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Hearty dinner salads

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Main course salads

Contrary to what you may think, salads can be a hearty and filling dinner option, especially when you're in a rush or want to stay healthy. By adding some protein and plenty of vegetables, you can enjoy a delicious salad and still be satisfied.

Salmon & citrus salad recipe

Making your salad hearty

Protein, protein, protein

Packing your salad with protein will instantly make it more filling and keep your stomach satisfied. If you're adding animal protein, keep it lean (chicken or turkey breast, canned tuna, salmon, etc.) to keep the fat and calories down. But, instead of using animal protein, you can add vegetable protein, like tofu, black beans, kidney beans, lentils or garbanzo beans. Hard-boiled eggs and some cheeses also are good sources of protein (but cheese can quickly add fat and calories, so go with a low-fat version or use it sparingly).

Load up on fruits & veggies

Instead of just using lettuce in your salad, add lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to add bulk and flavor (so you won't want as much dressing). Strawberry, apple and pear slices, or a sprinkling of blueberries, cranberries, pomegranate seeds or raisins add a hint of sweetness. Spinach is a good addition to your salad, as is grilled eggplant, carrots, beets, steamed broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, avocadoes or even roasted potatoes.

Add texture

Giving your salad a lot of texture will help you feel more satisfied because you will feel like you ate a variety of courses. Add some nuts for crunchiness (and bonus: nuts are healthy and full of protein), apples for that fresh, crisp taste or avocado for the smoothness. Also, a small amount of whole wheat pasta or brown rice will add another layer of texture and flavor and fill you up even more.

Add what you have

One of our favorite salad recipes is just adding whatever we have leftover in the refrigerator or pantry. It could be steak from last night's dinner, olives from that martini or sunflower seeds from a hiking trip. By using what you have on hand, you don't have to worry about food shopping for ingredients or feeling tied to a specific recipe (also you get to clean out your refrigerator and use what may be getting old).

Salmon & citrus salad recipe

Serves 4 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large grapefruit, peeled and sliced into segments
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, rinsed and chopped
  • 8 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 ripe avocadoes, sliced

Directions:

  1. Mix grapefruit slices with shallots, basil, and 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small bowl. Season mixture with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk grapefruit juice with vinegar and mustard, drizzle in oil, season with salt and pepper and whisk until emulsified.
  2. Season salmon on both sides with salt and pepper, and place on a preheated grill. Cook on both sides 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until fully cooked. Remove, let cool and roughly chop.
  3. Add lettuce to a bowl, then top with grapefruit mixture. Drizzle dressing over top and gently toss. Top with salmon and avocado slices.

Up next: Two more hearty, healthy dinner salads >>

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