Have you had your greens today?
Salads packed with vegetables and protein are great additions to a healthy diet, as well as a staple at any summer barbecue. Fresh salads are quick and easy to make with leafy greens, vegetables or fruit, your favorite dressing, and savory toppings such as meats, nuts, or crumbled cheese. The beauty of salads is that you can make them with whichever ingredients suit your taste!
According to nutritionists, those who frequently eat green salads have higher antioxidant levels in their blood, which help to protect the body from toxins. The addition of dairy products into a salad adds both calcium and protein to the meal, and helps you stay fuller longer.
Salads are an excellent and easy way to incorporate nutritious vegetables into your diet and add a pop of color to your dinner parties and barbecues. Many people elect to eat lighter during the hot summer months, and salads are a great meal option that won't leave you feeling bogged down. Continue reading to find out how you can build healthy and impressive salads that are sure to brighten any summer gathering.
Step 1: Pick your greens
Lettuce is the most common base used in salads. There are four categories: iceberg, romaine, butter-head and
Iceberg lettuce is mild-tasting and crunchy because of its 90% water content. Romaine has longer leaves, and the lighter leaves towards the middle are crunchiest and best for salads. Butter-head lettuce has soft, buttery and sweet-tasting leaves. Loose leaf lettuce is usually curlier and can be multicolored.
Choose lettuce if you're looking for crunch.
Kale is rich in nutrients, containing high amounts of fiber, antioxidants, calcium, vitamins C and K, iron, and a wide range of other nutrients. There are a few different types of kale with varying colors and textures.
Kale is has a tough and fibrous texture, which can make it difficult to chew. This is why many kale-lovers suggest massaging it for a few minutes with lemon juice or oil in order to soften it. People also use this process to infuse a bit of flavor from the massaging oil or juice into the kale prior to adding dressing.
Looking for a little bit more flavor in your greens? Try arugula: a peppery and slightly spicy green. Arugula, sometimes called rocket, is a nutrient-dense green that is high in fiber. It is low in sugar, carbohydrates, calories and fat. Arugula is also a rich source of folic acid, vitamin K,
vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and manganese.
Salad toppings that go especially well with arugula include almonds, cheese, cucumbers, eggs, mushrooms, pears and citrus vinaigrettes.
Raw spinach has a light, refreshing taste, making it a wonderful base for almost any salad topping. It has a soft texture with minimal crunch. The stems can be fibrous, stringy and not pleasant to eat, so make sure you cut them off before mixing spinach into your salad.
Spinach is high in fiber that aids in digestion and is low in carbohydrates. It's a great source of vitamins A, C, K1, folic acid, iron and calcium.
These are just the four most common salad greens, try a few to see what you like. Or, go crazy and enjoy a combination of a few different types of greens.
Step 2: Add toppings.
When most people think of salad, they associate it with vegetables! Vegetables contain many essential nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamin
A, and vitamin C.
Stick with the basics by tossing in onions, cherry tomatoes, carrots, peppers or cucumbers, or change things up by adding jicama, mushrooms, beets or even roasted potatoes.
Including fruit adds sweetness and added brightness to plain old vegetable salads. Salads with fruit are great meals for hot summer weather because they are so light
Strawberries, peaches, avocados, pears, olives and pomegranates are all delicious fruit options to try in a salad. Experiment with both fresh and dried fruits!
Protein is an important ingredient in any salad. Without a source of protein, a bowl of leafy greens and vegetables is unlikely to keep you full for long. Adding proteins such as seeds, cheese, tofu, cooked meats, nuts, beans or eggs will help you feel full and energized long after the enjoyment of your salad.
Cheese is a great source of both protein and fat, both of which help you stay full. Adding cheese to a salad adds texture and a bit of salty flavor to your bowl of greens. Blue, feta, goat and parmesan are popular salad cheeses, but add whatever you fancy!
Carbohydrates give your body energy, and therefore adding them into your salad will keep you fueled and satisfied all day long. Try adding rice, pasta, quinoa, roasted potatoes, crumbled tortilla chips or croutons. Also, adding your favorite carbs makes your salad that much more satisfying!
Step 3: Dress it up
The dressing is perhaps the most important part of any salad. While you can buy them pre-made in store, making your own dressing allows you to customize the flavors and create your perfect recipe. Here are some bright and refreshing dressing recipes to try this summer.
Sunshine Salad Dressing by Cookie and Kate: This bright and healthy honey-mustard salad dressing is made with Greek yogurt. Whisk together ½ cup plain Greek yogurt, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ cup Dijon mustard, 3 to 4 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or more lemon juice, 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced and ½ teaspoon fine sea salt.
