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How to make a salad more satisfying

Siski Green / 07 February 2017 ( 10 April 2018 )

A salad needn't be limited to a plate of lettuce. Find out what ingredients to add to make your salad more filling, satisfying and nutritious.

Fruit and nuts in a filling salad
Chopped fresh fruit and nuts can help make a salad more satisfying

Everyone wants to eat more salad – it’s full of good stuff like vitamins, antioxidants and fibre, plus it’s something we’re always told to eat more of if we want to lose weight, feel energetic and healthy. 

Unfortunately, though, many salads will just leave you wanting more… of anything but salad! Which is why the following salad tips are so great. 

Not only will they make salad seem more enticing, they’ll taste delicious and will keep you feeling full for longer, too. What more could you ask for?

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Think flavour

Thinking about spices and herbs is common when cooking hot meals but not so much when it comes to salads. That’s a big mistake, because salads are ideal for adding flavour to – many of the usual salad ingredients aren’t strong in flavour on their own (lettuce, celery, cucumber, even tomatoes, for example), so you can really go wild.

What to add:

Garlic. Crush some garlic and mix it in with a little oil and vinegar before dressing your salad. It’s not nearly as potent as you’d expect when you eat it like this as a salad, and it gives your tastebuds immense satisfaction.

Chilli. Wow your palate with some fresh chilli finely slices and scattered into your salad. Or sprinkle on some chilli powder. Another option if you want it really spicy is to add some chilli paste to oil and add it to your dressing. Try this green salad with hot Asian dressing.

Fresh or dry herbs. Add a couple of different fresh herbs to your salad and it’ll mean your taste buds get variety with every mouthful. Try parsley and coriander, or chives and mint, or oregano and basil. If you haven’t got fresh herbs to hand, don’t be shy with dry herbs – add paprika, cumin or whatever you like to some oil and pour them over with the dressing. Try this herby pesto, tuna and potato salad.

Citrus. Lemon is a staple part of dressing but why always go for the yellow citrus? Try squeezing some orange or grapefruit into your next salad dressing. Or even clementine if you’re feeling adventurous. It’ll be sweeter than you’re used to, so hold back on the sugar or honey if you usually add that too. Try this mozzarella and pea salad with lemon juice.

Olives. Heart-healthy fat, great flavour and texture too, olives are wonderful in salad. But don’t just stop there, you can also add sliced pickled gherkin or onions, too. Try a classic Greek salad.

Oils. With so many varieties to choose from now there’s no excuse for drizzling olive oil over your salads every time. Try walnut oil, avocado oil and even hemp oil for something a bit different.

Sauces. Worcestershire will always add some zing, but you can also add soya sauce to your salads for added flavour. Try this crunchy Asian salad.

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Think textures

Variety isn’t just the spice of life, it’s also the best way to make eating a salad interesting and never more so than with texture. 

Salads tend to be ‘wet’, so in your mouth the overall sensation is of cool, wetness. Add some baked croutons flavoured with garlic, for example, and all of a sudden your mouth and tongue are experiencing very different sensations. 

More nerve endings will be triggered and so the entire meal will feel more satisfying.

What to add:

Croutons. Delicious in soup and salads. Bake your bread squares if you don’t want the fat, or make your croutons bigger so they don’t absorb as much (the lower surface area to volume ratio means they should absorb less oil). Find out how to make your own croutons.

Nuts or seeds. Cashews, walnuts and pine nuts are delicious in salads. Poppy seeds add texture too, as well as sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Try this chickpea, hazelnut and sweet potato salad.

Crisps. Yes, really. Crush some crisps and sprinkle them over your salad to add instant crunch and flavour. Opt for low-salt, and choose baked varieties to keep the calories down. You can also try tortilla chips.

Avocado. The smooth creamy texture of avocado will contrast nicely with the general wetness and the healthy fats it contains will help keep you fuller longer too. Try this avocado and black bean salad.

Cheese. Whether it’s cottage, feta, blue, parmesan or cheddar, it doesn’t matter. By adding in crumbly cheese, you get added flavour and texture. Try this roasted leek salad with goat's cheese.

Crispy bacon. Okay, so this option doesn’t have any health benefits but for an occasional treat, it’s a delicious way to improve a boring salad.

Fruit as well as veg. While salad veg tends to be crunchy (carrots, celery and so on), you can add other textures with fruit. Slice up some strawberries, or sprinkle in some raspberries or blueberries for some different textures. The sweetness of the fruits will go really well with the salty flavours of cheese, for example. Or if you’re looking for that crunch, slice up some apple or sprinkle pomegranate seeds on your salad. Try this fig salad with Ouzo dressing.

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Think protein

By far the best way to get your salads to give you that full feeling is to add protein. Slice up some steak and throw that in, add a tin of tuna or some smoked mackerel, or throw in a handful of beans or lentils, which also add wonderful texture (see above).

What to add:

Pulses. Lentils, beans, and all their relatives are by far the healthiest way to add bulk and hunger-preventing power to your salad. Packed with fibre and protein, pulses are little powerhouses of goodness. They taste great too, especially combined with varying textures (see above). Try this potato and lentil salad with grilled salmon.

Fish. Try fresh tuna instead of tinned for a delicious filling option. Or for even more flavour add smoked fish such as mackerel, or a handful of prawns for a delicious and filling salad that’s healthy too. Try this scallop, bacon and pea salad.

Beef. Sliced steak is one way to add meat to your salad, upping the protein and satisfaction content, but you can also explore other options. Try chunks of beef braised in beer combined with sweet potatoes and spinach leaves, for examples, for a great flavoursome and hearty salad. And don’t forget mince meat! It might not be what you’d think of as a salad ingredient but it can be. Fry some small meatballs and put those in a salad, or grill some home-made burgers and slice them up for your salad. Try this beef, broad bean and spinach salad.

Pork. Spice up some pork chops then add the meat to a salad with some soy-based dressing and sesame seeds. It’ll be like eating a Chinese takeaway in terms of flavour but without the MSG or weight gain. 

Cheese. Cubes of cheddar, crumbles of blue or feta, there are plenty of ways to enjoy cheese in a salad. The fat and protein in them will satisfy your tastebuds and your belly, too. Try this blue cheese and roasted cauliflower salad.

Egg. The egg salad has had a bad reputation but eggs can make a delicious element for a salad, plus they add two types of texture via the yolk and the white. If, however, you feel like trying something more adventurous, add scrambled egg to your salad. It’ll certainly taste different to your usual salad and keep you feeling full too. Try this recipe for egg, quinoa and kale salad.

Visit our salad section for a wide range of delicious salads

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.