My chop salad bowl is a copycat recipe of the vegan wildflower salad at Wildflower Bread. Enjoy this assortment of crunchy chopped vegetables, including jicama, red pepper, carrots, and celery. Everything gets sprinkled with lavender and toasted sesame seeds, then drizzled with a light cilantro-lime dressing. This is one of my favorite ways to increase my veggie intake after going on vacation!
What I have for you today is a beautiful bowl of crisp veggies, topped with a light citrusy vinaigrette. It's a relatively simple recipe, and most would agree that it is packed with health-promoting foods.
That said, I have a question for you. Do you think that this counts as a balanced meal?
Before I answer that question, let's take a closer look at the ingredients in this chop salad bowl. Here are our players:
- Leafy greens (I used butter lettuce)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Red pepper
- Red Onion
- Toasted sunflower seeds
- Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette
These are all the delicious things you get if you order the Wildflower Salad at Wildflower Bread. In addition, I added about ½-cup of chickpeas to each bowl for some plant-based protein.
This Wildflower Bread salad is really more of a side salad. You can choose protein add-ons to make it into a full meal. They offer chicken and salmon, plus quinoa and a plant-based "chicken."
(Note: Quinoa isn't actually that high in protein compared to the chicken and salmon. It belongs to the grain group on the MyPlate.)
In short, I wouldn't count this chop salad bowl as a balanced meal, as it is low in protein.
However, it's generally fine to eat meals that aren't perfectly balanced from time to time. There may be certain times (post-vacation is one for me) when eating lighter meals that are heavy on veggies just feels right.
So, if you make this salad, keep in mind that it's not really a full meal. Even with the chickpeas, you're only getting around 12 grams of protein here.
You could make this a higher protein salad by adding one or more of the following:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- You could also double-up on the chickpeas in this recipe
Sometimes though, I just want a big bowl of raw, crunchy veggies. That's when this chopped salad bowl is best, IMHO.
I don't really like the concept of the "post-vacation detox" or "detox salads." But I do think that enjoying some veggie-heavy meals like this after an extended period of food indulgences helps me to feel that I've reset. It sends a signal that vacation is over and now it's time to return to my regularly scheduled healthy lifestyle.
Plus, in all honesty, after living on fast food options during a long road trip, I tend to crave crisp veggies. I try to make healthier choices when I'm out, but it's never quite the same as homemade. The freshness and flavor of home cooking can't be beaten.
Well… actually, there are some exceptions. I love the Wildflower Bread salads enough that I'm making a fakeaway version of their signature salad here. I've also created a copycat of the Wildflower Bread chopped salad recipe.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I think I've made it clear that I enjoy the salads at Wildflower Bread. They're so similar to the foods I enjoy at home, I wanted to recreate them in my kitchen!
The challenge of enjoying whole food, plant-based meals while on the road…
Wildflower Bread is located in Arizona, but there are other places to grab a veggie-heavy bite to eat while on the road. A few years ago, when we were staying in Columbus, Ohio, I had many delicious meals at the Little Eater Restaurant in the North Market. They focused on produce inspired meals, plant-based and many vegan.
Like this chop salad bowl, quite a few dishes at Little Eater were "unbalanced" in the sense that they were mostly veggies with relatively little protein. I'd go there for lunch each day and order the "vegetable scoops." This was what they called servings of the fresh veggie salads available that day.
After traveling around the country on a long road trip, Little Eater was just what I needed for replenishment. It was heaven enjoying all of those colorful seasonal veggies, prepared with delicious seasonings similar to (or better than) what I'd prepare at home.
Looking at my meals individually, I would hesitate to call them balanced. However, when you took a step back and looked at my diet over the previous few weeks, the veggie-packed goodness was just what I needed.
After eating my way through an abundance of delicious and protein-packed steaks and ribs in Texas and Oklahoma, getting lots of vegetables in felt right. The imbalance helped me to rebalance if that makes sense.
I was sad when I came across an article stating that Little Eater closed as a result of the pandemic. I'd love to see more restaurants like this throughout the United States. Fresh vegetables and fruits don't travel well on road trips, and there are limited offerings at most convenience stores.
Finding freshly prepared dishes with in-season vegetables is such a gift while on the road! We need more restaurants offering these options, not fewer!
Some additional thoughts on this chop salad bowl and balanced meals
I'm going to disclose something here. I was considering adding more protein into this meal to make it more balanced, even though I just wanted fresh veggies.
As I've mentioned before on the site, I try to prioritize protein in my dishes. Protein has a lot of benefits, such as providing satiety from meals. Plus, certain amino acids are essential.
It's simply too important to skimp on it.
