On a hot summer day, if you’re like me, you don’t want to turn on the oven or stove. And you for sure don’t want to venture out into your hot car to search for a quick meal. A summer salad is the answer! But I’m not talking about a bowl of iceberg with some ranch squirted on top. I’m talking about a salad that is a satisfying meal that, I promise, you will crave all summer long. Read on to learn the six ways to level up your summer salads.

Go Green
When choosing greens for your salad, you want flavor, color and texture. The darker the green the more packed with vitamins and minerals it is. So put down the iceberg and coleslaw mix and pick up the Arugula/Wild Rocket, Spinach, Spring Mix (which is a mix of both), Endive if you’d like some bitterness to play off any sweet additions.  

Protein Power
Now, if you’ve ever eaten a salad as a meal, and then been hungry an hour later there’s a good chance it was missing some protein power.  You can of course choose grilled chicken breast. But if you’re looking for some excitement try a nice piece of salmon, flaked Spanish canned tuna in olive oil, garbanzo or kidney beans work too, and leftover grilled steak is a great option too. 

Fruit Forward
Summer is the best time to visit a farmer market and behold a beautiful array of fruits and berries that are great on a salad. Sliced strawberries are always a winner, as are blueberries (try it with salmon!), a sliced nectarine and diced a apple or pear are great crunchy choices when fall gets closer too. And if you’re pressed for time a sprinkling of dried cranberries can add just the right tart tang. 

Cheese, Please
Treating your salad to a little cheese is a great way to add some creamy or sharp notes to your meal. And the stronger the cheese variety you choose, the less you need to use which keeps your salad healthy. Try one of these: a little feta for a salty kick, goat cheese for creaminess or crumbled blue cheese/gorgonzola for some serious oomph! Or keep it simple and sprinkle on a little shredded parmesan. 

Let’s Get Nuts
Nuts add crunch, flavor and texture without being empty calories like crunchy wonton strips or croutons. Walnuts give your salad some meatiness; toasted almonds add crunch or scatter some sunflower seeds for some umami nuttiness. 

Dress It Up
Finally, choosing a great dressing that ties all these great flavors and textures together. There are so many choices! My first recommendation is that whenever possible you try to make it yourself. Store bought salad dressings can have so many hidden sugars and extra salt that you just don’t need. And they’re usually processed to be able to have such a long shelf life. A great alternative is drizzling some good quality EVOO and balsamic vinegar (or flavored balsamic), then a little salt and vinegar. Or get a little jar and drizzle in the oil and vinegar and add a spoonful of Dijon and a squeeze of honey, than put the lid on and shake for a great honey Dijon vinaigrette. Or add Greek herbs to the oil and vinegar and make a light Greek dressing. There are so many options! Even if you choose a creamy option, if it’s homemade, you’ll know what you’re feeding you and your family which is still a win in my book.