Have you ever noticed that takeout from a salad bar usually tastes amazing? At my favourite salad bar in Toronto, aptly named “Salad Days”, the salads are always packed to the top with juicy vegetables, creamy add-ons like avocado, sweet potatoes or beets, enough protein to keep me full and then tossed together in a flavourful dressing.
The thing is, these salads are not hard to make. At all. In fact, I’ve yet to come across a salad bar that makes a fancy “frisee salad with poached eggs sautéed in red wine vinegar”. Seriously, there’s no special ingredients. Often, it’s just good old ingredients like chicken, cucumbers, tomatoes, or avocado mixed together. And it still tastes delicious.
So how come we’re forking over (no pun intended) $10-$15 for a salad instead of making them at home? The only thing that’s really keeping us from making the same salads at home is doing a little bit of prep work. While I’m not suggesting we all keep buckets of roasted beets on hand, I think that with a bit of planning ahead, and by following the simple formula below you can have your own salad bar ready to go for the week!
Note: there’s no exact proportions to make for each of the ingredients below. Simply make as much as you would need to fill you up for a week, and then you can adjust based on experience the following week, if needed!
Healthy Salad Bar
Makes: 5 lunch salads for the week
- 2 types of protein
- E.g: eggs, salmon, chicken, roast beef, roast turkey, tofu, tempeh, chickpeas
- 1- 2 types of greens, a bunch or container each
- E.g: spinach, kale, arugula, lettuce
- 3-4 types of non-starchy vegetables
- E.g. bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, red cabbage, onions, sauteed mushrooms, radishes
- 1-2 types of starchy vegetables
- E.g. sweet potatoes, roasted beets
- 1 cup of mixed, raw nuts & seeds
- 2 homemade salad dressings
- A few avocados on hand
- Get all your containers or mason jars ready. For example you could use: 3 large containers (2 for greens, 1 for mixed non-starchy vegetables), 2 medium-sized containers (for protein), and 3 small containers (2 for starchy vegetables, 1 for a nut & seed mix) and 2 mason jars for salad dressings. That’s a total of 8 containers and 2 mason jars.
- Bake your starchy vegetables. For example, I could bake 2 small sweet potatoes, then chop them into slices.
- Prep your protein. Enough to fill you up for five days. For example, I could boil six eggs and bake two salmon fillets.
- Chop up your vegetables. For example, I could chop up small cubes of red peppers, cucumbers, onions and shred some red cabbage.
- Make a nut and seed mix. For example, I could mix together 1/4 cup each of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and sliced almonds.
- Make 1-2 salad dressings. For example, a simple honey dijon and balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
- Store everything in the fridge.
- Select one container that will be your “lunch” container for the week.
- The morning of, throw together your choice of ingredients.
- Add a quarter slice of avocado if you’d like.
- Add the dressing and shake, shake, shake! You’re good to go.
- Wash the container at work, re-use the next morning.