Lightened Up Creamy Italian Salad

Years ago, my sisters-in-law and mother-in-law and I used to meet up every so often for lunch at the Olive Garden, including their delicious unlimited salad, bread sticks and soups. That salad is so delicious that it stands out in my memory. I often like to make salads as a lighter meal on Sunday evenings, so I’ve used the Olive Garden salad as a rough outline and made the dressing and all the ingredients just a tad healthier.

Here are some of the healthy swaps I’ve made:

  • Instead of store-bought dressing or oil and mayonnaise in the dressing, I use Greek yogurt.
  • Instead of store-bought croutons, I make my own with whole grain bread and olive oil (it’s a perfect use for bread that is going stale!)
  • Instead of Romaine or Iceberg lettuce, I use spring mix – sometimes adding in extra spinach. Check our market for locally grown lettuces!

But I still let the key ingredients shine: red onions, tomatoes, pepperoncini  peppers, and plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. When I make it as a meal instead of a side, I add chicken.

I highly recommend making this as a hearty salad meal or as a side salad. It would be a perfect side salad to bring to your next pot-luck, dinner party or year-end picnic. If you’re making it as a side, you could of course go with some of the store-bought ingredients to save time. But I love how cooking from scratch allows you to make easy, healthier swaps without sacrificing flavor one bit. Find even more of our favorite salad recipes right here in our recipe archives.

As we move into spring, you’ll find more and more locally grown produce items in our market. Currently we have delicious homegrown butterhead lettuce and expect to have locally grown spring mix in time for Easter. Locally grown lettuce is much more tender and flavorful than the non-local variety. However, we count our blessings that in today’s day and age we have the technology and infrastructure to have lettuce throughout the winter months, including even some local greenhouse-grown options.

Watch the video of how to make the salad and find the recipes below. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you never miss an update!

Creamy Italian Salad Dressing
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 package Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing mix
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon milk (more if you prefer a thinner dressing)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Stir until thoroughly incorporated.



Lightened Up Creamy Italian Salad
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 2-4 servings
  • 1 bag spring mix or 2 heads butter lettuce (makes 2 meals or 4 sides)
  • 1 plum tomato, diced
  • ½ cucumber, diced
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 pepperoncini peppers
  • ¼ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup croutons
  • 1 cup grilled chicken breast
  1. Make the croutons: dice whole grain bread, toss in olive oil and lightly sauté until crispy. Let cool.
  2. Cook the chicken until it reaches 165 degrees F. I prefer to do this in the oven and then put it on a grill pan for the last minute or two so that it gets nice grill marks. Allow the chicken to cool. Make the dressing (see recipe above).
  3. Toss all the vegetables together in a medium bowl.
  4. Add the Parmesan, croutons and chicken. Pour the dressing over when ready to serve and toss the salad one more time.

Watch the how-to video for this recipe on our YouTube channel!



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