If you’re settling for a tasteless romaine or sad spinach salad all in the name of health, we’ve got good news — salads don’t have to be boring to be healthy! And they don’t have to be void of filling nutrients, either. That’s right, we’re talking satiating salads that are both nutritious and delicious. While salads are typically served as a side or a snack, there’s no reason why they can’t (or shouldn’t) be the star of your plate! In fact, it’s quite simple to transform them into a nourishing, protein-packed meal.
If you know how to make (or buy) them the right way, salads could be the ultimate hunger-reducing meal. How you ask? It’s as simple as including foods that are rich in protein, fiber, and nutrients — the three factors that influence fullness the most. Luckily for you, a great salad can have all three. Plus, with so many different fruits and vegetables, salads are a great way to load up on a variety of nutrients in one meal!
Ready to say goodbye to your boring salads once and for all? Read on to learn delicious ways to transform lighter bowls into protein-rich salads that will keep you satisfied and nourished!
Why Adding Protein to Your Salad Helps Promote Satiety
Have you ever noticed how protein-rich salads keep you feeling fuller for longer?
That’s because protein is the most filling macronutrient compared to carbs and fat. f you’re a known snacker, increasing your protein intake may help reduce food cravings and prevent overeating!
Try transforming our base salad recipe into a nourishing meal. Find yummy ideas for protein-rich salads below!
Base Salad Recipe
Wondering how to build protein-rich salads? Start with this base recipe, then add in (or substitute) your favorite protein, veggies, fruit, nuts, or seeds!
- 2 cups of mixed baby spinach or your favorite dark leafy greens
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, diced
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 cucumber, diced
- Optional: 1 apple, diced (or substitute favorite fruit such as fresh berries or sliced peaches)
- Optional: 1 Tablespoon favorite nuts or seeds (such as pumpkin seeds or sliced almonds) or ¼ ripe avocado
Step #1: In a large mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients and toss to mix
Step #2: Add or substitute any additional ingredients
Step #3: Serve and enjoy!
#1 Chicken Breast
A 3 oz serving of Chicken breast contains 26 grams of protein! While it goes well with just about any combo, try pairing it with mixed greens, avocado, apples, walnuts, and a simple balsamic dressing.
Skip the croutons — roasted chickpeas add the perfect amount of crunch with nearly 15 grams of protein per cup! Massage some kale with tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil, then add your roasted chickpeas and any herbs or toppings.
A serving of salmon can transform lighter meals into satiating, protein-rich salads. Between the high protein content and omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll feel nourished and full for hours. Try adding grilled salmon over a bed of greens alongside cucumber, avocado, and fresh herbs.
This plant-based superfood is a complete protein that is just as nourishing as it is filling. Try making a Greek-inspired quinoa salad with fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, red onion, and plant-based cheese dressed with a splash of vinegar and oil.
#5 Hard-Boiled Eggs
Protein-packed salads don’t have to be complex or time-consuming! Make a quick chopped salad with hard-boiled eggs, tomato, red onion, avocado, and cucumber over your favorite greens. All you need is 5 ingredients and 5 minutes for this satiating combo!
Protein-packed edamame can make a flavorful addition to any salad — one 4 oz serving contains 14 grams of protein and less than 150 calories. Craving a bowl with flavor and crunch? Try adding edamame to a salad alongside shredded carrots and cabbage, diced cucumber, raisins, and slivered almonds with an Asian-inspired honey sesame dressing.
#7 Black Beans
We love protein rich salads that can be eaten warm or cold, which is why protein-packed black beans make the perfect plant-based add-in. Mix them with tomatoes, red peppers, corn, avocado, herbs, and spices to create a hearty, mouth-watering dish.
#8 Canned Tuna
This no-fuss protein add-in will never steer you wrong! A 3-ounce serving comes in at 16 grams of protein with just 70 calories! With that said, not all tuna is created equal. To make sure you’re getting the healthiest option, opt for sodium-free tuna canned in water. If possible, look for tuna that is wild-caught and mercury tested (we love brands like Wild Planet and Safe Catch). Skip the mayo and dress it with avocado or Greek yogurt and lemon. Serve it over a bed of leafy greens mixed with cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and green apple!
