Dress Up Your Salad With These Healthy Choices


Hold the bacon; pile on the veggies — keep your salad the low-calorie option it was meant to be. In honor of Eat Smart Month observed in November, we’re sharing practical and healthy ways to navigate the salad bar.

We’ve all been there. Dozens of delicious salad choices right in front of you — cheese, bacon, croutons — tempting you to pile them on your plate. It’s a salad so it’s healthy, right?

Pile on the vegetables to make your salad a healthy, tasty meal choice.
Pile on the vegetables to make your salad a healthy, tasty meal choice.

Not so fast. Those high-fat, high-calorie options can quickly turn your salad from a healthy starter or meal to a diet buster with potentially more calories than some of your favorite fast-food indulgences. Calories are OK, mind you, as long as they have nutritional value.

“Realize that if you are going to a restaurant and choosing a salad and thinking it’ll be healthy, it might not be healthier than a burger depending on what’s in the salad,” says Stephen Compston, registered dietitian at Renown Health. “You need to choose a salad with a bunch of fresh vegetables. If something else is getting added, it needs to be small amounts.”

Compston’s tips for building a healthy salad:

  • Go heavy on any types of vegetables including tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and any vegetable that isn’t a starch (corn, peas, potatoes and winter squash). The darker the lettuce, the more nutrients it contains.
  • Make sure to limit bacon, cheese and croutons, especially if your salad is a side dish or starter and not the main course. Cheese provides protein, so it’s OK in a small amount — but try to keep it to a quarter of a cup or less. And try adding cheese only if you’re eating the salad for the meal.
  • Go light on the dressing. Two tablespoons of regular ranch dressing contains 145 calories. Switching to light ranch saves you 85 calories. And instead of putting dressing on your salad, dip your fork into the dressing first, then grab bites of salad. If you dip your salad into the dressing, you’ll end up with too much dressing on each bite.

For more healthy living ideas and classes, please visit Renown’s Health Improvement Programs.

What’s your favorite tip to keep your salad delicious and nutritious? Leave us a comment below and let us know!


  1. I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and have decided to change my diet and walk more. I especially like salads for lunch and I add heart healthy beans and nuts to mine!
  2. I limit cheese and or crumbled bacon to a tablespoon, use only fat free or low fat dressings or make my own using vinegar and heart healthy olive oil.
    • Ignore the 'no peas'. Peas are a super food and pack tremendous protein and fiber. Replace the cheese with the peas and your body will not only thank you for it but perform much better than with the cheese. Your body doesn't want or need that sodium and saturated fat the cheese provides.