Lunch Break: 5 Nutritionist-Recommended Make-Your-Own Salads

The best DIY salads to order at popular shops like Sweet Green and Chop’t.

Restaurants' create-your-own-salad options can be overwhelming. Local nutrition experts offered their favorite DIY-salads to help you out next time. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user angel n.

Sometimes, a restaurant’s premade meals just doesn’t cut it. That’s why we love that lunch spots such as Sweetgreen and Chop’t offer make-your-own salad options. The only problem? There are so many choices it’s easy to go overboard and create a monstrosity of a diet-busting salad.

We combed through the Lunch Break archives to find nutritionists’ past recommendations for what perfect salads they’d create at the following restaurants. Read on for their helpful advice.

Sweetgreen: Nutrition expert Kathy Kendall went for a vegetarian salad with cucumber-basil yogurt dressing. Ask for mesclun with grape tomatoes, raw peppers, black beans, shredded carrots, cucumbers, basil, edamame, and a hardboiled egg. For crunch, add either toasted almonds or pita chips. 

Chop’t: Go for mostly veggies, one protein, and a source of healthy fats to increase your body’s absorption of healthy nutrients, says Shelley Lewis Alspaugh. She chose mesclun and arugula mixed with cucumber, red onion, carrots, tomato, grilled chicken, and avocado.

Taylor Gourmet: The best salad option is the Lanier Park, says dietitian Jennifer Reilly. To make it even healthier, Reilly says to skip the goat cheese. Another option is to add chickpeas or cannellini beans to up the protein. 

Devon & Blakely: With 50 salad toppings, making your own salad at Devon & Blakely can be overwhelming. Dietitian Kendra Glassman recommends sticking with the “rainbow” salad: a mix of romaine and spinach with cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts, carrots, broccoli, tomato, peppers, edamame, almonds, feta, and balsamic vinaigrette. 

BONUS: Chipotle
So maybe you don’t normally go to Chipotle for its salads, but it’s worth a shot at some point. Dietitian Rima Kleiner recommends the salad with lettuce, chicken or steak, black beans, fajita vegetables, and chipotle-honey vinaigrette—on the side, of course—for a reasonable 450 calories. It’s still 925 milligrams of sodium, but that’s the least salty item on the menu.