As the temperature heats up, salads become a quick and easy way to keep you cool and hydrated – most fruits and veggies are more than 90% water by weight. Many different fruits and vegetables are in season during the summer, so flavor is at its peak as well (find what’s best in your region here). Unfortunately, three of the most popular summer picnic salads are calorie-bomb side dishes: macaroni salad, potato salad and coleslaw. Here are a few tips (and recipes) to ensure your seasonal salads leave you feeling light, yet satisfied for hours:
1. Make it a Meal
When some people hear the word salad, they think “I’ll be starving in an hour.” But there are many ways to beef up a salad to make it filling for the heartiest of appetites. Add a source of protein like meat, eggs or beans. Use some heartier vegetables like corn, beets and carrots. Add a healthy fat like avocado or a handful of nuts. Then just add in a ton of your favorite veggies – different colors represent different nutrients, so go for a rainbow.
2. Watch the Dressings
When doused in heavy dressing, even the lightest salads can leave you feeling like there’s a rock in your gut. Healthier options like olive oil can add up too — each tablespoon has at about 120 calories. So minimize the mayo, go easy on the oil and consider using a few of these options to flavor your salads: a scoop of hummus, salsa, flavored vinegars, lemon or orange juice, garlic or minced fresh ginger. Some oil is fine, just be aware of how much you’re adding — try to keep it to around a teaspoon. Or consider a small palmful of shredded strong-flavored cheese, like goat or blue cheese, in place of the oil.
Another quick tip, and maybe you’ve heard this one before: don’t get the dressing poured directly on the salad. Instead get your dressing on the side and dip your fork into the dressing before spearing a bite of salad. You’ll get a taste of dressing in each bite while eating much less in total.
3. Variety is the Spice of Life
People tend to get bored with salads when it’s the same lettuce-carrot-tomato-cucumber combination. But check back up to tip #1: you can fix up lettuce in many different ways. First, try different lettuces as each have their own unique flavor and texture: romaine, spinach, arugula, watercress, radicchio, butter lettuce, bibb or kale.
Sometimes you don’t even need lettuce. Try adding a fruit or two to the mix: orange segments, apple slices or some fresh berries. Finally, consider using fresh spices and dressings that complement the flavors in the salad such as dill and lemon juice with salmon, sage with orange segments and chicken or ginger with apple, fennel and avocado.
Through his book and blog, Death of the Diet, Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS, empowers people to live the life they want by integrating healthy eating and physical activity habits into their daily routines. You can follow him on Twitter @JMachowskyRDFit.