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The Simple Formula This RD Uses For Nutrient-Dense Lunches, Every Time

Eliza Sullivan
October 11, 2020
Eliza Sullivan
mbg Nutrition & Health Writer
By Eliza Sullivan
mbg Nutrition & Health Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Radish and lettuce salad with chopping board, olive oil,, salt and utensils
Image by CAMERON WHITMAN / Stocksy
October 11, 2020

Salad making is an art form, one that nutritionist and mbg Functional Nutrition Program instructor Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, has perfected. While at its core making a salad is about tossing together a bed of greens and topping it with what you have, it's important to make sure your salad is also balanced—which is where things can get a little trickier.

We touched base with Cording to chat all things lunch routines, and she shared the formula she uses to ensure a nutrient-dense lunch every day starting with a bed of lettuce.

Her 4 essential components for a perfect salad.

"I usually make a big salad for lunch since it's an easy way to cover a lot of nutritional bases," she tells mindbodygreen, "I always start with a bed of greens, some kind of protein (usually hard-boiled eggs, sardines, chickpeas, or leftover chicken, meat, or fish from dinner the night before), and a source of healthy fat like avocado, olives, or olive oil."

She also makes sure that veggies feature heavily in the salad. Some favorites include "grated zucchini, cauliflower rice, roasted cauliflower or broccoli, or sliced radishes," she shares.

While it might seem simple, this checklist will make sure you're hitting all the groups you want at lunch to avoid an afternoon slump. In order to make sure you're always ready, though, it's important to think about how you shop.

"I always make sure my fridge is well stocked with leafy greens, seasonal veggies, and convenient protein options," says Cording. "I always have frozen veggies in the freezer, and you'll always find my pantry stocked with various types of beans and tinned fish."

We love dark leafy greens especially, like kale and spinach, for all their nutritional benefits and often lean on cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower for more filling dishes. Shopping locally and seasonally is also a great way to support local businesses while also lowering the environmental impact. She also says a key to keeping these salads in rotation is kitchen prep beyond the grocery aisles: "I'm a big fan of batch-cooking to cut down on prep time," she shares.

Then, set it off with a perfect dressing.

The piece of advice we really loved? Cording's hack for a quick and easy creamy dressing: "Instead of dressing, I usually will use vinegar or lemon juice," she says (which, same—but it's this next bit we love!), "or plain yogurt thinned out with water with different spices mixed in."

A creamy salad dressing can totally up the ante on a quick tossed-together lunch, and using yogurt means you're also adding some of the benefits of probiotics to your lunch—just make sure you're buying the good stuff. Plus you can work in spices with benefits, like turmeric or paprika and cayenne.

Cording also shares that on particularly cold days, she does stray from the salad route in favor of a soup instead.

"I also love soup when it's cold," she says, and shares a tip for making even premade soups healthier: "If I'm having a soup that's low in protein, I'll stir in some unflavored collagen powder to give it more staying power."

One thing's for sure: We'll definitely be trying that dressing hack on our next lunch break.

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Eliza Sullivan author page.
Eliza Sullivan
mbg Nutrition & Health Writer

Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine,, and SUITCASE magazine.