When I was in elementary school, I didn’t worry about my weight or count calories. If I had, I have no doubt that the summers would have been my healthiest season of the year. Of course, I wasn’t making fruit, nut and goat cheese salad in elementary school, so we can all agree that things are different now.
Summers once meant playing kickball on balmy evenings and eating ripe peaches, plums and nectarines for dessert, but now, summer means iced coffee, sweating on the subway and doing everything possible not to use my oven when it’s 87 degrees.
Under these circumstances (and because I can’t squeeze a grill onto my too-tiny balcony) it’s easy to reach for chips and salsa and call it dinner.
True, there are some nights where a hunk of Brie and some whole-grain crackers might seem like a well-balanced meal, but to afford that occasional indulgence, I like to fill the rest of my summer nights with crisp, healthy salads with produce fresh from the farm stand.
Before I share my favorite, simple salad for a busy summer weeknight, there are a few things you should know so you can make your own healthy salad in what seems like seconds.
Studies show that dark, leafy greens are packed with nutrients. Next time you hit the produce aisle or farmer’s market, look beyond romaine and
iceberg lettuce. Add radicchio, spinach or escarole to your lettuce line-up for a variety of colors and flavors. I like using iron-packed spinach as a base and mixing it with a deep-hued red leaf lettuce.
For years, I avoided topping salads or sandwiches with cheese because it added fat and calories. While it’s true that some cheese varieties can pack over 110 calories and 12 grams of fat per ounce, a soft cheese like feta or goat can be lower in calories – and so sharp that a little bit adds a lot of flavor.
Beans, Beans, The Musical Fruit
Beans may have a bad reputation on an elementary school playground, but they are a great source of lean protein, especially if, like me, you avoid most red meat. Just rinse them before you pile them onto your salad to prevent the possible bloatiness.
Get a Little Nuts
No matter how many veggies in your salad, sometimes you need a little crunch to satisfy.
Walnuts, full of omega-3s, are a great topping and pair well with most fixings.
Slivered almonds also complement many flavors, especially fruit-infused vinaigrette dressings.
Play Dress Up
The right dressing can make or break a salad, but too much can sometimes break your diet.
A simple vinaigrette can add just the right amount of flavor without unhealthy saturated fats.
Now, if you’ve stared into your fridge for five solid minutes and the perfect salad still hasn’t created itself, the following recipe is a perfect way to incorporate some heart-healthy nuts, creamy goat cheese and fiber-rich dried fruit into one square meal.
- 1/ 4 cup high-quality balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped garlic (optional)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ – ½ cup of olive oil
- 3 cups mixed greens (such as romaine, endive,
- radicchio and baby arugula)
- ¼ cup dried apricots, chopped
- ⅛ cup raisins
- ⅛ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- 1 ounce soft goat cheese, lightly crumbled
- Cherry tomatoes (if desired)
- Make vinaigrette: Combine balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Gradually add olive oil, whisking until combined and smooth.
- Make salad: Combine mixed greens, dried apricots, cranberries, raisins and
- chopped walnuts. Toss with dressing and add soft goat cheese. Top with cherry
- tomatoes if desired; serve immediately.