Building a better salad starts with the salad's foundation: the greens. Greens are low in calories and deliver high doses of vitamins. The darker the leaves are, the more vitamins and minerals they have. Try mixing a cup of spinach with a cup of romaine or have two cups of a spring mix to help sneak some more vitamins and minerals into your diet.
When choosing your vegetables, make your salad as colorful as possible. Each color (green, red, yellow, orange, purple) represents a different assortment of beneficial nutrients. Also, raw veggies are low in calories, so feel free to load up on them.
Watch your portion sizes with your proteins and your legumes. Legumes, while full of fiber, are also caloric. Stick with lean proteins (chicken, ham, turkey, or fish) and try to get them as close to their natural state as possible for the greatest nutritional value. (For instance: a half cup of grilled chicken has only 61 calories while a half cup of fried chicken has a shocking 194 calories.)
Consider your dairy items, nuts, seeds, and other salad toppers very carefully. Aim for low fat cheese and try to have it be shredded-that way you're getting a greater volume out of a single portion instead of having it in chunks. Don't get too carried away with nuts and seeds. While adding protein and healthy fats to your salad, a little goes a long way.
Many times a healthy salad turns into a not-so-healthy one because of the salad dressing. People often tend to use too much, so stick with the recommended service size of two tablespoons. Watch out for low-fat dressings-they still may be high in calories and have more fat grams that you might think. Have your dressing served on the side so you have control over how much is actually in your salad.