top of page
  • Writer's pictureInShapeMD

How to Make a Salad More Filling + 7 Filling Salad Recipe Ideas

Make your salads more filling and satisfying with these tips and eight delicious recipes. Boost protein, healthy fats, and fiber for a nourishing meal.

You have good intentions and want to eat healthier, which for many consists of adding more produce. When thinking about the types of foods and meals to include while embarking on a healthy lifestyle journey salads are often one of the top meal options that come to mind.

How to Make a Salad More Filling, Healthy and Tasty

Let’s explore several ways to build healthy and fillings salads!

Leafy Base:

Think beyond iceberg and romaine lettuces and consider leafy greens that can add nutrients, fiber, and textures to your salad. Spinach, mesclun greens, kale, cabbage, endive, arugula, and swiss chard are a few popular choices. These greens contain an abundance of carotenoids-antioxidants that protect cells and play roles in blocking the early stages of cancer. They also contain high levels of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Furthermore, greens have very little carbohydrates, sodium, and cholesterol. Dark greens also supply a significant amount of folate, a B vitamin that promotes heart health and helps prevent certain birth defects.

Incorporate salads for weight loss
Incorporate salads for weight loss

Lots of Color:

Adding ingredients that are brightly colored not only can make your salad look pretty but generally speaking the more vibrant the color of your food, the higher the nutritional content. Vegetables like radishes, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, and cauliflower add great crunch and color. Roasted vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes, or squash add terrific flavor and a little bit of sweetness to any main meal salad. 

Add a Mix of Protein, Fiber and Healthy fats


Protein is essential for weight loss and overall health as it helps with increasing feelings of fullness, building and maintaining lean muscle mass, and balancing blood sugar. Proteins are made up of smaller units called amino acids. Many plant-based proteins on their own do not contain all the essential amino acids, so eating a variety of both animal and plant based protein-rich foods is recommended. Some healthful protein options include lean meats like chicken, turkey, and lean red meat; seafood; and low-fat dairy. If you prefer plant based protein sources, try nuts, seeds, beans, tofu, veggie burgers, and meat alternatives.

Don’t forget the fiber!

Fiber, like protein, helps to keep us feeling full and can help with health conditions such as cholesterol and constipation. Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check. Children and adults need at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day for overall health, but most Americans get only about 15 grams a day. Eat a wide variety of plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds to reach the fiber recommendation of 25-35 grams daily to reap those benefits. Additional fiber sources to add into salads include starchy vegetables like corn, peas, potatoes, and whole grains such as quinoa, bulgur, farro, barley, and brown rice.  Beans are also a great addition to boost fiber. Try lentils, chickpeas, fava beans, hummus, as well as nuts and seeds.

Healthy fats

There’s a trend here, just like protein and fiber, healthy fats also create a feeling of fullness. Oftentimes when patients say they don’t feel quite full the missing ingredient is healthy fat. Healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, and oils. Choose  olive oil or olive oil dressings. These foods are great for cardiovascular health –they help  raise healthy cholesterol levels, also known as  HDL (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ) on a blood test. Be aware of portion sizes with these healthy fats as they can be very calorically dense which means that small portions of these foods contain a good amount of fat and calories, which can hinder weight loss efforts if they are not monitored.

Flavors and Herbs

The great thing about salads is they are super versatile! You can  add in whatever herbs and spices you like. Some popular flavors include garlic, chile, pepper, basil, cilantro, ginger, and dill, as well as dried herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, and parsley (just to name a few)! Not only will herbs and spices help give your salad a boost of flavor, but many offer numerous health benefits including lowering inflammation and improving heart health. There is now ample evidence that spices and herbs possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties as well as properties that affect cognition and mood. They can also help lower glucose and cholesterol. Spices and herbs such as clove, rosemary, sage, oregano, and cinnamon are excellent sources of antioxidants.  


Fruits are a great compliment for salads
Fruits are a great compliment for salads

Fruit adds beautiful color to a salad and  it adds nutrients, fiber, and can help boost hydration. All of these elements help you feel fuller and while making your salad more visually appealing. What about the sugar in fruit? Contrary to popular belief, the high water and fiber content of fruit helps to offset the effect that the sugar in fruit has on our blood sugar. Additionally, eating fruit in combination with other macronutrients like protein and fat  helps to stabilize blood sugar vs. eating the fruit alone. Pay attention to  portions and focus on a maximum of 3 servings of fruit per day. 1 serving of fruit is  a small to medium piece or ½-1 cup depending on the fruit. If you like  dried fruit,  pay close attention to portions as these are very concentrated in sugar and may even have added sugar!

Healthy Dressings

When it comes to salad dressing, a preconception is that we must choose a fat-free, sugar free, or low calorie option. Although these types of dressings can help to reduce your overall calorie intake, they often lack flavor and are more highly processed with not such great ingredients. A quick look at the nutrition label of these “low cal” dressings will often show higher sugar and sodium as well as processed oils. Choose a dressing with healthy oils (olive oil, flaxseed oil, or avocado oil) to help absorb the fat-soluble vitamins from your vegetables and keep you feeling full! My favorites are vinaigrette style dressings that include a healthy oil. Toppings like hummus or guacamole can do double duty as healthy dips and a great “dressing” when added to a salad.