However, giving the impression that I am precise in hitting a minimum of 20-25 grams of protein every single day for every single meal is not a realistic representation of how I eat. I do hit that target most days for most meals.
Occasionally, though, I don't reach it. Maybe I wasn't very hungry and just had a light meal. Or maybe I skipped a meal altogether.
Nothing bad happens from not having a perfectly balanced diet 100% of the time. On the other hand, if your meals are almost entirely low-calorie veggies with very little protein, that could be a problem. It's getting extreme that can lead to disordered thinking about food and health issues, not minor dietary imperfections.
In summary, it's really no big deal that this chop salad bowl is not a perfectly balanced meal. If you happen to feel like eating a huge bowl of raw crunchy veggies, it will hit the spot. And if it makes you feel better, throw some chicken or flavored tofu on there.
Prepping your chop salad bowls
This is a chopped salad, but that doesn't mean you need a salad chopper to prepare it. I have a chopper but prefer to use a regular knife for this. I feel that hand chopping with a knife gives me more uniform vegetable pieces.
You want to chop everything fairly small, so you can get as many types of veggies as possible in a single bite. That's pretty much the point of going to the trouble of making chopped salads, right?
Another thing you'll need is a food processor or blender. You could chop the jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro into minuscule pieces for the cilantro lime dressing. But why not let the food processor do the work for you?
This salad isn't my favorite for a lunch meal prep. I like eating the fresh veggies right away. Also, sometimes butter lettuce doesn't stay fresh for long in the fridge.
If you do use this recipe as a meal prep, keep the cilantro dressing separate until you are ready to eat it. Adding your salad dressing ahead of time will make the lettuce soggy, and no one likes a soggy salad.
You'll have the ultimate sad desk salad situation on your hands. No bueno.
One of the nice things about this salad is it requires no cooking. If you're planning to add more protein, canned legumes or frozen edamame (reheated in the microwave) are options that will keep you away from the oven.
Alternatively, you could pick up a rotisserie chicken and shred the chicken breast to use here.
Using this salad as a side salad is another option for you. If you need a vegetable side dish for dinner, put a big bowl of this chopped salad on the table. You might have enough for a couple of nights!
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let's get cooking!
Chop Salad Bowl (Wildflower Bread Salad Copycat)
- 10 ounces butter lettuce, hand torn into tiny pieces (284 grams)
- 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut into ⅛s (340 grams)
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 2 cups jicama, peeled and chopped
- 2 red peppers, chopped (about 2½ cups of peppers)
- ¼ cup red onion, chopped
- 2 scallions, sliced
- ½ cup shelled and toasted sunflower seeds
- 15.5 ounces canned chickpeas, drained (439 grams)
- 1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender
For the cilantro-lime vinaigrette:
- 6 tablespoons lime juice, fresh squeezed
- ½ jalapeno, chopped (seeded if you want less heat)
- ⅓ cup cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon lime zest
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Put all of your "for the cilantro-lime vinaigrette" ingredients in a food processor. Blend well and set aside.
- Chop all of your salad veggies small. I like to use a knife for more uniform pieces, but a salad chopper will make this a faster job.
- Divide your salad veggies evenly between four serving bowls. (Alternatively, throw everything in one big serving bowl if this will be used as a side salad to serve with a family dinner.)
- Dress your salad with the cilantro-lime vinaigrette right before serving. Give the salad a good stir so you get a mix of dressed veggies in every bite!
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). This is essentially a huge bowl of (primarily) non-starchy veggies topped with a light lime vinaigrette. It's incredibly high in volume while being low in calories. Volume eaters with a fat loss goal might dig this chop salad bowl. So much food! However, as I discussed in the article above, it's low in protein. If you are using this as a full meal versus a post-vacation reset, consider adding more protein. Double up on the chickpeas in the recipe, add other legumes, or perhaps some grilled chicken. You may also want to use a little more oil in the dressing if you have higher energy needs. This likely comes as no surprise, but bread is often included with the Wildflower Bread salads. Another way you could add more energy (i.e., calories) to the meal is to add some bread. There are essential amino acids and essential fatty acids but no essential carbohydrates. I don't consider grains to be a requirement for a balanced meal, but that doesn't mean everyone should exclude them either. Nutrition information is for one serving of the recipe.
Do you ever feel like digging into a big pile of raw vegetables after going without them for a while? As I mentioned above, I often feel this way after vacation! Another time I felt this way was when we were relying primarily on frozen vegetables early in the pandemic.
I hope this chop salad bowl helps to provide you with a veggie reboot when you feel like you need it! You can let me know what you think in the comments below!