From the Archives: Summer 2008 Issue of Lupus Now
Healthful Eating: Chill Out With Summer Salads
By Amy Paturel, M.S., M.P.H.
Nothing says summer better than salads. After all, sunny days and action-packed activities require foods that help you chill out, not heat up. What’s more, many common salad ingredients are loaded with nutrients and disease-fighting chemicals called antioxidants.
“You want to eat at least seven to nine servings of vegetables a day,” says Joan Salge Blake, M.S., R.D., clinical assistant professor at Boston University and author of Nutrition and You (2008). “And salads are a fabulous way to get those vegetables in your diet.” There’s even a good chance you’ll meet a majority of your dietary needs for the day by eating just one veggie-laden salad, she says.
A bonus: Research shows that eating a side salad before a meal may ultimately help you slim down. One study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that when 42 women had a 100-calorie salad before dinner, they consumed 12 percent fewer calories during their meal (even with the calories of the salad included).
Top your salad with a protein source, such as free-range chicken or wild salmon, and you have an entire meal. "You can even use leftover protein from the night before," suggests Salge Blake. Sure, these foods can be pricier than their conventional counterparts, but they come without potentially harmful chemicals or hormones, and they may boast added nutrients and flavor.
You don't even have to start with lettuce and salad greens, says Andrea Giancoli, M.P.H., R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “The beauty of salads is you can be creative." In fact, Giancoli suggests trying canned goods like corn, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, and chickpeas. Even frozen vegetables provide a good base without the risk of spoilage. Other good salad starters include pasta, rice, bulgur wheat, beans, and fruit.
Shop at the Source
Choosing the best ingredients for your salad will always result in a tastier final product—and the best flavor is often found at your local farmers market. Conventional produce is often picked before ripening to survive the cross-country trip. But produce from the farmers market is grown locally, so it travels less and has more time to develop flavor on the vine. Think creamy avocado, juicy summer fruit, and fresh herbs for flavor.
“When you shop at farmers markets, you’re supporting your local economy and helping sustain local agriculture,” says Giancoli. “And since farmers market produce is picked right before it’s sold and doesn’t have to withstand travel, it retains the most nutrients.”
Another farmers market coup: You get to try new foods risk-free since many farmers put out samples for tasting. They’ll also explain how to best enjoy the produce. So don’t be afraid to experiment. Pick out a fruit you’ve never tried. Use fresh herbs like mint and parsley. Top your salad with fresh lemon or orange zest. And dress your salad with care—a little oil and vinegar, perhaps, is all you'll need!
How to Make a Healthier Salad
- Add Nuts: Slivered almonds or toasted walnuts not only add taste and texture to a salad, but they deliver heart-healthy fat, too.
- Fiber Up: Beans, broccoli, and apples boost fiber and flavor.
- Dress Easy: Measure dressing before you pour. Two tablespoons adds a modest amount of fat. But most people don’t use two tablespoons; they use ladles.
- Go Fish: Top your salad with grilled salmon and you’ll add plenty of heart-healthy omega-3s to your plate.
Avocado Chicken Salad
Choice of Lettuce, shredded
1 pound cooked chicken breast, diced
2/3 cup peeled and diced avocado (about 1/2 of a medium avocado)
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
Creamy Chive Dressing:
1/2 red onion sliced
1 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons choice of flavored vinegar
pinch of sugar and pepper
Prepare creamy chive dressing: Place onion, yogurt, mayonnaise, chives, tarragon, and vinegar in a food processor and puree until smooth. Add a pinch of sugar and season to taste with pepper. Mix well. Transfer into a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
Line the bottom of 4 salad plates with lettuce. Fill with chicken and avocado. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Top with 2 tablespoons of creamy chive dressing. Garnish with red pepper and lemon.
Fabulous Feta Salad
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup canned red kidney beans, rinced and drained
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup diced feta cheese
1/4 cup diced onion
Combine olive oil, lemon juice, and oregano. Pour over other ingredients. Toss and season to taste.
Honeyed Yogurt Salad
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced
1 cup choice of seedless grapes
1 cup choice of melon cubes
1 cup fresh strawberries or raspberries
Yogurt and Honey Sauce
1 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons liquid honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Prepare yogurt and honey sauce: In a small bowl, mix all ingredients and chill 1-2 hours before serving.
Prepare fruit salad: Gently combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Divide into four dessert bowls and drizzle with yogurt and honey sauce.