A salad bar may sound healthy, but watch out – there are some not so nutritious options added into the mix!

The best options:

Dark leafy greens

If there is a choice between dark-green leafy options like baby kale, arugula or spring mix versus lighter greens like iceberg lettuce, go for the darker greens.

Regardless, any leafy green will be a nutritious choice, but dark greens have more fibre and vitamins, making them the better option!


Load up on fresh vegetables but try to avoid marinated ones. Marinated veggies are higher in calories from the oil they are soaked in and can be packed with sodium.

Vibrant fresh vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, red onions, beets and bell peppers are all great options to compliment your dark greens.


It’s not uncommon to see different kinds of protein at a salad bar. It may offer choices like black beans, chickpeas, various nuts, tofu, edamame, tempeh or seitan.

Don't go for the processed options like processed meats, seitan or candied nuts. Instead, choose protein-rich soybeans like tofu or edamame. They have about twice as much protein as black beans (which are still a healthy choice). When it comes to nuts, a small serving of almonds or pistachios offer a source of protein and fiber.

Adding a smaller amount of animal protein to your vegetable protein helps the body absorb the vegetarian protein better. Don't pick processed cold cuts. Instead choose the options that are prepared in the simplest manner. Grilled chicken, boiled eggs or tuna are also good options.

What to avoid:

Pre-made salads

Skip the pre-made salads like pasta salad or potato salad. They are loaded with oils, mayonnaise and other ingredients that aren’t the healthiest choices. They are often made with refined grains which have little nutritional value. If you’ve followed the guidelines above you shouldn’t have any room for these pre-made options anyways!

‘Other’ toppings

Avoid crispy noodles, croutons, tortilla strips and bacon bits. Often fried, these options are high in calories and carbs. Instead, add some crunch and extra flavour with  radishes and fennel. Anything natural like herbs or a squeeze of lemon is also a great option.

Fat-free dressing

You may think you’re choosing the healthier option by adding fat-free dressing, but it’s the wrong choice. The fat in dressing helps the body absorb the healthy fat-soluble vitamins. Do not use fat-free dressing at a salad bar since you need fat to absorb all the great nutrients. However, avoid heavy creamy options like ranch or Thousand Island and opt for vinaigrettes.