Healthy Body  >  Shake It Up: Mason Jar Salads

Shake It Up: Mason Jar Salads

Mason Jar Salads - Kale and ChocolateIf you’re like most smart & savvy women, you already know how to make healthy and nutritious choices.

But, here’s the catch: just because you “know” doesn't mean that you “do.”

Somehow your good intentions get tossed out the window because of life. Busyness. Lack of a routine. Never-ending to-do lists.

The “not-doing” leads to eating foods that aren't ideal or skipping meals and then fighting cravings all day long … leaving you moody, depleted, and desperately searching for something to save yourself from your blood sugar roller coaster.

And then … in comes the guilt (with a capital G).

Why can’t I just eat healthy? Why do I always end up scrambling in spite of the fact that I know what to do?

You pretty much feel like crap all around. Not fun. And, not necessary.

The good news: It's the perfect season to usher in new and nourishing routines. One of my personal favorites?

Mason Jar Salads.

The best part? You don’t need an official recipe or a list of complicated ingredients. All you need is a little bit of organization, plus a hint of imagination to create what I call Mason Jar Magic.

Mason Jar Salads

Wouldn't these beautiful jars make you giddy with delight as you’re darting out the door and have a meal to take with you? Personally, I LOVE opening up my refrigerator and seeing these ready-to-go salads all lined up just waiting to be eaten.

Here are some easy guidelines to make mason jar salads happen for you:

We’ll stay away from the complicated rules, but there’s an art to creating the perfect mason jar salad so that you don't end up eating a soggy mess. (Hint - it’s all about the layering.)

Mason Jar Size: Use a wide mouth mason jar that’s easy to fill … and easy to dig into. The pint size is perfect for an individual salad and is deceptively bigger & more filling than it looks. If you pack it with nutrient-dense ingredients, it should keep you full for hours. For larger salads, use the quart size.

Dressing: Wet ingredients go on the bottom. If you keep the mason jar upright, the dressing will not mix with the rest of the salad until you’re ready to eat it. You can also use hummus or pesto instead of traditional salad dressing. Anything else with a marinade should stay close to the bottom as well.

Hard Vegetables: Veggies like carrots, cucumbers, peppers, celery, onion, zucchini and cooked beets can be layered on top of the dressing because they are not as absorbent.

Softer Fruits & Veggies: In the middle, place the more absorbent veggies like avocado, tomatoes, berries or citrus fruits. (If using avocado, add a squeeze of lemon to prevent browning.)

Grains, Beans, Nuts, Seeds & Proteins: These nutritional powerhouses stay fresh closer to the top. The nuts and seeds seem to maintain their crunch if placed right below the top layer. (Note: beans can also go near the bottom, but I prefer to keep the protein layer up top.)

Greens: Last but not least, fill the remaining part of the jar with as much leafy green goodness as you can possibly fit in. (And bring some extra greens if you’re inspired. I do!)

Storing: Make sure to screw the lid on as tight as possible so that your salad can last up to 4 days. Before putting your meals in the fridge, peek into the environmentally friendly glass jars, smile at your colorful creations and pat yourself on the back for getting organized for the week!

Eating: When it comes time to eat your gorgeous salad, you can either shake it up and go for it straight from the jar, or pull out a bowl and do what my client calls “the flip.” You turn the mason jar upside down into a dish and end up with the greens on the bottom and all the other ingredients on top, including the dressing.

Ingredient Inspiration 

While I'm really hoping that you use your imagination and not get stuck in the idea of having to follow a recipe exactly, here are a few ideas meant to inspire:

Raid the fridge for leftovers (or intentionally make extra). My personal favorite is to roast lots of veggies at the beginning of the week, make some extra protein and cook a batch of quinoa or other grains. Then, when it comes time to filling all the jars, mix & match to create a variety of perfectly balanced lunches to keep things interesting all week long. (No two salads are alike, so you can kick lunchtime boredom goodbye!)

Pick a theme. Think Mediterranean, Mexican, Asian-Inspired, Italian and then build your salad with all the flavors and ingredients accordingly.

Deconstruct a salad you already make. As an example, I took my Colorful Kale Salad and then layered all the ingredients instead of mixing them together. When I was ready to eat it, I turned the jar over and boom - fresh salad that stayed crisp until lunchtime.

Get ideas from other dishes. I used my Zucchini Pasta with Pesto & Cherry Tomatoes and layered the pesto on the bottom, then added zucchini noodles and lots of tomatoes. To make it more of a salad, I also put in other crunchy veggies (carrots, red pepper).  My husband snatched it out of the fridge for dinner that night! Forget about lunch. He shook it up and ate it right away! (All I got was an empty mason jar.)

