6 Ways To Level Up Your Summer Salads

6 Ways To Level Up Your Summer Salads

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.

Ban Boring Bagged Lunches

Ban Boring Bagged Lunches

There’s nothing worse than breaking for lunch and realizing you’re in a rut. At best you’ll eat something boring and at worst, you’ll chuck it and grab something fast and less healthy. Here’s some ideas to help you create a meal that satisfies

1.  Keep it hot

​Soggy sandwiches got you down? A little prep, the night before will save the day. Whether you’re cooking dinner for one of for four, double your recipe than pack the extra servings up individually and prepare to have a hot meal the next day. You’ll save time and money, with very little extra effort. Great reheat able meals like chili, pasta or stir fry over brown rice will keep you fueled up.

2.   Keep it simple  

Your lunch doesn’t have to be a 3-course meal or a giant sub. It can be a few of your favorite things or finger foods in one cute bento box. One of my favorite combos is chopped up leftover chicken breast, sliced peppers, edamame and some seasonal fruit. Healthy, fast and filling. You can switch out the protein for what you like. Sliced steak from the night before or use chicken from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Buy prepackaged apple slices or throw in a handful of grape tomatoes. Add some crisp bread and a slice of cheese. Really, it’s just about having your favorite things in one place.  Kids will love this kind of lunch too. 

3.  Keep it colorful

The more color you add to your lunch the more nutrients you’ll eat. (Not counting a bag of skittles!) Baby carrots, edamame, leafy greens, this time of year try figs, red apples… you get the idea. Whether it’s adding tomato to your sandwich or a quick caprese salad, the more color in your meal the better to fuel your body. And if you’re eating seasonal local produce, you’ll never get bored because it’s always changing. 

Do you have a go-to lunch that you love? Take a pic and post it #fitandhealthynutrition. Or do you feel stuck or you’re wanting to make a healthy change? Contact me, I can help.

My #1 Nutrition Tip: Learn to Cook

My #1 Nutrition Tip: Learn to Cook

Does that surprise you? Did you think I was going to say “eat your vegetables” or “exercise daily” or even “get a good night’s rest”? Although I am a fan of these good health tips, the single most important thing that we are not doing for our health is cooking our own food. I get it. As Trevor Noah would say on The Daily Show, “Ain’t nobody got time for that”, but really it is something we should make time for. I am not going to say you need Top Chef level skills to keep it interesting. Some basic cooking skills that can be acquired through youtube or a google search of “how to make the perfect ‘fill in the blank’” would suffice. We are living in the golden age of free content. The world is or web wide oyster, why not take advantage of that?

I am sure you are thinking again, “ain’t nobody got time for that”, but really, it doesn’t have to take that much time. Just think of it as a rearrangement of your time. Instead of having to ask yourself 3 times a day “what I am going to have at my next meal?” you decide all these things ahead of time. You make a list and batch cook for the whole week, hell you can even do this for the whole month if you have a freezer deep enough. How much easier is it to defrost something that you made awhile back versus having to wait for food each time you want it or having to take extra market trips during the week?

It’s not all about time though, this is really about your health. When you cook you can control what goes into your food. If you are trying to watch your waist line, you can always use less high calorie ingredients. A restaurant doesn’t care about keeping you at a healthy weight. They care about you coming back and an easy way to do that is to hook you on copious amounts of sugar and fat that can be unnecessary to a dish. With a basic understanding of food chemistry, or internet availability, I promise you can make your favorite dishes in healthier, lower calorie versions, saving you not only cash but potential health problems in the future.

I don’t want you to think I hate restaurants though. I love me some date night where I can go to the nearest hot spot and order something I might be too intimidated to cook on my own. I live the San Francisco Bay Area for peet’s sake and I definitely take advantage of that. However, a Tuesday night is not a typical date night for us. A Wednesday lunch doesn’t have to come with a blooming onion. If every day you have your favorite “cheat” food that what makes that day special? Think about this and the next time you see a cooking segment on TV maybe you will pay more attention and your health care budget will thank you.

Stay healthy my friends,