Nutrition-wise blog

Savvy salads ideas for summer

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. July 16, 2013

Summer and farm-fresh produce are in full force. Don't settle for the same old greens topped with a blob of dressing. I offer the following salad ideas to inspire you to build a better salad. The amounts listed will help you limit portion sizes and control calories

  • Leafy greens. Choose 2 cups or more of any of the following: arugula, bok choy, cabbage, chard, endive, escarole, greens (collard, mustard, turnip), kale, lettuce (bibb, green or red leaf, iceberg, romaine), mesclun, radicchio, spinach or watercress.
  • Vegetables and fruits. Choose from the following for a total of 2 cups: artichoke, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, green onions, jicama, pea pods, peppers, radishes, squash, apples, apricots, berries, citrus sections, grapes, mango, melon, peaches, pears, pineapple, pomegranate or watermelon.
  • Protein. Choose 1/2 cup of the following: lentils, peas, tofu, tempeh or beans (soy, black, pinto, garbanzo, white or kidney). Or choose up to 2 ounces of lean beef, lamb, pork, poultry, tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, scallops, shrimp, clams or crab. Other options include 1 egg or 1 ounce of low-fat cheese such as cheddar, cottage, goat, feta or Swiss.
  • Carbohydrates and whole grains. Choose 1/2 cup of one of the following whole grains: barley, bulgur, couscous, croutons, kasha, millet, quinoa, pasta, brown rice or wild rice. Or choose one serving (according to the label) of whole-grain crackers or baked chips.
  • Herbs and spices. Choose as many as you desire of the following: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, lavender, lemon grass, mint, oregano, parsley, sorrel, tarragon, thyme, allspice, caraway seeds, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, ginger, horseradish, mustard, nutmeg, paprika or pepper (black, cayenne, chili, red or white).
  • Extras. Choose one of the following: mayonnaise (1 tablespoon), salad dressing (2 tablespoons), sour (3 tablespoons), oil (1 teaspoon), avocado (1/4), nuts (about 6), olives (8), dried fruit (2 tablespoons) or salsa (1/4 cup). If you choose fat-free mayonnaise, salad dressing or sour cream, you can double the portion size.

Here are a few salad ideas to get you started:

  • Romaine plus 1/2 cup white cannellini beans, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/4 cup diced red onion, and a few cherry tomatoes cut in half. Spoon on 2 tablespoons regular (or 4 tablespoons fat-free) Italian dressing and top with snips of either fresh basil or parsley. Add a half a pita on the side.
  • Bibb lettuce leaf topped with 2 cups of any of the following grilled vegetables: asparagus, bell peppers, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, green onion, mushrooms and summer squash. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with 1/4 cup feta cheese. While you're at it, grill a piece of whole-grain Italian bread for the side.
  • Fresh spinach with a hard-boiled egg (cut in half) and 2 cups of any of the following cooked and chilled vegetables: beets, baby potatoes, green or wax beans, and corn cut off the cob. Top with 2 tablespoons of your favorite regular salad dressing (or 4 tablespoons fat-free). Crispy breadsticks make a nice addition.

What are some of your favorite salad combinations?

- Jennifer

July 16, 2013