Spring vegetables have arrived! That means there are lots of fresh ingredients to create a delicious salad. Add muscle-building branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) to the mix and you’ve got yourself a lean, mean, balanced meal. Here are 10 recipes to try.

BBQ Ranch Chopped Salad

Adding a variety of ingredients from various food groups can help make your salads healthier. However, some ingredients like canned beans and cheese can also add sodium. For any salad, like this one, that calls for canned beans either use a brand with no added salt or rinse the beans before using which helps cut the sodium by up to 40-percent.

Skill level: Beginner

 Serves: 1

Start to Finish: 8 minutes

Prep: 8 minutes

Cook: 0 minutes


2 cups mixed greens

3 ounces cooked skinless chicken breast (or leftover rotisserie chicken)

¼ cup cheddar jack cheese

¼ avocado, diced

¼ cup black beans

¼ cup tomatoes

1 tablespoon Ranch dressing

2 tablespoons BBQ sauce


1. Make a bed of greens with the lettuce.

2. Add the chicken, cheese, avocado, beans, and tomatoes on top.

3. Finish off with a drizzle of ranch dressing and a drizzle of BBQ sauce.

Nutrition Information (per salad)

Calories: 538; Total Fat: 33 grams; Saturated Fat: 10 grams; Protein: 30 grams: Carbohydrates: 33 grams; Sugar: 16 grams; Fiber: 9 grams; Cholesterol: 87 milligrams; Sodium: 1,368 milligrams

Salmon Waldorf Salad

High protein salmon is also packed with inflammation-fighting omega 3 fats. Pistachios and goat cheese add even more protein for a total of 23 grams per serving. Together with mixed spring greens, fennel, and beets, this salad is a nutritional powerhouse.

Skill level: Beginner

 Serves: 4

Start to Finish: 30 minutes

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes


1 pound salmon fillet

⅛ teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for dressing

Freshly ground pepper

½ cup shelled unsalted pistachios

3 tablespoons low-fat plain yogurt

2 tablespoons grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed preferred)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus more for garnish

2 teaspoons lemon juice

¼ cup olive oil

5 ounces mixed greens

1 cup thinly sliced fennel

1 cup thinly julienned green apples

½ cup thinly sliced cooked beets

½ cup crumbled goat cheese


1. Preheat broiler at 450 degrees F. Place salmon fillet on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with ⅛ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Broil 15 minutes until cooked through.

2. While salmon is cooking, toast pistachios in a dry skillet or toaster oven, about 4 minutes.

3. To make the dressing, combine yogurt, grapefruit juice, garlic, mustard, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small food processor or blender. Blend until combined. Add ¼ cup oil and blend again until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

4. To assemble the salad, divide greens, fennel, apples, beets, and goat cheese among 4 plates. Top with ¼ of the broiled salmon and 2 to 3 tablespoons dressing. Garnish with additional lemon zest if desired.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

Calories: 483; Total Fat: 33 grams; Saturated Fat: 7 grams; Protein: 32 grams: Carbohydrates: 15 grams; Sugar: 9 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Cholesterol: 78 milligrams; Sodium: 460 milligrams.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

The United Nations declared 2016 “The Year of the Pulse,” which includes dried peas, beans, lentils and garbanzo beans. To change up this salad, you can substitute black beans, white beans, or garbanzo beans for the black-eyed peas. All these pulses are filled with muscle-building protein and healthy fat, which also makes for a satisfying meal.

Skill level: Beginner

Serves: 8

Start to Finish: 1 hour, plus soaking and chill time

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 45 minutes


2 cups dried black-eyed peas

4 cups water, plus more for soaking

1 teaspoon reduced sodium vegetable broth base

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes (red, yellow, or green), halved

½ cup diced celery

½ medium bell pepper (red, yellow, or green), diced

1 small jalapeno pepper, finely diced

4 green onions, white and green parts, sliced

¼ cups chopped parsley or cilantro

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend, or to taste

½ teaspoon agave nectar or honey

Pinch of sea salt, optional


1. Place the dried* black-eyed peas in a bowl, cover with water, and soak overnight.

2. Drain off the water and place the black-eyed peas in a pot with the four cups of fresh water, vegetable broth base, and half of the garlic. Cover, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and reduce the heat to medium and cook for 40-45 minutes, until tender yet firm. Drain any leftover liquid and let the peas cool. (If using canned or precooked black-eyed peas, skip this step, but add the garlic to the salad in step 3.)