If all else fails, add bread

When it comes to weight loss, bread often gets demonized due to the high amount of carbs. However, adding a slice of bread to your salad can be a great addition to any weight loss and maintenance plan. Not only can it help you stay physically full for a longer period of time after you eat the salad, but mentally can also make you feel that you aren’t being too restrictive with not “allowing” carbohydrates in your eating plan. When opting to include a bread go for a whole grain or whole wheat bread to help to keep you fuller and boost up your fiber! 

7 Recipes for Filling Salads to Get You Started

Need some inspiration? Take a look at the recipes below to get some ideas for making a filling and satisfying salad. Keep in mind that if there is an ingredient that you don’t like, you can always substitute it for something else. For example, if you don’t enjoy fish you can always substitute another meat or non-meat protein source.

1 Grilled Romaine Salad:  This salad is not traditional in the sense that it is grilled which brings a nice smoky flavor and different texture accompanied with a simple dressing of lemon juice, capers, and Dijon mustard adds a tangy finish reminiscent of a classic Caesar. Makes 4 servings.


4 hearts of romaine lettuce or little gem lettuce1 small avocado, peeled and thinly sliced¼ cup slivered toasted almonds


2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped2 teaspoons Dijon mustard1 tablespoon organic white miso paste2 tablespoons olive oil, divided⅛ teaspoon sea salt¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided


1. Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.2. In a medium mixing bowl add lemon juice, chopped capers, Dijon, white miso paste, one tablespoon of olive oil, half the sea salt, and half the pepper. Mix well until emulsified and set aside.3. Cut lettuce into halves lengthwise and sprinkle with the remaining olive oil, salt, and pepper.4. Once the pan is hot, place the lettuce hearts face down and grill for 1 ½ minutes, then flip and grill for 30 seconds for a total time of 2 minutes per half.5. Transfer lettuce onto a serving platter, top with avocado slices, toasted almonds and drizzle with dressing. Eat immediately.

2 Charred Summer Vegetable Salad:

Talk about a boost of flavor and vegetables, this salad has it all! This would be a great vegetarian option. Makes 4 servings.


2 zucchinis, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch (2 cm) half moons

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch (2 cm) pieces

1 red onion, quartered, root left intact

2 ears corn, husked

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cups baby arugula

1 cup cherry tomato, halved

½ cup crumbled goat cheese

Lemon Basil Dressing: 

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon honey

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 small clove garlic, peeled


1. Char the vegetables: Arrange an oven rack in the top third of the oven. Turn the oven to high broil.

2. On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange the zucchini, bell pepper, red onion, and corn. drizzle with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper.

3. Broil the vegetables for 8–10 minutes, until softened and nicely charred in spots. Remove from the oven and let vegetables cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.

4. While the vegetables cool, make the dressing: In a blender or food processor, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, basil, honey, pepper, salt, and garlic and blend until fully combined and bright green in color. Transfer to a bowl or jar, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

5.Once the vegetables have cooled, cut the corn kernels from the cobs and cut the onion quarters into small pieces. Add to a large bowl with the remaining charred vegetables and the baby arugula, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese. Drizzle with several spoonful of the dressing and toss well. Serve the salad with the remaining dressing alongside.

3 Shredded Teriyaki Chicken Salad:

This refreshing and flavorful salad features tender teriyaki chicken, fresh veggies, and a sweet and savory dressing. Not a fan of chicken? Simply substitute any protein source for a complete meal. Makes 4 servings.


1 ½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast

½ cup olive oil

1 head green leaf lettuce, roughly chopped

1 mango, pitted and cubed

1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 orange bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

10 green beans, thinly sliced on the bias

1 avocado, sliced

1 scallion, greens only, finely chopped

Teriyaki Sauce:

⅔ cup brown sugar1 cup soy sauce¼ cup lemon juice1 tablespoon sesame seeds1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated1 tablespoon garlic, grated


1. Make the teriyaki sauce: In a liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, lemon juice, sesame seeds, ginger, and garlic. Whisk to combine and dissolve the sugar.

2. Butterfly the chicken breasts, then place in a high-walled baking dish. Pour the teriyaki sauce over the chicken, reserving ½ cup (120 ml) of the sauce. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C). Line a baking sheet with foil.

4. Make the dressing: While whisking, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the reserved teriyaki sauce.

5. Transfer the marinated chicken breasts to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160˚F (70˚C). Let cool for 10 minutes.

6.In a medium bowl, use 2 forks to shred the chicken. Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) dressing over the chicken and toss to coat.