Raspberry Vinaigrette by Sunkissed Kitchen: Fruity dressings are must for summer! Blend 1 cup frozen or fresh raspberries, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons honey and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt to make this dressing.
Creamy Garlic Lime Vinaigrette by A Spicy Perspective: For those into creamy salad dressings, this one has a zesty spin with the addition of lime and honey. Whisk together 1/3 cup olive oil, zest of one lime, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice from 1-2 limes, 1 clove garlic minced, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons heavy cream and salt and pepper to taste.
Creamy Carrot Ginger Dressing by The Glowing Fridge: Carrot ginger dressing is one of my favorites. This one requires a few more ingredients than the previous recipes but is definitely worth it. In a blender combine 2 large carrots, roughly chopped (about 1/2 heaping cup), 1 knob of fresh ginger, peeled (about 1 heaping tablespoons worth), 2 tablespoons tahini, 1 tablespoon white miso, 1 tablespoon coconut vinegar (or apple cider vinegar), 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 cup filtered water and 1/3 cup light coconut milk.
Summer Salad Recipes
Simple Greek Salad
All the fresh vegetables and the tangy, citrussy dressing makes Greek salads one of my favorite salads for hot weather. Makes 6 servings.
Recipe and photo by The Stay at Home Chef.
- 1 English cucumber , diced
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes , halved
- 1/2 medium red onion , thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives , whole or halved
- 1 cup feta cheese diced or crumbled
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon salt , or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper , or to taste
1. In a large bowl, toss together cucumber, tomato, red onion, olives, and feta cheese.
2. In a small mixing bowl, make your dressing by whisking together olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper.
3. Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine until dressing is evenly distributed. Serve.
Spinach Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Poppy Seed Dressing
"The best ever Spinach Strawberry Salad with balsamic poppy seed dressing, pecans, and feta. Beautiful, healthy, and always a crowd pleaser!" Makes 6 servings.
Recipe and photo by Well Plated.
For the Strawberry Spinach Salad:
- 3/4 cup raw pecans
- 1/2 small red onion very thinly sliced
- 10 ounces fresh baby spinach or a 50/50 arugula and spinach blend
- 1 quart strawberries hulled and quartered (about 1 pound)
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese buy the block-style feta, not pre-crumbled; the texture is much better
For the Poppy seed Dressing:
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Toast the pecans: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the pecans in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the pecans smell fragrant and the center of a pecan is tan when the pecan is broken in half. (Do not walk away from the oven in the last few minutes of cooking. This is when nuts love to burn.) Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop.
2. Place the sliced onions in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the salad (this keeps their flavor but removes the harsh onion bite).
3. Prepare the dressing: In small mixing bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients—vinegar, oil, poppy seeds, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper—until well combined. (Alternatively, you can shake the ingredients together in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid).
4. Assemble the salad: Place the spinach in a great big serving bowl. Add the strawberries. Drain the red onion and add it as well. Drizzle about half of the dressing over the salad and toss to coat the leaves. Assess the amount of dressing. You want the spinach leaves to be nicely moistened but not swimming in dressing. Add a little more if needed to suit your preferences. Add the feta and pecans. Toss lightly to combine. Serve immediately, with extra dressing on the side as desired.
Summer Chipotle Chicken Cobb Salad With Cilantro Vinaigrette
"This juicy salad tastes like summer! With chipotle chicken, sweet corn, avocado, cilantro vinaigrette, bacon crumbles, and fresh strawberries for a pop of sweetness." Makes 4-6 servings.
Recipe and photo by Pinch of Yum.
For the Chipotle Chicken:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (I added this – not in original recipe)
- 3–4 chicken breasts or thighs
For the Summer Cobb Salad:
- 3–4 cups greens
- 4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 8–10 strawberries, quartered
- 2 ears corn on the cob, kernels removed
- 1–2 ripe avocados, sliced
- salt and pepper
For the Cilantro Vinaigrette:
- 1 huge bunch of fresh cilantro (2 cups packed)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup water, if needed
1. Prep the chicken: Combine the oil, chipotles, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, black pepper, and salt in a bowl. Place the chicken in the bowl and toss to coat the chicken in the marinade. Place in the fridge and let it marinate for at least 1 hour.
2. Grill the chicken: Heat an outdoor grill (or grill pan) to about 400 degrees. Place chicken on the grill and grill for 5-6 minutes per side, until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the grill and let rest for ten minutes. Slice against the grain.
3. Salad: Arrange the greens on a large platter and top with the bacon, strawberries, corn, avocado, and grilled chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Blend all dressing ingredients and add it to the salad. Serve!