Make Homemade Salads as Good as Restaurants

— Written By
en Español / em Português

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.


Inglês é o idioma de controle desta página. Na medida que haja algum conflito entre o texto original em Inglês e a tradução, o Inglês prevalece.

Ao clicar no link de tradução, um serviço gratuito de tradução será ativado para converter a página para o Português. Como em qualquer tradução pela internet, a conversão não é sensivel ao contexto e pode não ocorrer a tradução para o significado orginal. O serviço de Extensão da Carolina do Norte (NC State Extension) não garante a exatidão do texto traduzido. Por favor, observe que algumas funções ou serviços podem não funcionar como esperado após a tradução.


English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲

In an effort to watch calories and eat more healthful, I try to make salads at home.
Sometimes I have great ingredients and other times—not so good. I recently saw a post in the Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less (ESMMWL) blog written by Carolyn Dunn on this topic. Dr. Dunn is the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emerita with NC State and N.C. Cooperative Extension and one of the developers of the ESMMWL program.

Dunn’s post asked the question that you may also ask…. why do restaurant salads taste better than homemade salads? She offered some thoughts on this topic.

1. Temperature – keep all ingredients cold, you can even chill the plates you are
going to use it to keep the salad ice cold.

2. Ingredients – choose fresh ingredients and use a variety of ingredients. Just
lettuce is a boring salad. Try different lettuces, shredded carrots, chopped
cucumbers, dried fruit, cherry tomatoes, and diced fruit. Also, cut the
ingredients into appropriate sizes, even cherry tomatoes should be cut in half
for easier eating. Harder vegetables such as carrots are best shredded.

3. Dressing – place all of your ingredients in a very large bowl and toss well with
the dressing. Serving the dressing on the side and allowing each person to top
their salad results in a few bites with too much dressing and some bites that
may have no dressing. You can use far less dressing this way and each piece of
your salad will have just the right amount of dressing. Try making your own

4. Plating – plate your salad using tongs or a gloved hand to allow the salad to
lightly sit on the plate. This gives the salad some height and interest.

5. Texture – top the salad with the final ingredient to add some crunch. This may
be sliced nuts, sunflower seeds, croutons, or even a sprinkling of toasted
bread crumbs. This final step makes all the difference.

I have a suggestion of my own to add to the list. I call it “starter salads”. This method of salad making allows you to make a few salads ahead –when you have some extra time. Having starter salads encourages me to eat a salad when I really don’t want to take the time to gather all the ingredients needed to make a whole salad. I have found that having these starter salads in the refrigerator encourages other family members to eat salads, too, because it makes it easier.

The concept is to make more than one salad while you have the ingredients out.
Obviously, you can’t make whole salads or it defeats the idea of special and fresh. In serving size plates place the greens as Dr. Dunn recommended. Then add some of the sturdier vegetables on top. This could be grated carrots, snow peas, sliced onions, diced peppers, chopped cabbage—items that may take a little more time to prepare but will hold up for several days in the refrigerator. Then cover this salad with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator (keeps it and the plate cold!) Make just enough that you can eat up in a few days.

Then when you want a salad you can complete it with the tomatoes, cucumbers, fruit and those great toppings. If you’re wanting a smaller side salad stop there. But if you’re wanting or need some protein, you could add hard-cooked eggs, or leftover meat or canned tuna or chicken to make it a meal salad. Then add the dressing as suggested by Dr. Dunn—just before serving. For variety, have several homemade dressings prepared in the refrigerator.

bottles of dressings and sauces

Our Med instead of Meds program (Dr. Dunn helped develop this program, too) offers ideas for several easy dressings. Here’s one for a Sesame Soy Vinaigrette that can be used for salads, noodle bowls, poke bowls or as a marinade for tofu, chicken, pork or beef.

Sesame Soy Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
  • 2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili sauce (such as Sambal or Sriracha)
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Mix ingredients together in a glass jar with a screw top. Tighten the lid well and shake. Store in the refrigerator. Makes four servings. Nutrition Information: 2 Tablespoon serving contains 90 calories, 2 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fat, 1 gram protein and 389 mg sodium.

More recipes for dressings and condiments can be found at our Med Instead of Meds website. This website contains many ideas, recipes and suggestions for eating a Mediterranean diet.

Sources: and

Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-2610 or by email at