Apr. 2. 2013
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

One of the most frequent comments I hear from clients involves something about the monotony of salads. “Salads are boring”, “I can’t look at another salad”, “I hate salads” (that last one always stings me a little bit, ha). I’ve loved salads since I was a little me, but I agree, if I ate the same exact salad day in and day out, well it’d be boring! Also, besides green smoothies, salads are another simple way to “sneak” more veggies into your daily eats. So let’s switch things up a bit and bring some excitement to your routine leafy green flare!

What is a salad? Simply, it’s a combination of a green leafy lettuces with toppings such as vegetables, meats, fats, nuts/seeds, finished with a dressing. Traditionally salads are consumed cold, chilled, or at room temperature; but in the winter and cool months, I prefer what I like to call “warm” salads, which basically involves lightly steamed or cooked vegetables in a salad form (more on these once we hit those seasons). Salads are versatile as you may eat them for an appetizer, side dish, entree, or even dessert (yes, dessert!).

I’ve shared with you in a previous post my favorite salad of all time, Massaged Kale Salad. I’m building upon that basic recipe with ideas to fuel your salad.

Make it an entree…

Step 1 | choose one or more “bases” for your salad in the “greens” section
Step 2 | add as many vegetables as you’d like
Step 3 | add a protein
Step 4 | add a “smart” carbohydrate
Step 5 | add in a healthy fat
Step 6 | go a la carte
Step 7 | dress it up!

Make it a starter…

Step 1 | choose one or more “bases” for your salad in the “greens” section
Step 2 | add as many vegetables as you’d like
Step 3 | add a small portion of protein
Step 4 | add a small portion of healthy fat
Step 5 | dress it up!


  • Greens Massaged Kale Salad, romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, escarole, frisée, iceberg, radicchio, baby spinach, spinach, watercress, mixed field greens, swiss chard, sprouts (alfalfa, pea shoots, broccoli, etc.)
    • Delicate greens } butter lettuce, baby spinach, sprouts, watercress
    • Hearty/crispy greens } romaine, kale (all varieties), swiss chard, radicchio, iceberg, frisée, escarole
  • Other vegetables | asparagus, beets, artichoke hearts, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, peas (snow peas, sugar snap peas), red onion, red cabbage, napa cabbage, beets, celery, mushrooms, sweet potato (roasted/baked), radishes, corn (organic, non-GMO), jicama, tomato (roma, heirloom, beefsteak, cherry, grape, zima, etc.), cauliflower
    • -Try your roasted, grilled, marinated, raw or pickled for variety



  • Eggs | Hard-boiled, poached, scrambled, soft boiled
  • Vegetarian Proteins | Kidney beans, black beans, garbonzo beans (my favorite), pinto beans, lentils, split peas, edamame (organic), tofu (organic), tempeh, veggie burger (preferably home-made)
  • Seafood | Tuna, salmon, tilapia, flounder, mahi mahi, shrimp, scallops, trout, etc.
  • Meat | Chicken, turkey, steak, lamb, etc.
    • Opt for grass-fed, organic, wild caught meat and seafood prepared baked, grilled, etc.


  • Grains/Pseudo-grains | quinoa, barley, brown/wild rice, buckwheat, soba noodles, millet, amaranth, etc.
  • Starchy vegetables Sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, corn, peas, beans, etc.
  • Dried Fruits | Cranberries, cherries, raisins, mulberries, banana chips, apple slices, mango, blueberries, pomegranate, apricots, figs, dates, goji berries, etc. -if able, dehydrate your own fruit OR purchase them sulfite-free with no added sugar!
  • Fruit | Pears, grapes, grapefruit, apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, pomegranate seeds, orange, kiwi, mango, pineapple, papaya, banana, peach, nectarine, plum, etc.
    • -Thinly sliced, segmented, or in dressings


Good Fats 

  • Oils, etc. | Avocado, olives (kalamata, green, black, etc.), olive oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, grape seed oil, truffle oil, coconut oil
  • SeedsPumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hemp Seeds, chia Seeds, flaxseed
  • Nuts Almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, pine nuts, brazil nuts, macadamia, pistachios
    • -Try them raw and unsalted if available


A La Carte

  • CheesesGoat cheese, sheep’s milk cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola, cottage cheese, Nutritional Yeast (not a cheese nor an active form of yeast, but has a cheese flavor. Non-dairy) -Opt for the organic, grass-fed varieties of cheese. Crumbled, grated, sliced
  • Crunchies | Croutons (homemade), baked tortilla strips (homemade), pita chips, baked won-ton wrappers
  • Homemade croutons | Save the old ends of your bread loafs (I use gluten-free). Simply dice into small squares using a sharp bread knife. Lightly coat in olive oil (or other oil varieties, add your favorite seasonings/dried herbs such as; thyme, oregano, chili flakes, turmeric/curry, rosemary, etc. Bake at 250 for about 20 minutes until lightly golden brown and toasted. Store in an air tight ziploc bag or container at room temperature.
  • Homemade tortilla strips | Simply slice corn tortillas (I recommend sprouted organic corn tortillas) into thin strips. Drizzle a small amount (tsp.) of olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil. Add a pinch of sea salt. Bake at 250 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Squeeze fresh lime juice right out of the oven for additional flavor.

Dressings & Additional Toppings

Dressings |Fresh squeezed citrus juices (lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, etc.), salsa, hummus, smashed avocado, pureed Fruit, Braggs raw Apple Cider Vinegar (my favorite)

Herbs | basil, mint, chives, dill, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, etc.


I hope this guide provides you with some new ideas on how to make your salads a little bit more interesting and simply delicious! Do you like salads? What are your favorite toppings and dressings to top your salad? Share with everyone below!

Keep it simple and EAT YO GREENS,

xo McKel