You know what they say, “The path of a healthy diet starts with a salad.” Okay, no one actually says that. (So if you’re quoting it, maybe credit us—but only ironically.) There are actually many ways you can eat healthier: reducing your intake, limiting junk food, or working with whatever safe, doctor-recommended food plan works with your body. That said, salads are an easy, delicious, and filling starting point to a more wholesome diet.
Before you go throwing things together though, it is important to understand some basics, starting with the three basic parts of a salad. Of course, salads can get more intricate and complicated. But this guide starts off with the essentials, namely leaves, dressing, and mix-ins.
Leaves are the base of a salad; in the same way that rice is the base of a rice bowl. It catches everything else you toss into it. The type of leaves you use depends on the texture and flavor you want out of it. Some leaves provide a crunch, others are soft; some are neutral in flavor, others are peppery or bitter. When choosing salad leaves, you should also consider how it works with the rest of your ingredients.
All salads need dressing—a sort of salad sauce made of fat and acid, plus other flavorings. Apart from giving your salads flavor, it ties all the ingredients together. And the good news is: it’s so easy (and even better!) to make your own dressing at home, whether it’s the most basic vinaigrette or the more complex “I measured fat-to-acid ratio” dressing.
Technically, once you’ve got your leaves and dressing, you’re done. But what fun is a salad without all the extras? Your mix-ins are where you can get really creative. Essentially, what you’re adding with mix-ins are bulk (it makes your salad more hearty), flavor, and texture. To get all three, you can mix and match whatever ingredients and garnishes that will pair well with your leaves and dressing. These can be protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, croutons, or a combination of all.