By Gretchen Powell
If the steady stream of sunny days we’ve been having lately are any indication, summer is most definitely here to stay. While that leaves lots of time for fun summertime activities, it also means that the heat and humidity levels are only bound to rise as each day rolls by. And for me, there’s nothing more stifling when you’re feeling overheated than filling up with a heavy meal.
Enter: the glorious summer salad. During other times of year, it can be hard to convince myself to indulge in the greenery I know is so good for me, but when the days get hot I actually find myself craving fresh, light salads! And summertime is the perfect opportunity to experiment with different combinations, since so much produce is in season and at its most flavorful. Read on to get the skinny on some of my tried-and-tested favorites, including a few tips and tricks to make them even healthier.
Strawberry Fields Salad: The Beatles were onto something. I say Strawberry Fields (salads) forever! Toss together baby spinach, thinly sliced red onion, sliced strawberries, and crumbled feta. Toss with a champagne vinaigrette and add sunflower seeds or crushed walnuts for some extra crunch!
Berry Good Salad: Berries are full of antioxidants, in addition to being delicious! Add some fresh blueberries or raspberries (or both, if they’re on sale!) with dried cranberries and crumbled goat cheese to a spring salad mix. You can whip up a quick and delicious vinaigrette by whisking together some balsamic vinegar, a spoonful of mustard, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Asian Crunch Salad: Asian salads are some of my very favorite! Many restaurant versions utilize iceberg lettuce, which unfortunately provides very little nutritional value. Substitute romaine lettuce instead, and add mandarin orange slices, shredded cabbage, sliced mushrooms, toasted sliced almonds, and roasted chicken. You can find Asian salad dressing in the grocery store, or create your own with soy sauce, sesame oil, and grated ginger.
Southwest Steak Salad: For the times you do require something a little bit heartier, look to the flavors of the southwest! Use hearts of romaine, cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion (quick-pickle them in a mixture of white vinegar and sugar for a twist!), crumbled blue cheese, and sliced steak. This salad tastes great with some ranch dressing – save on calories and add even more protein by mixing a packet of ranch flavoring with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
The Big Apple Salad: Apples provide fantastic flavor, crunch, and fiber! Throw together some Bibb lettuce, diced granny smith and fuji apples, shredded carrots, and crumbled goat cheese in a bowl. I find this salad particularly incredible with poppyseed dressing – just be careful with measurements as the kind you purchase in-store can be high in sugar.
Healthy Chicken Salad: For the truly lettuce-averse, you can always whip up a nice light chicken salad to enjoy instead. Take shredded chicken breast (for convenience, you can even buy it canned), and add to diced onion, red pepper, and sliced grapes. Toss with a mixture of Greek yogurt and light Miracle Whip, seasoned with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
So there you have it, an arsenal of delicious salad recipes to get you through some of the hot and sweaty days to come. Of course, a quick trip to the Falls Church Farmers’ Market is often all the inspiration I need to concoct delicious new combinations. That’s the beauty of the summer salad: Just toss a handful of fresh, seasonal ingredients together in a bowl and you really can’t go wrong. Enjoy!
Gretchen Powell is a fitness and healthy living blogger in Falls Church. She is not a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or medical doctor, and a medical professional should be consulted before undertaking dramatic diet changes. For more, visit honeyishrunkthegretchen.com.