Change the way you see salad with these ideas

University of Illinois Extension Services

A dessert idea is Nectarine and Peach Fruit Salad (Courtesy of University of Illinois Extension)

Whether it’s your main entrée, side dish or even dessert, salads can be an easy, nourishing staple in your household’s meal plan.

“For many people, salads may not seem exciting or enticing,” says University of Illinois Extension educator Nayaab Sattar with SNAP-Education. “They may picture a plain bowl of greens, perhaps with a few tomatoes or croutons sprinkled on. However, there is a wide variety of ways to make salads. They allow you to incorporate many types of foods, which is key to getting a range of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and of course, flavors!”

They also are a versatile option that allow you to use what’s on hand and in-season when creating them. From savory to sweet, salads are a fun way to pack in your favorite fruits, vegetables, and proteins, as well as dairy and grains.

“If you can’t combine all five food groups into a salad, try adding the components not in the salad as a side dish,” says Sattar.

For example, “Quinoa and Black Bean Salad,” a recipe that can be found on the Illinois Nutrition Education Program’s Eat Move Save website, features black beans which provide protein, quinoa as a whole grain and protein source, and chopped peppers and onion as the vegetables.

“Make this a MyPlate-approved meal by sprinkling on some low-fat cheddar cheese and adding your favorite fruit on the side,” says Sattar.

Salads also can serve as a great side dish. Sattar highlight two examples from the Eat Move Save recipe-finder:

Herbed tomato salad (Courtesy of University of Illinois Extension)

  • Herbed Tomato Salad” comes together in minutes and boasts a simple list of ingredients. In this recipe, sliced tomatoes are combined with seasoning, vinegar and olive oil for a quick side that is a great partner to any choice of protein.
  • Corn Salad” is another popular option, especially with warmer months approaching. You can use fresh, frozen or canned corn to whip up this side which has a creamy dressing. It’s perfect for barbeque and grilled meals.

Ever thought about having salad as a dessert?

“It may sound odd, but a fruit salad is a great healthy way to treat yourself,” says Sattar. “Try a salad that combines fruit and yogurt, like the ‘Nectarine and Peach Fruit Salad.’ This recipe is really simple and you can adapt it with any kind of yogurt and fruit that you like or have available.”

This May, celebrate National Salad Month by choosing a salad as your meal, side dish or dessert. For more than 20 salad recipes and other healthy meal ideas, visit our website at or simply search “eat move save” online.

The healthy choice, isn’t always the easy choice, especially on a limited budget. The Illinois Nutrition Education Programs provide practical tips to help low-income families prepare safe and healthy meals, while staying active each day.