How to prepare salads so they stay fresh

When you want to make better choices with your diet (or save some money!), one of the easiest things you can do is prepare a week’s worth of meals in advance, so you have healthy meals ready to go.

But is it possible to make a salad and keep it fresh all week?

We asked Kylie Burke, a certified holistic health coach and owner of Radiant & Abundant, to help us put together some tips for beginners, including preparing salads for the week.

How do you keep salad fresh for weeks?

While meal prepping for your week may seem daunting, it can make sticking to your meal plan for the week and saving money much easier.

The best part: When you follow our steps, it’s possible to prepare everything you need for a week’s worth of salads.

1. Wash and part green

Wash the greens  How to eat prepared salad

If you’re meal prep for a week of salads, the most important first step you can take is washing and drying your greens.

They should be completely dry before refrigerating.

If you want your morning output to be extra quick, consider dividing your greens into different containers for each day of the week.

When you’re choosing which greens to use for your salad, keep in mind how long they’ll last in the fridge.

“Kale and purple cabbage, because they have a lot of body, won’t wilt as quickly as baby spinach or other light-bodied greens” like iceberg lettuce, says Burke.

2. Add some crunch

While the freshness of your salad greens is an important aspect of preparing a week’s worth of meals, it’s also important to consider your taste buds.

If you’re bored of eating the same thing all the time, you’re more likely to skip the salad and grab some fast food for lunch instead.

An easy way to keep your salad fresh every day is to add a variety of textures, one of which is crunch.

We crave crunchy foods, and it’s important to give yourself that with healthy toppings instead of an afternoon bag of chips.

Some great topping options to add crunch to your salad include:

  • Toasted almonds
  • Pepitas or pumpkin seeds
  • Whole wheat croutons
  • Tortilla strips
  • sunflower seeds
  • Toasted coconut
  • Chia seeds
  • Crunchy vegetables such as carrots, radishes or beans

3. Don’t forget protein

Bowl of Chicken Salad  How to eat prepared salad

Adding an element of protein to your salad will help you feel fuller longer, and it adds another element to your meal that can be changed from day to day.

If you want to add protein to your salad, you’ll probably want to store it separately from your other ingredients to maintain freshness (more on that below).

Here are some protein ideas to add to your salad:

  • Chicken (Burke recommends buying a rotisserie chicken and shredding it for a cheap and easy meal prep)
  • Slice of meat
  • beans
  • Tofu or tempeh
  • beans
  • nuts

4. Prepare the toppings

When it comes to topping, the most important thing to remember is that you should work smarter, not harder.

“If you’re short on time, let the shop do the work for you!” Burke said. “Easy meals are prepared with pre-made items such as shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, shredded radishes, or anything else pre-cut at your grocery store.”

To ensure high-quality freshness, you should store your toppings separately from your greens — or you can use a layering technique to keep everything in one container (again, more on that below).

5. Experiment with salad dressings

Salad dressing in mason jars  How to eat prepared salad

While there are plenty of ready-made, healthy salad dressings on the market, you can also make your own in a food processor with minimal effort.

Keep a few dressings on hand to instantly change the flavor profile of your salad.

Here are a few of Kylie’s favorites to add variety:

  • Peanut dressing for a Thai kick
  • Farm for a Cobb Salad
  • Vinegar and olive oil for Greek salad
  • Miso dressing for Asian flair
  • Sriracha for some kick

6. Use multiple containers

Once you’ve prepared all your different ingredients for the week, having the right containers on hand can make all the difference.

You’ll want a variety of sizes, and if possible, enough containers that you don’t need to wash every night to repack for the next day.

Each day that you’re preparing the salad, you’ll want containers for these ingredients:

  • A large container for greens. Make sure this container is big enough so that you can combine all your ingredients from other containers and eat directly from it.
  • A medium container for wet ingredients. These may include tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.
  • A small container for your dressing. Pour it when you are ready to eat, and not a moment before.

When you don’t there is Keeping your ingredients separate can help preserve the crispiness of your greens and keep them fresh as your week goes on.

It’s especially important to keep your dressing separate, though, as it can spoil the greens in a matter of hours.

7. …or deploy strategic layering

Mason jars of layered salads  How to eat prepared salad

If you don’t have the time or the Tupperware to keep your greens separate from the other ingredients in your salad, strategic layering is helpful.

“Put heavy objects down so your greens don’t get crushed,” says Kylie. “This will prevent items from deteriorating quickly.”

Grains, proteins, and cheeses go down, then work up to cooked vegetables, raw vegetables, and finally your leafy greens.

This will keep your greens fresher and prevent them from getting bruised or mushy.

Even with layering, though, you still need to be careful of wet ingredients like chopped tomatoes, which can quickly wipe out your greens.

8. Add something absorbent

One way to keep your greens fresh in the fridge during the week is to place a paper towel under the container you’re storing them in.

This will help absorb any excess moisture and keep your greens fresh. Just make sure to remove it before eating.

If you’re putting wet ingredients in the same bowl for a salad that day, you can use a paper towel to separate the ingredients and protect your greens.

How to avoid getting bored

Simple changes like the toppings you put on your salad or the dressing you use can ensure your salads stay fresh on your taste buds and keep you satisfied all week long.

Here are a couple tips.

1. Prioritize variety when you’re shopping

Woman cutting vegetables  How to eat prepared salad

Challenge yourself to avoid buying the same ingredients every week. As you shop, consider the following:

  • Look for different bright colors to get different vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Choose a flavor boost such as citrus, fresh herbs or dried fruit.
  • Consider adding pickled or fermented ingredients such as pickled beets or carrots, kimchi or even sauerkraut.
  • Make sure your toppings give your food a variety of textures.

2. Skip the lettuce

Salads don’t always have to include lettuce. You can use lettuce early in the week and then replace it with a heartier green like kale later in the week.

This helps avoid wilted-lettuce Thursday salads.

3. Avoid vegetables completely

Salad with grains  How to prepare salad food

Or if you’re ready to try some alternative salad types, consider eating a salad at the beginning of the week and then turning to a grain bowl later in the week.

Grain bowls can be very veggie-centric—and easy to store in the fridge for a week at a time.

Mason jars of layered salads  How to eat prepared salad

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