6 tips for nutritious winter salads

Updated: Jul 18

It is very seldom that thoughts like “I really would like a salad right now!” cross my mind. Especially in the winter, in Maine. Yet salads are delicious and are great ways to incorporate multiple food groups into one meal. A well-balanced salad is both healthy and delicious to eat. Even if I don’t crave it, I really do enjoy eating them.

There are many ways for a salad to look unappealing. The ingredients travel far to get to our plates and may look dry and limp after sitting in the fridge for a while. If time is an issue, the salad we make for dinner is often made up of various veggies which don’t really compliment each other. Lastly, salads are great in the summer because they are cold, but on a snowy winter night, it is simply not something I want to reach for.


On the other hand, sometimes you need a break from the heaviness of the season. Many people go south on vacation to warm up and stretch out again, to eat lightly and breath a little easier. Others stay home through the winter but it is just as important to still be able to give yourself a break and eat lightly. Sometimes I wish I thought a salad looked a bit more welcoming! The need for this balance was a big driving force to look for something that was both refreshing and gratifying.


It took many attempts, almost as many fails, and some wonderful wins to finally eat a bowl of salad that made me crave it throughout the year. It is possible to make a salad that is both fresh, seasonal and warm in the coldest of months. So, here are my 6 tips for a fresh and nutritious salad in the winter:


1. Embrace the Roots

Root vegetables, as well as winter squash, make a great topping for a comforting salad. If you are serving a salad for dinner, top it with warm roasted sweet potatoes or beets. At home, we buy beets almost every week. I roast them rubbed with salt and olive oil in the oven at 400F for about an hour + 15 minutes, and then use them throughout the week.


2. Winter Greens even in Maine

Don’t forget about local farm-stores and winter markets. Some farmers grow hardy greens that you can purchase even in the coldest months. Maybe you even grow your own! Either way, it is most certainly a treat to be able to eat something so fresh in the winter.

3. There are so many protein choices

If you ever eat from a salad bar, you see hardboiled egg, chicken and bacon bits as the common protein options on salad. How quickly would this get boring if those were our only options? However, a little of vegetable protein can also be super tasty. I love having dried beans in my pantry. It is easy to stock up on especially if you are buying in bulk, even organic ones are very affordable. White navy beans are another food-prep item you can set yourself up before the beginning of the week. I often marinate them with olive oil, vinegar and lemon slices, salt & pepper and use as topping on everything, even on a piece of toast. Try adding a little garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes or even parmesan cheese.

Quinoa has a bad rep for being a flavorless health food but is actually a wonderful topping on a salad. It absorbs flavors of other ingredients and adds an interesting texture layer to the salad. Believe me, eating quinoa tossed with bits of bacon as a salad topping it is a completely different experience from forcing yourself to eat bowls-fulls it.


4. Fruit & Nuts...and Cheese

Unless you are avoiding dairy, a little bit of cheese accompanying fruit and nuts is a great way to take your salad to a new level. A serving of cheese is a slice of 1-1.5 oz or the size of your thumb from the knuckle and up. Some of my favorite combinations are prunes, walnuts and chevre; dried cherries, almonds, and blue cheese; and apple, sunflower seeds, and cheddar.

5. Make Your Own Dressing

You can make the simplest dressing by mixing 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar. To customize it further, add things like chopped shallots or chives, garlic, fresh or dry herbs, citrus zest, mustard or even a touch of honey. Put everything in a mason jar and shake before serving. It’s awesome to be able to pronounce all the ingredients in the jar.


6. Serve it warm!

When you prep for the week, keep ingredients such as roots, proteins, and even nuts together so you can warm them up before serving. Even dressing could be warmed up and poured over the greens. That’s a great thing about winter greens is that they can take a bit of wilting without disintegrating and will stand up to the rest of the warm ingredients.


Do you eat salads in the winter? What are some of your favorite ingredients from Maine to use throughout the year? Email me!


By Dasha Smirnova


In Regard to Healthy Eating is not about weight loss, although sometimes it is an unavoidable side effect. This series, by Dasha Smirnova, approaches healthy eating by making small changes, eating more vegetables, adding movement and self-care into our daily routines. In a series of six articles, we will learn about why diets fail, how to navigate the sea of new health trends, and approach healthy eating in fun and tasty ways.