3. Combine the cooled black-eyed peas, tomatoes, celery, bell pepper, jalapeno, green onions, and parsley in a large mixing bowl and mix well.

4. In a small dish, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, the remaining garlic, chili powder, Cajun seasoning, agave, and a pinch of sea salt, if desired. Pour over the black-eyed pea mixture and toss well.

5. Chill for about 30 minutes, until serving time.

*Chefs Note: Instead of dried peas, you may use 4 ½ cups precooked or canned black-eyed peas, no salt added, rinsed and drained (about two and a half 15 ounce cans).

Nutrition Information (per ¾ cup serving)

Calories: 135; Total Fat: 3 grams; Saturated Fat: 0 grams; Protein: 7 grams: Carbohydrates: 22 grams; Sugar: 3 grams; Fiber: 6 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 80 milligrams

Brussel Sprout Salad With Grilled Chicken,Almonds And Grapes

Instead of salad greens, this delicious salad uses shredded Brussel sprouts and broccoli stalks which are full of good-for-you nutrients. The apples and grapes help balance the slightly bitter flavor from these veggies, while almonds add crunch and chicken adds muscle-building protein.

Skill level: Beginner 

Serves: 3

Start to Finish: 35 minutes

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes


For the dressing:

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

2 tablespoons honey

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the salad:

1 ½ cups red Brussels sprouts, leaves removed

1 ½ cups green Brussels sprouts, leaves removed

2 broccoli stalks, shaved thin with a mandolin

1 red apple, shaved thin with a mandolin

1 cup grapes, halved

3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

2 tablespoons dried cherries

¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving if desired

For the chicken:

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper


For the dressing:

1. Mix together ingredients in a bowl until emulsified.

For the salad:

1. Mix together ingredients in a large bowl.

For the chicken:

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat with olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place presentation side down onto the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, until nicely golden brown, and then transfer to the oven for about 8-9 minutes, or until the chicken registers 165 F.

3. Remove the chicken and allow to rest for 5 minutes, then slice into pieces.

To Assemble:

1. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette and divide between two plates. Top with the chicken breasts and additional parmesan if desired.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

Calories: 504; Total Fat: 27 grams; Saturated Fat: 5 grams; Protein: 27 grams: Carbohydrates: 43 grams; Sugar: 28 grams; Fiber: 6 grams; Cholesterol: 63 milligrams; Sodium: 477 milligrams

Steak and Potato Salad

Instead of a huge calorie-filled steak and potato dinner, take those same ingredients in smaller portions and create this killer salad with 27 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per serving.

Skill level: Beginner

Serves: 1

Start to Finish: 27 minutes

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 12 minutes


For the salad:

4 oz. baby potatoes (mix of purple, red, & golden)

3-4 oz. strip steak

2 cups mixed greens

1 scallion, sliced

1/4 cup baby tomatoes, sliced

1 tablespoon goat cheese, crumbled

For the dressing:

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Pinch of salt

Pinch of black pepper


1. To boil potatoes, place in pan of water and bring to boil. Simmer until potatoes are tender (about 10-12 minutes) and drain. Let cool before slicing into halves or quarters. (You could also microwave if short on time.)

2. To cook steak, season with pinch of salt and pepper and place in skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook until desired degree of doneness, remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes before slicing.

3. To make the dressing, mix together the balsamic, oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried rosemary in a small bowl.

4. In a large bowl, combine mixed greens, tomatoes, sliced potatoes, and scallions. Toss with the dressing.

5. Place on serving plate and add the sliced steak and goat cheese on top.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

Calories: 390; Total Fat: 18 grams; Saturated Fat: 5 grams; Protein: 27 grams: Carbohydrates: 29 grams; Sugar: 5 grams; Fiber: 5 grams; Cholesterol: 67 milligrams; Sodium: 116 milligrams.