Diet and Weight Loss

The Art of the Layer: How to Build a Healthy Bowl Without a Recipe


I’m often asked why I chose to build a brand around salad making. It’s a fair question. On the surface, it’s easy to think that at some point I’ll run out of healthy bowl recipes and ideas. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Recipes, for one, are merely suggestions. When it comes to salad making, you can never run out of those – or layers.

From veggies and fruits to fats and proteins, there are endless options allowing for loads of layering ideas and possibilities. Just check out some of our salad bowl recipes and you’ll see what I mean.

Believe me when I say that you can endlessly build healthy bowls without ever following a single recipe. While doing so can be a bit of an art, it’s much easier than you might think. Here I’ve compiled a list of super simple tips to help you master the art of layering healthy, tasty and satisfying salad bowls in your own unique way.

Develop Your Own System for Layering

Building your own healthy bowls is all about developing systems, not memorizing recipes. Think about some of your favorite meals. You likely have different systems you use to make them. Through repetition, these meals have probably gotten better and better over time even with little effort on your part. This is how you approach salad making.

My healthy taco salad is a great example of a layering system. As with classic Tex-Mex-style tacos, my recipe includes layers of ground meat, chopped lettuce, shredded cheese, beans and peppers. Stepping it up another notch I also include layers of tomato, onion, avocado and corn along with a salsa and yogurt-based dressing for added protein. You can apply this simple layering system to practically any healthy bowl creation.

Start with leafy green vegetables or whatever plant-based layer you like, add your favorite meat or meat substitute, and then pile on more layers – whether more veggies, fruits, good fats or even grains. Check out our “Five Bowl Basics,” which you can use as a blueprint for developing your own system.

Treat Your Salad Making as the Art Form It Is

Salad making itself is an art form. It’s an opportunity for experimentation, self-expression and creativity. Rather than thinking about the actual ingredients themselves, first think about the salad-centric experience you’re trying to create. Instead of focusing on all the foods you think you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat, focus on what you can and actually want to eat.

What types of foods do you normally like to eat? Are there certain food colors you find to be more visually appealing than others? Do you prefer simple or eclectic salads?

Little things like this make a great salad bowl so much more than its individual ingredients. Even more important, it makes it all yours. Given that each ingredient also brings its own special layer of nutrition, as I always say, every bowl is an opportunity for you to build a new layer of wellness (check out our “Nutrition Glossary” to learn the “why” behind the ingredients we use).

Consider Your Health and Wellness Goals

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, manage a health condition or just eat better, building your bowl with wholesome layers can fuel your body to reach your personal health and wellness goals. For instance, if you’re trying to eat more veggies and fruits for disease prevention or overall good health, adding a variety of leafy greens, non-starchy veggies and low-sugar fruits like berries is a great way to boost your daily intake.

But don’t go too hard on the veggies and fruits at the expense of other whole food layers. Including quality protein and good fats in your layers can boost metabolism, stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce appetite making it easier to lose weight. In addition, protein and fat-rich layers like salmon and other oily fish, avocado and full-fat dressings can help your body better absorb certain vitamins and antioxidants in your veggie and fruit layers.

Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Here at That Salad Lady, we want you to experience a new eagerness to try new foods. That’s one of our “Guiding Principles.” While you may have to step outside of your comfort zone a bit, adding just one or two new ingredients can make your healthy bowl much more exciting. Think about the tastes and textures that are generally most enjoyable for you and your family and see if you can create a salad bowl with some new layers.

One of my former clients adamantly professed to hating salads. After a few probing questions, I realized she just didn’t like eating leafy green veggies. I also learned that she loved eating mixed nuts. With this in mind, I introduced her to my chickpea salad bowl, and she loved it.

Since the taste and texture of chickpeas is similar to that of nuts and there are no leafy greens in the recipe, she uncovered a way to build a bowl she liked and even tried a new layer. Feeling empowered, she began to venture out and try new types of leafy greens and found that she actually liked kale. Now, she eats a healthy bowl a day and makes them her own way. I have tons of similar stories I could share but I think you get my drift.

There’s no harm in trying something new. The worst-case scenario is that you don’t like a particular layer, but you never know until you try.

Put It All Into Practice

I threw a lot of information at you – I promise it’ll all click once you put it into practice. As I mentioned earlier, there’s definitely a bit of an art to layering salads. With regular practice, you’ll easily be able to build your own healthy bowls without recipes. Whether you prefer eating simple side salads or fully loaded meal-sized portions, choosing your ingredient layers this way can make your bowls more satisfying, satiating (filling) and even crave-worthy.


  1. Brenda Jernigan

    Thank you for this. You are truly a blessing!

  2. Thank you for blessing us with these wonderful recipes. I will have something different to eat for lunch at work. What a true blessing

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