Lunch Break: How to Create a Healthy Salad at Whole Foods Market

Rachel Morris, a Whole Foods vegan chef, whips up three options using the salad bar.

Navigating the salad bar at Whole Foods Market can be tricky. Vegan chef Rachel Morris says one tip is to avoid any creamy dressings. Photograph courtesy of Whole Foods Market Foggy Bottom's Facebook page.

If you’re lucky enough to work or live near one, Whole Foods Market’s salad bar can be a tasty and healthy lunch option. In fact, plenty of fitness instructors deemed it their go-to meal for a quick lunch in last week’s Lunch Break.

But as with most salad spots that offer make-your-own options, it can be easy to go overboard at Whole Foods. To help us out, we asked vegan chef Rachel Morris to whip up three combinations from ingredients, ranging from total diet busters to ultra-nutritious meals. You can trust her picks, as Morris frequents Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom every month to put on vegetarian cooking demonstrations. 

Worst: Lettuce, cheese, croutons, ranch (or any creamy dressing), and creamy pasta salad
Anything that packs on unhealthy fats and lacks veggies is no good, Morris says, and this salad is the perfect example. If you can’t forgo your favorite unhealthy toppings, Morris recommends picking only one of them and avoiding creamy dressing altogether. Here’s another tip: Cut up your veggies to release the juices, which will allow you to use less dressing without having a dry salad.

Better: Arugula, dried cranberries, almonds, lemon vinaigrette, and optional garnish of Parmesan, feta, or croutons.
It may not have a huge amount of veggie power, but it’s a simple and flavorful option, says Morris. It’s often a hit at her cooking classes because it “showcases how a few simple ingredients can come together and make a tasty and satisfying salad.” Pile on the arugula, as it’s the “star” of the salad, and don’t go crazy with your choice of garnish.

Best: Romaine or mixed greens, kale, red bell pepper, carrots, red cabbage, celery, cucumber, onion, chickpeas, kamut, sunflower seeds, zesty tahini dressing or hummus, and splash of lemon juice.
This salad is loaded with veggies that range in colors, which means there are tons of nutrients. Morris says when at Whole Foods, don’t be afraid of trying the lesser-known options, such as kamut or wheat berries over rice.

Bonus: Garlicky kale prepared salad
This salad of kale tossed with zesty tahini dressing is one of Morris’s favorite prepared options. “It’s a great complement to a meal” or makes a good meal on its own topped with extra vegetables.

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