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6 bright and tasty salads for spring

Want to make a salad that feels like a meal? Use this simple formula.
Hand preparing salad seasoning with black sesame
Add a special dressing or an in-season vegetable you can take your salad off the sidelines and make it the main attraction of your meal. Deyan Georgiev / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Spring makes us think of meals that are light, bright and colorful and salads definitely fit the bill! Sometimes salads get a bad rep for being unsatisfying, but not so with these six gorgeously green recipes. The secret is to add more than just greens to your bowl. By adding a protein, your salad will transform from a light bite into an actual meal. Add a special dressing or an in-season vegetable you can take your salad off the sidelines and make it the main attraction of your meal. Use fresh produce that you can find in-season at the farmers market or grocery store and don't be afraid to experiment with herbs and seasonings that are unfamiliar.

"Salads are a great way to pack in a lot of nutrition using seasonal produce along with staples you probably have on hand," Kristin Koskinen, RDN, founder of Eat Well, Live Well told TODAY Food.

To keep things simple, Koskinen uses this basic formula:

  • 1/2 non-starchy vegetables like spinach, lettuces, radishes, peppers or asparagus
  • 1/4 complex carbohydrate such as cooked quinoa, brown rice, green peas or roasted potato cubes
  • 1/4 protein including hard boiled eggs, tuna, shredded chicken or tempeh.

"After you have your base, it’s time to add the accessories," she said. "These are the bits that round out the flavors and nutritional profile of your meal. I suggest you include a healthy fat like avocado, olives, nuts or seeds. Not only are they tasty, the fat helps you to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K from your meal."

Koskinen said you can also get fat from your dressing. "Try using a delicate oil like walnut oil for something different. Cheeses can also be a tasty addition to your salad and add an extra layer of flavor as well as a bit of salt."

And don't shy away from the extras. "Adding fresh or dried fruit can make your salads more interesting and the sweetness can offset the bitter flavor of some greens like arugula and radicchio," she said. "Fresh berries are a delicious choice, but if they aren’t readily available, you can also add chopped apple or orange wedges."

For spring she suggests looking for asparagus, peas, beets, leafy greens, citrus and avocado. Here are six super salads that will leave you feeling healthy, happy and best of all, satisfied.

Spring Spiced Salmon Salad

With fish, vegetables and a creamy dressing, this salad would make a great main dish for lunch or dinner. Insider tip: if you can't find the kumquats the recipe calls for, use any citrus fruit.

Spring Spiced Salmon Salad

Spring Vegetable Salad with Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette

For this recipe, you'll blanch the green vegetables, giving them a dip in a bath of ice water after boiling to keep them bright and vibrant.

Everyday Salad with Ramp Dressing

Ramps are a wonderful spring vegetable that are oniony and garlicky. This recipe uses the ramp bulbs to make a tasty vinaigrette.

Everyday Salad with Ramp Dressing

Celery Salad with Cilantro and Sesame

Alison Roman's salad is so flavorful due to the spice of the fresh chiles, the toasty nuttiness of the sesame seeds and the bright crunch of the celery. This salad would pair perfectly with roasted chicken or salmon.

Celery Salad with Cilantro and Sesame

Spring Pasta Salad with Shrimp

This light, bright and perfect pasta dish proves there's no reason to be scared of a little carbs. Insider tip: Snap off the asparagus stems by hand instead of trimming them with a knife. They'll break right where they're supposed to and you'll lose less edible veg.

Spring Pasta Salad with Shrimp

Healthy Spring Salad

Here’s Koskinen's idea of a quick, satisfying meal that serves 1-2 depending on appetite:

  • 3 cups spring greens (more if you like a leafier salad)
  • 1 cup asparagus (raw or roasted) cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 1/2 green peas
  • 1 cup shredded chicken
  • 1 small apple (Gala, Granny Smith, and Honeycrisp are good choices), chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup feta or other crumbled cheese (or to taste)
  • Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds for crunch and nutrients like magnesium, zinc, and iron
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Dressing of choice. Koskinen likes a balsamic reduction or a citrus dressing that brings a bit of acidity and sweetness to the table.

Now that sounds like spring in a bowl!