Five Tips for Making Salads That Don’t Suck

Never eat a sad salad again, with these tips from trainer Athena Concannon.


Photo by Athena Concannon

Athena Concannon does not want you to eat a sad salad ever again. You know the kind—a spartan chicken breast, a couple lonely tomatoes and cucumbers, and a drizzle of Italian dressing atop an endless sea of lettuce.

In an effort to vanquish those depressing lunches, Concannon, the fitness instructor and health coach behind Achieve with Athena, created an e-guide titled, appropriately, “Salads That Don’t Suck.” In it, she writes, she works at “dispelling the myth that all healthy stuff has to be bland and boring.”

Here, Concannon offers five tips for making salads that are decidedly non-sucky.

1. Follow the BMED model. BMED, Concannon explains, stands for base, mains, extras, and dressing, the four components of a good salad. First, decide on your base—a grain, green, protein, or bean. Then, add plenty of mains like grains and protein (if they’re not your base), additional veggies, and fruit. Next, move to small portions of your extras, things like healthy fats, cheese, and herbs. Finally, add a tasty dressing.

2. Mix it up. Don’t fall into a salad-making rut, the kind that inspires sad salads like the one mentioned above. “It’s going to be boring if you do make the same thing over and over again, and also there’s really not a lot of other flavors that come into play there,” Concannon says. Jazz things up with nuts, fruit, citrus, fresh herbs, salsa, hot sauce, hummus, or anything else that speaks to you.

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t “let perfect be the enemy of good,” Concannon writes in her guide. In other words, it’s okay to add some more indulgent ingredients, such as cheese or a handful of tortilla chips, if it gets you eating veggies. “My whole outlook is, have a little of it, enjoy your salad as a way to get your vegetables and protein and other nutrients,” she says. “A little bit is not going to kill you.”

4. Hone your dressing game. Citrus and vinegar can up the flavor profile of your salad, Concannon says. A good rule of thumb, she says, is combining one part acid, like balsamic vinegar, with three parts fat, like olive oil.

5. Never, ever eat soggy greens. Even if you assemble your salad days in advance—a good tactic for busy people—never add dressing until the day you plan to eat it, Concannon says. And if your greens are starting to go, here’s a lifesaver: “A good step to revive them is to cut off the stems and stick it in a bowl of ice water,” she says. “Usually they’ll come back to life and last a couple extra days.”