With nearly 18 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, shrimp is a simple and delicious protein source that deserves a spot on your plate. It’s simple to prepare, low in calories, and full of nutrients like selenium, iron, and Vitamin B12. To make a filling and tasty salad, try grilling your shrimp and serving it over leafy greens, avocado, mango, tomatoes, black beans, and a simple olive oil drizzle.
#10 Tempeh or Tofu
Tofu and tempeh are tasty plant-based protein options that offer a simple texture and taste to animal-based proteins like chicken. The best part? There are so many ways to enjoy them! You can marinate them in various sauces based on your flavor preferences and dietary needs or cook them longer for an extra-crispy texture. Try soaking tempeh or tofu in a healthy buffalo sauce and giving it a nice crisp. Then, add it to your bowl alongside arugula, tomatoes, and avocado with a drizzle of plant-based ranch or tahini!
In addition to adding a generous amount of plant-based protein (12 grams per half-cup), lentils bulk up any salad with a variety of nutrients. They’re rich in fiber, potassium, folate, iron, and manganese, plus they’re vegan and gluten-free making them ideal for a wide range of diets. They add a yummy texture to your plate and pair well with many flavors. Try mixing them with pomegranates, spinach, cucumber, parsley, and feta for a Mediterranean-inspired dish!
#12 Sliced Turkey
Looking for a quick and easy way to transform a simple salad into a protein-rich meal? Try adding sliced turkey! Whether it’s last night’s leftover turkey or sliced deli meat, a 3-ounce serving of sliced turkey will give any bowl a boost with an impressive 16.5 grams of protein. Enjoy it diced with romaine or spinach, fresh tomatoes, avocado, sliced grapes, almonds, and a simple balsamic.
Building Your Own Protein-Rich Salad
Build your own protein-rich salads by choosing your favorite foods from each category:
Step #1 Choose Your Leafy Greens
Start by mixing and matching leafy greens such as romaine, spring mix, spinach, kale, arugula, and spinach.
Step #2 Add a Protein Source
Add a satiating protein source such as chicken, fish, turkey beans, chickpeas, eggs, shrimp, quinoa, or tofu.
Step #3 Flavor it With Nutrient-Dense Fruits and Veggies
Aim to add as many different colors as you can! Such as tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, onions, cucumber, asparagus, carrots, potatoes, avocado, citrus, apples, beets, corn, olives, broccoli, and sweet potato.
Step #4 Top it Off With Yummy Salad Toppers
Spice up the flavor with fresh herbs, avocado, nuts, and seeds (such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, and walnuts).
Step #5 Dress It Up
Drizzle some lemon or lime juice, apple cider or balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, coconut aminos, and avocado.
Beware of Sneaky Salad Dressing
After creating beautiful protein-rich salad bowls full of colors and nutrients, you decide to give it some extra flavor with salad dressing — but beware. While a yummy salad dressing can serve as a healthy finishing touch on a nourishing salad bowl, it can also transform a healthy meal into a not-so-healthy one.
Watch out for inflammatory, calorie-dense ingredients such as added sugars and oils hidden in salad dressings! Always read the ingredient label to avoid sneaky ingredients.
Simple Homemade Salad Dressing Combos
While there are plenty of healthy dressings on the shelf, making your own dressing is a simple and healthy alternative. Plus, when you make your own, you’ll know exactly what ingredients are being used! Here are some simple salad dressing combinations:
Lemon Dressing: Lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Lemon Avocado Dressing: Mashed avocado, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Honey Mustard Dressing: Dijon mustard, raw honey, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Simple Balsamic: Balsamic Vinegar (with or without oil).
Basic Tahini: Tahini, lemon juice, dijon mustard, maple syrup, and olive oil.
Greek yogurt dressing: Greek yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh dill.
Enjoy Protein-Packed Salads All Year Long
With so many ways to mix and match your ingredients, making protein-rich salads has never been easier! Head to your local farmer’s market to pick up any seasonal produce, then get creative in the kitchen with different protein add-ins. Stay satiated while packing in tons of flavor and nutrients!
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