You can buy pre-mixed salad toppings at the grocery store, but making you own at home can save money plus up your nutrition when you use fresh ingredients without sodium and preservatives. This is especially true for dressing, which can be actually healthy if you make it using oils containing good fats, such as flaxseed, olive or avocado.
Croutons: Store-bought croutons are high in fat and sodium and low in fiber. You can use up stale bread and make healthier croutons by taking two slices of whole wheat bread, slicing it into cubes, brushing the cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter and sprinkling with garlic salt and your choice of seasonings. Toast on a pan at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or make extra-crunchy croutons by toasting for 20-30 minutes at 275 degrees.
Roasted nuts: Roasting nuts brings out their flavor and adds a warm crunch to your salads. Preheat your oven to 350 and spread the nuts on a pan. Lightly coat them with a teaspoon of oil or two to make them crisper, or leave dry. Roast for 5 minutes then stir, then check for doneness in 3 minutes and stir again. They’re ready when they’re a shade darker and smell nuttier. Take them off the tray they were baked on and cool for 5-10 minutes before chopping or eating.
Pumpkin seeds: They’re too good to eat only after Halloween! Scoop out a pumpkin into a colander, separate out the seeds, spread on a lightly-oiled baking sheet and roast at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes. Toss with salt or cinnamon sugar.
Fruit: Grapes, berries, diced apples or dried fruit like cranberries, chopped apricots or raisins can add texture, fiber and excitement to a salad. If you use dried fruit, read the labels: the commercial drying process for fruit takes away much of the vitamin A and C, and some brands add a lot of sugar. For maximum nutrition you can dry your own fruit, using a dehydrator or in your oven at a low temperature.
Beans: Try adding roasted green beans or a sprinkling of kidney beans or garbanzos to add a different texture.
Salad dressing: Store-bought dressings are often full of sugar but low on flavor. You can make your own simple and delicious dressing full of baby-brain-building healthy fats using one part vinegar and three parts of oil plus seasonings, such as a pinch of diced onion, garlic and herbs.