What To Get (and Avoid) at the Whole Foods Salad Bar

whole foods salad bar greens

Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
whole foods salad bar greens
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Salad Strategy

It’s long been known that salad bar at Whole Foods is one of the best in the game. But for true savers like ourselves, the chain's rising prices have become ghastly. With Whole Foods now charging $11.99 per pound for its salad and hot bar, it’s easy to walk out of there with a pricier lunch than you expected. 

If we’ve only got room for the cream of the crop, what are we choosing? What are we leaving behind? Don’t worry: I’ve got your back. Here’s the only Whole Foods salad bar strategy you’ll need.

whole foods salad bar price
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

The Basics

Look, there’s no need to highlight a few of the salad bar's items; they’re what I call “The Basics.” I’m talking about greens, tomato, cucumber, and red onion. I’m not going to be the one that convinces you to start putting tomato in your salad. If you don’t use lettuce, I don’t really know what to tell you. Maybe salad bars are not for you.

whole foods salad bar kale
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism


Even though it’s one of the most popular ingredients on the dang planet, I’m not sure kale counts for The Basics. It may not be what you want to get involved with today, unless you are skipping romaine lettuce or spring mix. Those stems can be bulky, and we’ve only got so much room in our container; we’ve also only got so much room in our wallet. Kale takes up too much of both.

whole foods salad bar dressings
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism


Dressing Options: Balsamic Vinaigrette, Caesar Dressing, Raspberry Dressing, Blue Cheese Dressing, Italian Dressing, Ranch Dressing, Tahini Dressing, Greek Dressing, Honey Mustard Dressing, Soy Ginger Dressing, Olive Oil

If you’re like me, you go to salad bars thinking you’re getting a healthy lunch and then proceed to drench everything you have in dressing. Salad isn’t exactly healthy anymore if you’re chugging half a gallon of Hidden Valley alongside it. Let’s use this to our advantage at the Whole Foods dressing station and not blow our weight allowance on the bad-for-you parts when you dress your salad. Or better yet? Get dressing on the side and save those valuable ounces.

For more great grocery guides, please sign up for our free newsletters.

whole foods salad bar cheese
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism


Let’s think economically here. What cheese is going to be the best bang for your buck? I personally have a tendency to go way overboard with shredded cheese, on account of it being one of the best tasting things on the planet. That’s precious poundage. More pungent cheeses like feta and blue might go a longer way.

Related: Items That Are Cheaper at Whole Foods

bacon bits
bacon bits by Džiovinimas (CC BY-SA)

Bacon Bits

Many of us obviously want bacon in our salad, but come on now, let’s be honest with ourselves. Bacon bits are usually pretty gross. Don’t fall for these smoky rocks. Move along.

Related: This Celebrity-Endorsed Salad Has a Cult Following 

whole foods salad bar red cabbage
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Red Cabbage

Here’s another example of an ingredient where a little bit goes a long way. Sprinkle a few of these for flavor and color, but measure thyself. There are greater bounties ahead.

whole foods salad bar carrots
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism


Go nuts, as far as I’m concerned. Shredded carrots don’t do much in terms of flavor, and chances are high that you don’t even want that many. 

whole foods salad bar edamame
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism


You may be tempted to rip a huge spoonful of these dudes, but keep in mind that they don’t take to a fork very well (especially a plastic Whole Foods fork), and you might be fishing around for those things all day long. Grab a few, but don’t take so many that all you’re left with at the end is a bowl of beans.

whole foods salad bar marinated tomato
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Marinated Tomato

Heavy ingredient alert! These whole cherry tomatoes are marinated in red wine and contain a significant amount of mass. Because they’re so heavily marinated, they’re quite vinergary and strong. Grab a few if you’re into them, but remember that you don’t want it to be the only thing you can taste.

whole foods salad bar grapes
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism


You really have to have a specific plan for your salad to include grapes. I’m not sure exactly what direction you’re going in, but if it was up to me, I’d leave these dangerously heavy ingredients where they are.

whole foods salad bar yellowfin tuna
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Yellowfin Tuna

If your plan is to make a tuna salad where tuna is the legitimate star, I’m for it. You already know this is going to be a heavier salad, but it helps that you can loosen up on the other ingredients. Maybe some tomato, cucumber, and onion, but I don’t see you needing much else.

whole foods salad bar pickles
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism


I honestly don’t understand why anybody is putting pickles in their salad. Maybe with tuna? I don’t know. I’m not imagining a situation where I eat a pickle that’s been soaked in Italian dressing and I’m enjoying that experience.

whole foods salad bar dry toppings
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Dry Toppings

Now this is where a fella can get in trouble. Dry ingredients are likely some of the heaviest options you’ll see at the Whole Foods salad bar. Croutons, tortilla strips, and potato sticks are clearly dangerous, but be wary of dried cranberries as well. I also can’t help but point out that powdered sugar is available at my local store as a dry salad topping. The world is such a big, interesting place.

whole foods salad bar tofu
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism


Much like with grilled chicken breast or tuna, if you’re putting tofu in your salad, it’s probably the star of the show. Get the other ingredients out of the way, drench it in that soy ginger dressing, and stick it on a bed of greens with some carrots. Done and done.

whole foods salad bar pickled red onion
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Pickled Red Onion

Pickled red onions are a necessary indulgence, in my opinion. I love these things so very much. Like the marinated tomatoes, the vinegary flavors will dominate your salad if you let them, but that doesn’t personally bother me.

whole foods salad bar hard boiled eggs
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Hard-Boiled Eggs

These are such an unbelievable no-go. Talk about unnecessary weight. Grab one or two if you must complete your perfect cobb salad, but these slippery little weight bombs are going to crank your price up by far more than they’re worth.