Are Salads Foolproof?

A common belief among athletes (and really, most everyone) is “Salads are healthy.”

But how true is this?


Let’s put on our Reality Check Hats as we go through 4 Ways Salads (can) Nutritionally Suck.

1. Lacking in Sticking Power.

While it may not be as important to have a hearty salad when you include an entree or other foods in a meal that contain “nutritional oomph”, many salads that are served as the main dish are lame for what they offer from the protein and fat perspective.

You are not a rabbit. Eat more than plain ol’ lettuce.

You are not a rabbit. Eat more than plain ol’ lettuce.


If you want to feel full and satisfied for at least a couple of hours, include one or more sources of protein and fat to make the salad stick around for a while. There are plenty of options to provide both omnivores and vegetarians/vegans added protein and fat so we reap the benefits of the boost in sticking power foods. Think: chicken, salmon, tuna, shrimp, burger patty, cured meats, tofu, sunflower seeds, avocado, hemp hearts, beans, uniqu cheeses, toasted walnuts, olives… you get the idea for options.

2. A doozy of a calorie hit.

Salads like the loaded Cobb salad with its bacon, chicken, egg, avocado, blue cheese, and creamy what-is-that dressing can easily deliver over 1,000 calories. If you are pursuing weight loss, a low-carb high-fat salad isn’t all that beneficial if you aren’t mindful of the calorie content. The cliche, “Calories still count, even if you aren’t counting calories” applies in this context.

Same with the salad dressing. At about 100 calories per tablespoon, if you’re pouring it on…. well, you’re pouring on the calories. It can all add up fast.

This is a Cobb salad I ordered from an airport. It would’ve easily been >800 calories with the dressing (which I thankfully ordered on the side).

This is a Cobb salad I ordered from an airport. It would’ve easily been >800 calories with the dressing (which I thankfully ordered on the side).


3. Vegetable-less.

Many side salads (and sometimes even the entree salads) show up with two tiny tomato slices, some grated carrot, and a lonely cucumber slice. Just like with sources of protein and fat, vegetables provide staying power with their fiber content and added volume. Be bold and add in more veggies! Think beets, jicama, radishes (a current favorite of mine is watermelon radish), cabbage, mushrooms, leftover roasted veggies, and experiment with different leafy greens. You got this!

Vary the veggies… it’ll do ya good.

Vary the veggies… it’ll do ya good.


4. Boring.

It can be easy to get in a rut with salad preparation without some forethought and food planning, but boredom doesn’t need to enter the picture. With the tips already mentioned above, salads can be easily changed up by swapping the protein source, adding a mix of different fats, and doing the veggie experimentation thang. A few other ideas to jazz up a salad:

  • Mix in some fruit. This is a fun way to add color, a touch of natural sweetness, and increase the nutrient density with the micronutrients that fruits provide. Blueberries, strawberries, grapefruit, pomegranate arils, orange wedges and even grilled peaches or pineapple can increase the delight factor.

  • Add a whole grain or starchy vegetable, especially if needing extra carbohydrate to support training. Barley, multigrain rice, quinoa, or sweet potato can be a welcome addition to the base of a salad.

  • Experiment with different vinegars and infused olive oils as part of the salad dressing. Check out your local food market, farmers market, or specialty kitchen store for ideas.

  • Don’t forget about fresh herbs, which can add a whole new level of pizzazz in dressings or mixed into the salad itself.

Have an interesting or favorite salad combination you can share? Comment here or tag me on Insta with your photo. Let the Nutrition Mechanic see your non-sucky salad and do me proud.

Happy salad eating,