2 Tablespoons Basil Leaves (6g)
1/4 Cups Chinese Cabbage (17g), finely shredded
1 Teaspoons Fish Sauce (5g)
2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar (8g)
1 Cloves Garlic (3g), crushed
1/2 Red Chilli (5g), deseeded & finely chopped
2 Teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar (5g)


  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil. Add chicken and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes to cook through. Remove chicken and finely shred.
  2. Combine chicken, carrot, celery, onion, apple, coriander, mint, basil and cabbage in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk fish sauce, sugar, garlic, chilli, vinegar and 2 teaspoons of water in a small bowl until sugar has dissolved.
  4. Pour dressing over salad mixture and toss to combine.

Mish Tips

  • Traditionally palm sugar is used in Vietnamese cooking. We’ve used brown sugar here (and included it in the calorie count) but feel free to leave it out if you like… there will be plenty of sweetness from the apple.
  • Keep the water used to cook the chicken – you can use it as stock in soups!
  • When chopping the apple, place it in a small bowl with cold water and a squeeze of lemon juice. This will prevent the apple turning brown.


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