Let’s face it- salads can get boring, fast. When you fall into that familiar slump of lettuce-cucumber-tomato with plain old vinaigrette, it’s all too easy to start feeling fed up and sick of salads altogether. Well, fear not! I have come up with a simple equation to ensure you always end up with a salad that is anything but boring, and that you are more than happy to devour!

The Base
This is what forms the main bulk of your salad. Choose as many as you like from the following options.

First things first: This is after all a salad, and you cannot have a salad without a decent amount of vegetables. There is always the classic greens and lettuce, but I urge you to think beyond the familiar.

In the raw department, other than the usual suspects of tomatoes and cucumbers, consider shredded, very thinly sliced or ribboned root vegetables. Carrots are of course a favorite, but also, radishes and even beetroot. Yes, beetroot! Beetroot can most definitely be eaten raw when sliced super thin or grated. How about sweet peppers, sweet corn and raw mushrooms? Make it colorful and vibrant.

As for cooked vegetables, these also add a wonderful textural contrast as well as make salads more substantial. Think roast pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus. Sautéed mushrooms, zucchini or cubed eggplant. Steamed green beans, peas and carrots. Experiment!

A great way to add bulk to your salads is adding cooked (and cooled) grains. Options include quinoa, barley, bulgur wheat, whole wheat-berries (the same kind used for making ‘belila’), brown rice, couscous and small shaped pasta. When adding grains to your salad, choose wholegrains whenever possible. This will make the salad more complete in nutrition, as well as filling.

Another fantastic way to increase the nutritional value as well as the satiation factor of your salads is adding in cooked legumes. Chickpeas, lentils, and all kinds of beans work wonderfully in salads. You can cook your own or use canned legumes (making sure you pick good quality brands with no preservatives or too much added salt, and rinse them thoroughly before adding to your salad). This is one of my favorite ways to make my salad a full meal.

The Add-ins
These are the elements that make your salad more interesting and full of texture, as well as flavor and nutrients. Pick at least two.

Having texture in your salads is one of the most important parts of making it exciting and addictive. Any toasted nut or seed like pumpkin, flax, chia and sunflower seeds not only add that crunch factor, but also boost the nutrients and healthy fats that our bodies need. Another way to add crunch is by making croutons. Try tearing up a whole-wheat pita or balady bread, tossing it with some olive oil, spreading on a baking sheet and toasting in a 180 degree oven for just 10 minutes or until golden brown.

I personally love having bursts of sweetness in my salads. Fresh fruits such as pomegranate seeds, apples, pears, grapes and orange segments all work beautifully. Dried fruit like raisins, sultanas, cranberries, prunes and apricots are lovely as well and add another textural aspect to a salad. When using dried fruit, make sure you opt for the unsweetened kind.

Cheese is definitely the king of adding bits of delicious saltiness to salads. Feta, blue cheese, halloumi and fresh mozzarella are all yummy options. There are, however, other ways to impart saltiness: think olives, capers, anchovies and even chopped preserved lemons or pickles.

To add even more flavor and zesty-ness to your salad, consider adding roughly torn herbs like basil, parsley, coriander and mint. They elevate salads to a whole other level.

The Dressing
The dressing is the all-important element that ties everything together. Choose a style and experiment with what flavors work best with your salad ingredients.

The classic vinaigrette is made up of a fat, some acid and seasoning. The most commonly used fat is olive oil, and for good reason. It is one of the best and healthiest types of fat you can possibly eat. Feel free however to try different types of oil like sesame (for an Asian style dressing), macadamia and avocado oil. As for the acid, there are heaps of different kinds of vinegars like balsamic, apple cider and red grape, as well as classic fresh lemon and lime juice. When it comes to seasoning, you can’t go wrong with salt and pepper, but using things like soy sauce or fish sauce can also spice things up a bit sometimes. Also, try adding dried herbs, a bit of mustard or a clove of minced garlic to your vinaigrette.

When people think of creamy salads, mayonnaise automatically jumps to mind. And although homemade mayonnaise can be a very healthy option (when made with healthy oils), I want you to think out of the box here. Try using yogurt as the base of your dressing for a lovely tangy taste. Blend a whole avocado up with some lime juice and herbs for a gorgeously green and luxurious dressing. A heaping spoonful of nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew and even tahini all work beautifully) whisked with vinegar and salt or soy sauce and loosened with a bit of water makes for the creamiest dressing ever!

There you have it! The fail-proof guide to making a kick-ass salad every single time. No excuses!