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What To Add to Salad To Make it Less Boring at the Office or on the Road

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Preview: Wondering what to add to a salad to make it less boring? These ideas are especially for taking salad to the office or on the road.

If you take a plain lettuce salad to work, here is a collection of ingredients you can carry in your lunch bag. Ideas for non-perishable foods are included for people without access to refrigeration.

Salad Toppings: sun-dried tomatoes, Fiber One, almonds and cranberries
Left to right: sun-dried tomatoes and almonds, Fiber One, and dried cranberries and almonds

Wondering what I put on all the lettuce I vacuum-seal into Mason jars?

I like variety, but convenience, calories, and healthiness are more significant concerns. Add in the fact that we only have a dorm-size personal refrigerator at my work for about 8-10 employees.  So, non-perishable and easy-to-carry salad toppings are vital.

salad dressing packed in individual containers for easy lunch packing

Let’s look at the dressing issue first: 

I can’t store a lot of bottles of salad dressing in our small work refrigerator, so I have devised an alternative system.   In the past, I used small (2-3 oz) hard plastic containers to make individual servings.  But they were hard to keep up with inside the dishwasher and my “plastics” drawer. 

Does anyone else have problems with missing lids or unmatched sets? 

I found the solution at the restaurant supply store–small, inexpensive individual plastic cups with lids like restaurants use.  Can’t beat them for convenience.  Toss when done. 

I like the small size for two reasons:  portion control and easy-to-carry in my lunch bag. Prepare plenty and store in the butter compartment of the refrigerator.  It’s not a satisfactory place to store butter because butter needs the coldest spot in the fridge.

How do you carry the dressing?

Regarding the dressing itself, I prefer homemade.  But time constraints and laziness more often prevail.  I look for something at or below 80 calories per serving.  For a quart jar of lettuce, I need about 2-3 oz. The amount varies according to the viscosity of the dressing.

My favorite is the Honey Mustard Great Seasons Brand from Walmart. I have done extensive research on diet Honey Mustard Dressing, and declare this one the winner.

I also like Ken’s Raspberry Pecan and most any of the diet balsamic vinaigrette dressings. Beware of the extremely low-calorie dressings.  I think they taste like flavored water but suit yourself.  I’m not willing to eat crummy food in the name of saving calories.

examples of what I like to add to my salad that are easy to carry to work:  fiber one, dried fruit, dried tomatoes, almonds

Keep add-ons simple.  If I ate lunch at home with a large refrigerator at hand, I would be much more creative. 

For now, I like to mix toasted almonds (see note at the end) with smoked sundried tomatoes (found at Krogers and much tastier than plain sundried tomatoes) or dried cranberries, blueberries or other dried fruit. Bags of these combinations will keep for weeks in your desk drawer.

How to add fiber to your salad:

Sprinkle ¼ to 1/3 cup of Fiber One in place of croutons.  It may seem weird at first but it really is good and adds lots of crunch and fiber.  It’s also good in place of tortilla strips or fried wonton strips. 

Eating salad at home is much more interesting.  I may add marinated mushrooms or artichoke hearts, sliced pickled beets, hardboiled eggs, tomatoes, etc.  You probably have your own favorites.

How I pack my salad every morning:

  • Grab a jar of lettuce from the fridge.
  • Choose a salad dressing (already packaged in an individual container).
  • Keep Fiber One (or substitute) and bags of almonds/dried fruit/vegetables at your work or in the pantry ready to go.

Now you can have a healthy salad with no preparation in the morning if you have done your homework (less than 30 minutes with practice) beforehand.

how I pack my lunch salad

Did you know you can toast nuts in the microwave?

Did you know you can toast almonds (or pecans or any other nuts) in the microwave?  Place about ¾ c. on a paper plate. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute.  Stir.  Microwave an additional minute and let sit on the counter till cool.  DO NOT try to cook for 2 minutes without stirring.  They will burn.  (Times may vary with different microwaves.)

Need more information about vacuum-packing chopped lettuce?

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