When we asked readers what lunches they pack for work, an overwhelming majority shared the same answer: salads. Reader Abby noted, “I bring salad every day. I joke that the best part is all the veggies and the worst part is all the veggies.” Thankfully, there are a few easy tricks that totally transform a salad, especially if you’re making it ahead of time. So, to kick off our lunch series, here’s how to take your bowl of greens up a notch…
1. You aren’t packing it properly. If you dress your salad in the morning, chances are you’ll end up with a soggy, gloppy meal by lunchtime. But! If you add dressing to the bottom of your to-go container, you can just shake the container to toss everything when you’re ready to eat. To further protect your greens from wilting throughout the morning, pack heavier ingredients first (they’ll absorb less of the dressing).
2. It’s not fresh enough. Toss a wedge of a lemon in your salad, and when you’re ready for lunch, squeeze it over your greens. The acidity revives limp lettuce, and can even hold its own as an one-ingredient dressing, which brings us to…
3. Your dressing is the weakest link. Store-bought dressings can taste processed (sometimes almost plastic-y!), so consider making your own fresh dressing. This beloved four-ingredient vinaigrette will give any salad a boost. Or try mixing pantry staples, like yogurt and pesto.
4. You’re not salting your greens. The secret behind delicious restaurant salads? You guessed it: salt. The word salad is even based on the Latin word for “salt” (sāl). So, finish your salad with flaky sea salt. With tiny pops of flavor and crunch, you’ll feel like a salad master every time you take bite.
5. You’re only using greens. Salads can go beyond a bowl of lettuce. Instead of greens, consider using a base of other vegetables (sweet potato, asparagus, broccoli), and then top with cooked grains (lentils, quinoa, couscous) and protein (rotisserie chicken, boiled eggs, chickpeas).
6. The toppings are boring. It might be time to switch up your add-in combinations. Here are a few slam-dunk ideas: 1. prosciutto, feta and grilled peach; 2. carnitas, crushed tortilla chips and avocado; 3. broccoli, quinoa and buttermilk dressing; 4. dates, toasted almonds and parmesan; 5. beets, goat cheese and pistachios.
7. You’re eating out of your tupperware. Once you get to the office, transfer your salad into a big, wide bowl. It’s much easier to coat your salad in dressing, distribute toppings evenly and, most important, dig right into.
8. A salad isn’t always enough. If you’re craving something different, but still want some vegetables, add lightly-dressed greens to your dish. (Pizza, we’re looking at you.) Food writer Julia Turshen told us she always coats arugula in lemon and olive oil before adding to her turkey sandwiches. Noted!