If you think of a salad as bird food, think again. Seriously, salads don't have to be boring, and you do not need to sacrifice flavor, you just need to know how to amp them up. Salads can be a filling, hearty meal. If you are hungry 30 minutes later from a salad, then you are making your salad all wrong. With almost 80 percent of us not getting enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, consider salads your go-to meal since they are one of the best ways to get your serving of vegetables and fruits in. Follow these guidelines to have salads become one of your favorite meals:

» Add protein. Including protein into your salad is essential to promote fullness. Proteins such as salmon, tuna, boiled eggs, baked chicken, turkey, beef, chickpeas and black beans are hearty protein additions.

» Add fat. Thankfully the low-fat diet craze is over, but there are still some who try to avoid fat, which is harmful for our bodies considering they need healthy fats to function. Healthy fats are some of the most fulfilling foods. If you are feeling hungry soon after a meal it may be because it lacked healthy fats. Fats such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds and eggs are healthy fat sources. Fats to avoid that are found in many salad dressings are high omega-6 seed oils such as canola oil, corn oil, peanut oil and soybean oil. Read ingredients on salad dressings and avoid these type of oils.

» Healthy complex carbs. To ensure you are leaving your lunch truly satisfied, add in a healthy complex carbohydrate to give your body the energy it needs to prevent the afternoon crash. Healthy carbs also give your salad flavor and variety. Some of my favorite salad carb additions include roasted butternut squash, roasted vegetables, diced sweet potatoes, corn, sliced apples, quinoa and chickpeas.

» Choose a green base. Opting for dark greens such as spinach, romaine and kale provide far more antioxidants, fiber and minerals than iceberg lettuce. Don’t be afraid to pile on the greens as your base.

» Add a healthy dressing. A dressing can really add flavor to your salad, but many store-bought dressings contain unhealthy ingredients such as sugar and artificial ingredients. There are some healthier versions available. I love Primal Kitchen brand dressings and Bragg Vinaigrette. It is also simple to make your own dressing, and it takes less than 5 minutes. A delicious basic dressing includes 1 diced avocado, 2-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, juice of a lemon, 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, dash of salt, and optional herbs such as basil and garlic. Blend all ingredients into a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy (add water if needed).

Make your salads from your favorite cuisine. Create your salad inspired by your favorite cuisine. Some of my favorite salads include Mexican-, Greek- and Thai-inspired dishes. I probably have my favorite go-to Mexican-style salad at least once a week. My Mexican salad recipe consist of:

- Leafy greens of your choice for the base (I prefer spinach)

- 1 slice avocado

- ½ cup black beans

- ½ cooked quinoa or rice

- Taco-seasoned shredded chicken (I season my chicken with cumin, garlic, onion, paprika, crushed red pepper, chili powder, oregano salt and pepper then boil it or cook in the crockpot to create moist shredded chicken).

- ¼ cup of corn

- Diced tomatoes

- Diced onions

- Cotija cheese or cheese of your choice

- Top with optional cilantro

After building the salad, squeeze half a lemon onto the salad, optional.

Mandy Nix is a registered dietitian in Morganton who writes a weekly nutrition column for The News Herald. For questions, contact her at

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