When it comes to summer salads, its OK to supersize them. In fact, one-dish salad meals are a great way to take advantage of seasonal ingredients.
The convenience factor is one reason to do it. Sure, you have to wash and chop the lettuce and extras, but you dont need a recipe, and the cleanup is easy.
More importantly, eating substantial salads on a regular even daily basis is a good way to load up on dietary fiber, calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, beneficial phytochemicals and other important nutrients.
Another benefit is that fresh fruits and vegetables have a high water content, so summer salads are hydrating and also low in calories. Think of it this way: Youll fill up before you fill out.
When you assemble an entree salad, be creative. Cover a dinner plate with a thick layer of salad greens and then top them with combinations of extras like some of these:
• Garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, slivered almonds or soy nuts. Theyre all healthful plant sources of protein.
• Sliced, cooked beets or chunks of butternut squash, tomato wedges, avocado slices, corn cut off the cob, grated carrots, chopped bell pepper, cucumber, cold, sliced potatoes, string beans and black olives.
• Other salads including vinegar-based coleslaw, three-bean salad, pasta salad, cucumber and tomato salad, tortellini salad, black bean salad and others.
• Sauteed, cooked summer vegetables such as yellow squash and zucchini squash, red, yellow and green bell peppers, onions and garlic.
• Summer fruits. Fresh strawberry halves are a great choice. Also try fresh figs and red or yellow raspberries.
Vary the greens in your salads. Red and green lettuces are fine, but use other varieties too, such as chopped Romaine, arugula and baby herbs. Toss greens with oil-based dressings or a simple do-it-yourself mixture of vinegar and oil.
And theres nothing wrong with adding croutons or a sprinkling of grated cheese or chopped egg whites for flavor, color and texture.
Just aim to construct your big salad so that its heavy on the light ingredients those summer veggies and fruits and light on the heavies such as meat and cheese.
Put substantial salads on the menu as often as possible this summer.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at email@example.com; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.