Keep it cool with summer salads

Cooking meals over the stove isn't appealing on a hot summer's day. Salads can provide a nutritious and refreshing meal for when it is just too hot to cook.

As it starts to heat up outside, the meals of fall and winter don’t really seem as appealing. After all, who wants to eat a piping hot stew or casserole when it’s 80 degrees outside? On the days that it is just too hot, no-cook recipes can save the day.

Summer salads are a great place to start! With the amount of fresh, local produce available, there are almost endless nutritious combinations. At Michigan State University Extension, we strive to provide plenty of resources to assist in your healthy lifestyle. To build the ultimate summer salad you need:

  • Greens
  • Extra veggies
  • Protein
  • Healthy Fats
  • Fun mix-ins for texture and flavor

Get creative with your greens! Go beyond the traditional spinach and romaine, and try kale, arugula, escarole or Swiss chard. Or for a completely different base, try making spirals or strips of zucchini.

Feel free to add in as many additional veggies as you like. Packed full of vitamins and minerals, extra veggies add flavor and crunch to your salad.

Pick a protein or two! If you are vegetarian, or even if you’re not, try tofu, beans or soybeans on your salad for a change. If you prefer, choose lean proteins like chicken, fish or eggs. Added protein will help you stay fuller longer.

By adding healthy fats to your salad, your body can more readily absorb all of the nutrients in your healthy, veggie-filled salad. Try avocado, sunflower seeds, walnuts or almonds as an interesting topping. If you are a cheese-lover, add a portion of your low-fat favorite into the mix. Remember, a serving of cheese is 1.5 ounces or about the size of four dice.

Add in anything else you prefer for texture and flavor. Try something sweet like sliced apple, mango chunks, strawberries or any dried fruit. If you want to a little crunch, add tortilla chips or croutons. Another option to make it a heartier salad would be to add some grains; brown rice, quinoa or couscous all work well in a salad. Grains round out the salad, making this meal contain all 5 food groups.

Dress it up! Now that you have already added a ton of flavor, all you will need is 1-2 tablespoons of dressing to finish up. You can also make your own vinaigrette by the classic 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar. Then just shake it up after you add your favorite herbs, chilies, salt and/or pepper. Throw everything in a bowl, toss it together, and you have a quick-and-easy, no-cook meal.

If salads aren’t your style, there are plenty of other ideas for no-cook recipes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is a great source for some nutritious and delicious meal ideas.

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