If it isn’t obvious yet, this is an easy to make and simple way to turn all that “knowing” into “doing.”  Just be sure to have some fun creating!

Now, it’s your turn: What are you inspired to munch for lunch? Post your “most-wanted” mason jar salad ingredients below.

30 Comments

  • Linda Chironis says:

    Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Saman says:

    Elise inspired me to make these salads and take them with me to the hospital. Since I’m a busy medical student it’s become a routine for me to take my day off and make 5 salads and eat a delicious and nutritious lunch every day! I love added beans in for the protein – like black beans or lentils, they really keep me full! I also find that making an avocado lemon vinaigrette and putting that in the bottom keeps really nicely all week! Love this post and this idea! Thanks Elise 🙂

    • Hi Saman! Thank YOU for sharing here and also for being an example of how much easier it becomes to eat tasty & nutritious foods with just a little bit of planning. I love the combinations you have come up with, and your dressing sounds divine! I can’t wait to try. xo

  • Stacey says:

    It is funny you posted this today Elise! Just yesterday, I watched a popular vlogger that walked her followers through exactly how to do this, and I saw a whole spread about this in a popular fitness magazine sometime last year…but I think your post might have just inspired me to give it a try. I always have salad fixings and roasted veggies in my refrigerator, and I drink from mason jars all the time…but I’ve never tried the salad-in-a-jar idea! I know it would be such a helpful time-saver too…thanks for a great post!

    • Stacey, I’m so happy to hear that this post pushed you a little bit further into the world of mason jar meals. I can’t wait to hear whether it is helpful for you as a time-saver. It sounds like you’re already set up to start creating. If you put in a little bit if effort at the beginning of the week, it will make the rest of your week a breeze. Have fun with it!

  • Karen says:

    Elise,
    Once again, you’ve inspired me with your beautiful simple food solutions!!!! I love salads but I admit, sometimes I get a little bored of the same old thing (even when I create variety!). These will inspire me to “shake it up” a bit (pun intended;)
    Your photos are always gorgeous and fun too!!!!
    Thank you!!!
    xo
    Karen

    • Karen,
      Thank you for sharing and for appreciating the fun in the colorful photos:-). I hope you have a good time shaking it up and mixing up your salad routine up a bit. You’ll have to post some pics of your new creations.
      xxx

  • Tish Gardner says:

    This is a perfect moment to try something new and exciting.
    It’s so easy for me to take a “meal off” and my weight goes
    right back up. Many thanks

  • Jenny says:

    I can’t wait to make these! Sounds so much easier than shoving nuts in my mouth on the way out the door. The make ahead trend is in full force right now and with good reason. It makes the decision on wether to eat well or not that much easier. Love the way to teach us to layer the ingredients so things stay crunchy! Also love how colorful they are. This is amazing.

    • Jenny,
      I laughed at the shoving nuts on the way out the door. Who doesn’t know about that?!?! I hope you enjoy the make ahead trend and it makes your decision to eat healthy a no-brainer.

  • Beth K .Bedbury says:

    I love the humble mason jar. They work so well for salads, I was amazed at how well they held up over the course of a week.

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  • liane says:

    I love “the flip”! I never realized a salad stored this way could last up to 5 days. This will change everything! I have a favorite kale salad and another favorite cilantro/strawberry salad that I make every week… but I would eat it more often if it were ready and waiting for me in the fridge!

    • I love the flip, too. Your salads should keep for that long in the mason jar, but if you have something that is marinated or super perishable, check it first to make sure. The cilantro/strawberry sounds like a great combo. I have been surprised how long the salads last, but they don’t usually make it all the way to Friday in my house:). Enjoy!

  • Lacy says:

    So cool! I’m always amazed at how long salad lasts in jars. Sharing with my community!

  • Sam Morrisey says:

    Elise, thank you so much for sharing! I admit I’ve been intrigued by but also putting off the mason jar approach for little while because I didn’t really know ‘how’ to make them or ‘how’ to eat them. (Sounds so silly when I write it! haha) I really appreciate your tips here and I will be sure to add these to the lunch menu from now on.

  • Anne Omland says:

    I’ve become obsessed with pre-making lunches in Mason jars. These are great tips! And I can’t wait to try your recipes. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Brenda says:

    Elise, What a great idea! I have to go out and buy some mason jars! I’ll be packing salads for the whole family! Thank you!

  • Silvia says:

    Love mason jar salads. Your “recipe” is perfect and the photo is outstanding!! Great post!

  • Robin says:

    Seriously… this is a brilliant idea with a gorgeous presentation. The perfect fit for the extra mason jars I have left around. 🙂

  • Teri says:

    I love this idea! You’re so right, I don’t plan in advance and then go running for the cookies around 1PM. BAD choice! Thank you for this, will be shopping for ingredients this weekend 🙂

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