I’m a salad nut, and I love embellishing them with yummy salad toppings that are fun and healthy too! Salads are the perfect lunch, and should not be sentenced to a small bowl, boring toppings or processed dressing. I make gigantic salads for lunch that are filled with healthy ingredients, fun toppings, and fresh, simple salad dressings. These meals keep me full for hours and also keep me energized! Skip the croutons, bacon bits (which aren’t even real bacon!), and the fatty processed cheeses. Pick some of my favorite fun salad toppings and be so satisfied you won't miss all the other stuff.
1. Red Bell Pepper Slices
Red bell peppers are perfect for those of us who have a sweet tooth, which makes them one of the best salad toppings you could ask for. They are available year round, and also brighten any salad up, which makes it fun to eat. Red bell peppers offer that crunchiness we love, while also still lending a sweet and hydrating bite. Just stem them, slice off the inner seeds and cut into strips. Layer your salad with these pretty little veggies for your daily dose of Vitamin C requirements in one bell pepper. Green and yellow ones are great too, just not as sweet.
I always loved pickles growing up, but usually ate the unhealthy kind loaded with salt, preservatives and sugar. Now, I like to buy the fresh canned pickles at the farmer’s market or supermarket for the real deal. These tasty pickles, which are preservative-free and sugar-free, make great salad toppings. They offer that tangy, crunchy bite, while still having just a tad bit of natural sea salt to enhance the taste. They are also packed with probiotics, which make them great for your digestion, skin and weight, since they can help digest your food more efficiently and enhance nutrient absorption.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
If you don’t want a nasty preservative-filled salad dressing made with chemicals, just pick simple raw apple cider vinegar as a dressing. Just one tablespoon packs a delicious sweet, yet tart taste that is indescribable. With no calories, sugar, fat or salt, this is a great salad dressing, or can be mixed with 1 tbsp. of flax, hemp or olive oil for a healthy dressing option. Apple cider vinegar is also great for your weight, energy, skin and joints.
Though dried fruit is calorie dense, it is also a great source of potassium and other nutrients. Raisins are one of my favorites, they are highly energizing to power you through the rest of your day. A good idea for portion size is to top salads with those individual mini boxes, which equal to about 50 calories each. This amount will lend you that sweet taste we all love and when combined with other flavors, it really packs a tasty punch! A chopped date or two also make a good alternative.
If you’re not allergic, peanuts make a really yummy salad topping. They are packed with protein, B vitamins and fiber, plus healthy fats to fill you up. Just limit to around 2 tbsp. since they are calorie dense, and choose regular roasted instead of salted varieties for the best option. Can't tolerate peanuts? Sliced almonds are a favorite of mine too!
6. Green Peas
Hear me out here, girls. Green peas make excellent salad toppings. Why so, you ask? For starters, they are incredibly healthy for you since they pack protein and fiber, with no fat. They are very filling, while still being easy to digest. Green peas offer a sweet taste, without containing too much sugar. They are wonderful for your skin, hair and nails too, due to the high amounts of amino acids from protein. I love pairing green peas with my salads for a filling, tasty and neat flavor option. I like to buy them frozen and just toss onto pre-made salads. By the time you get ready to eat your salad, they'll be thawed, but not soggy. These are also available at most salad bars in restaurants too, and now you know why!
7. Canned Artichokes
Most people think I’m crazy when I tell them I eat canned artichokes. Why are these so often associated with nasty canned foods? Canned artichokes are so tasty and much easier to use than the whole artichokes! They remind me of that tangy taste you get from pickles. Artichokes are full of healthy fibers, packed with antioxidants, and extremely satisfying. They have been associated with preventing weight gain and are great for diabetics. They contain natural prebiotics that feed good bacteria in your gut too. Most varieties are usually packed with salt or oil, so I like to buy canned varieties without oil, and soak them in water, then rinse well to get most of the salt out. Try these and I promise they’ll grow on you, though I fell in love at first bite!
8. Hemp Seeds
I love raw hemp seeds in salads! They are wonderful when combined with some apple cider vinegar and lemon juice as they create a dressing similar to Caesar style dressing. Hemp seeds are full of healthy ingredients such as Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, tons of fiber, and are a complete protein source with just 3 tablespoons as a serving. Hemp seeds are also a great food for PMS, anxiety, low energy, or just general sluggishness. They offer a sweet, yet nutty taste and are so great to use in other things besides salads, which make them nice to have around when you want something healthy, filling and convenient. Top your salads, yogurt, smoothies, and cereal with hemp seeds, or use them in homemade energy bars.
Eating healthy and fun doesn’t have to be hard. Most of these salad topping ideas are also economical. I also love the traditional cucumbers, tomatoes, celery and carrots for toppings, and my favorite greens to use are kale, spinach and romaine. Most of us like to be stimulated by the taste and appeal of our food, which makes these options so great. They are filled with variety, different taste complexities, and bright, colorful nutrients. You won’t be as tempted to visit the vending machines after such a powerful and pretty lunch! What do you like to top your salads with?