When the temps rise — and stay there for what feels like weeks on end — nothing tastes better than a fresh, crisp summer salad. Summer also happens to be the peak season for growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables, including cucumbers, tomatoes, string beans and strawberries. Coincidence? We think not.
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Salads are an easy way to boost your vegetable and fruit consumption — something most of us are in need of, badly, according to November 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
We should eat 13 serving of fruit and veggies daily but only 13 percent of us hit the mark for fruit, while 9 percent of us eat enough vegetables. On average, we eat about 3.5 servings combined each day, indicating that we have a long way to go.
Eating fruits and vegetables according to these guidelines, and as part of an overall healthy diet, reduces our risk of chronic diseases, including obesity.
To help you stay cool this summer, and also help keep your weight in check, we've pulled together six of our favorite summer salad recipes — all under 350 calories per serving. Each features summertime fruits and veggies, and, of course, delicious flavor.
1. Greek Cucumber 'Noodle' Salad
Creamy salads usually mean lots of mayo but that's definitely not the case here. This recipe calls for plain, low-fat Greek yogurt instead, which gives a boost in protein and cuts down on calories and fat.
A half-cup of mayo has 800 calories, 88 grams of fat (16 grams saturated fat) and 0 grams of protein, according to the USDA. In comparison, a half-cup of low-fat Greek yogurt has just 85 calories, 2.2 grams of fat (1.5 grams saturated fat) and 12 grams of protein, per the USDA.
It's kind of a no-brainer. And, adding olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper helps jazz up the yogurt, too, creating the perfect balance of flavor to pair with the cool, crisp cucumbers.
Get the Greek Cucumber 'Noodle' Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Champagne Cobb-Style Salad
A traditional Cobb salad — loaded with blue cheese, bacon, chicken and egg and drizzled in creamy dressing — clocks in at 451 calories and 9 grams of saturated fat, according to the USDA.
This lighter take has 43 percent fewer calories and just 2 grams of saturated fat. But you won't miss any of the flavor thanks to the avocado, blue cheese, white beans and champagne dressing, all atop a bed of greens and mixed with fresh veggies.
Eating a salad a day sets you up nicely for eating healthier overall, according to an April 2019 paper from Public Health Nutrition. Researchers surveyed subjects on their diets and found that those who consumed salad (the day of reporting) consumed larger quantities of vegetables, which translated to being 2 to 3 times more likely to meet the recommendations, which again, is an area where most of us are currently falling short.
Get the Champagne Cobb-Style Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Caesar-Style Kale Salad
Caesar salads leave a lot to be desired, nutritionally. They typically consist of chopped romaine coated in a creamy dressing and topped with chicken, croutons and cheese. What's missing from this equation is the addition of any food with significant nutritional qualities (aside from the grilled chicken, of course). Our version solves for that.
Instead of creamy Caesar dressing, we create our own by combining hummus, green tea, Parmesan cheese, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, salt and pepper — trust us on this one. We also swap out the refined carbs from the croutons with sunflower seeds. Kale and grape tomatoes make up the base, significantly boosting the nutritional offerings over chopped romaine.
Get the Caesar-Style Kale Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Grilled Veggie Quinoa Salad
This whole-grain salad will outshine any other salad at your next summer gathering. Pairing quinoa with grilled veggies makes this a heartier salad, yet it's still fairly low in calories.
The best part about this salad is that you can make it in advance, chill and take to a picnic or barbecue. As a bonus, this salad is vegan and naturally gluten-free and provides a way to boost the amount of whole grains and veggies you eat. The versatile recipe calls for 2 cups of dry quinoa, which makes about 8 cups cooked, but you can make it with whole grains, such as brown rice, sorghum or freekeh.
Get the Grilled Veggie Quinoa Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Lemony Pesto Macaroni Salad
So often, when it comes to salads at summer barbecues, you're usually looking at creamy potato salad or creamy pasta salad. Trouble is, they're both missing the heaps of vegetables we'd hope for and are void of significant vitamins and minerals. They're also typically packed with high-fat dressing and in the case of pasta salad, refined carbs.
Turn your next barbecue around by bringing our much lighter (and tastier) Lemony Pesto Macaroni Salad. This new and improved macaroni salad uses whole-grain pasta for extra fiber.
The macaroni is tossed with a perky lemon-pesto vinaigrette and the finishing touches are all incredibly flavorful, including sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, fresh baby arugula and toasted pine nuts. Want to glam it up even more? Dice up grilled chicken and stir it in to pump up the protein.
Get the Lemony Pesto Macaroni Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Gingery Fruit Salad
And lastly, for dessert, try our delicious take on traditional fruit salad, which adds ginger for extra bite. Summer is the prime season for berries and peaches are also in season, making this a must-make salad. Though these fruits are delicious as is, they're especially tasty together in this colorful salad. A hint of fresh ginger adds liveliness, and white balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sea salt bring out the full fruity flavors.
It's equally enjoyable as an appetizer, side dish or dessert. And this fruit salad is a delightful way to get a burst of vitamin C and fiber.
Get the Gingery Fruit Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Disparities in State-Specific Adult Fruit and Vegetable Consumption — United States, 2015"
- USDA: "Mayonnaise Regular Mayonesa"
- USDA: "Low-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt"
- USDA: "Cobb Salad With Chicken"
- Public Health Nutrition: "Findings from What We Eat in America, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011–2014 Support Salad Consumption as an Effective Strategy for Improving Adherence to Dietary Recommendations"