7. Prepare the salad: Add the lettuce to a large bowl. Top with the mango, bell peppers, green beans, avocado, and shredded chicken. Add the remaining dressing and toss well. Divide between serving bowls and top with the scallions

4 Lentil and Roasted Vegetable Salad:

This salad makes for a great vegan and vegetarian meal filled with plant based protein and fiber! Makes 2 servings


2 cups cubed butternut squash

2 cups quartered Brussels sprouts

1 red onion, cut into wedges

1 tablespoon olive oil

kosher salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup green lentils, rinsed

3 cups water, or vegetable broth

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Add the butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and red onion to the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then toss to coat evenly. Spread on the pan in a single layer.

3. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the vegetables are tender.

4. In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20–25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain any excess water, if necessary.

5. Transfer the roasted vegetables and cooked lentils to a large bowl.

6. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and a pinch each of salt and pepper until well-combined.

7. Pour the dressing over the lentils and vegetables and toss until well-coated. The lentil salad will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

5 Honey Lime Grilled Shrimp Salad:

Be transported to a Caribbean Island at any time with this flavorful salad loaded with lean protein, citrus flavor, and healthy fats. It’s a filling and refreshing meal to have anytime. Makes 6 servings.

Salad:1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 lime, zested

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 corn, cob

5 oz baby greens, mixed1 cup grape tomato½ cup radish, quartered

1/2 avocado, cubed

1 scallion, thinly sliced


⅓ cup olive oil3 tablespoons lime juice1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems chopped off2 teaspoons chipotle pepper in adobo sauce¼ teaspoon salt


1. Dressing: Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Process for about 1 minute until emulsified. Set aside.2. In a large bowl, mix together olive oil, honey, ground cumin, paprika, garlic powder, lime zest, salt, and pepper. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Thread shrimp onto soaked bamboo skewers.3. Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Place shrimp skewers and the corn on the grill and close the lid. Grill for 4 minutes, then flip skewers. Grill for 3 minutes on the second side, then take the skewers off the grill. Rotate corn to get light grill marks. (Corn will take about 5 minutes longer than the shrimp.) Take the corn off the grill.4. Pull the shrimp off the skewers. Slice corn off the cob.5.Assemble the salad: On a platter, arrange the mixed baby greens. Scatter the tomatoes, radishes, and avocado on top. Add the shrimp and corn. Scatter sliced scallion over the salad. Drizzle with the dressing. Serve!

6 Tempeh Taco Salad:

This is a perfect salad for someone who wants to explore a non-meat option in a tasteful way! Tempeh is similar to tofu with a mild flavor that contains a whopping 30 grams of protein per 8 oz serving. Makes 3 servings


8 oz tempeh, 1 package

olive oil, for cooking

3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

Avocado Dressing:

1 avocado

1 lime, juiced

¼ cup olive oil

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons water


4 cups green leaf lettuce, chopped1 cup cherry tomato, halve¾ cup black beans½ cup corn⅓ cup fresh cilantro, chopped⅓ cup red onion


1. Cut the tempeh into a medium dice. In a medium saucepan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the tempeh and cook for 6-8 minutes, until golden brown.

2. Add the soy sauce, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes, until all of the seasonings are well-distributed and the tempeh is browned. Remove the pan from the heat.

3.Make the avocado dressing: In a blender, combine the avocado, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time until your desired consistency is reached.

4.Arrange the lettuce, tomatoes, black beans, corn, cilantro, red onion, and tempeh in a large bowl and pour over the avocado dressing.

7 Healthy Mediterranean Salad:

If you love Mediterranean food, this one’s for you! Featuring crisp cucumbers, juicy cherry tomatoes, and tangy feta cheese, this salad is the perfect way to brighten up your day and nourish your body. Plus, with a light and zesty homemade dressing, it’s easy to whip up in no time at all! Makes 2 servings.


1 head romaine lettuce

½ cup cucumber, sliced and halved

½ cup olive, halved

½ cup red onion, thinly sliced

½ cup cherry tomato, halved

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled


1 chicken breast

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh dill

salt, to taste/pepper, to taste


⅓ cup greek yogurt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh dill

salt, to taste/pepper, to taste 


1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place chicken breast on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Top with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, dill, and salt and pepper to season.

2. Bake for 35-40 minutes until internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C) and the juices run clear.

3. Add all dressing ingredients in a small bowl or cup and whisk until with a fork until combined.

4. Slice thinly or cube chicken, cutting to your preference for topping the salad.

5. Assemble your salad, starting with a base of romaine lettuce. Then top with chicken, cucumber, olives, red onion, tomatoes, feta, and the dressing. Toss to evenly incorporate ingredients

From Bland to Grand: Satisfy with Salads

Salads can be a great addition to any weight loss or healthy lifestyle journey. They are filling and delicious when you add the right mix of color, flavors and textures, along with a balance of protein, fiber and fats. If you are struggling to lose weight and are looking for guidance on nutrition – InShapeMD can help!

To learn more about our weight loss programs call 704-817-9833 or visit

71 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page