Food Focus: Raw and Cooling Salads

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In the summer we naturally crave more fresh and raw foods.  With the warmest weather of the year  here, there’s no better time to give your oven a rest and enjoy a lighter meal.  Salads have a cooling effect on the body. The lightness and high water, fiber and vitamin content work together to act as our internal air conditioning during these warm months.  At this time of year we also need less dense, high-energy food because of being outside in the heat and sunshine.

There is no better season than summer to have fun creating your own fresh, tasty, creative salad combinations.  By simply tossing together several of your favorite fresh ingredients that you have on hand with some tasty homemade dressing, you can have a perfect meal for a hot summer’s day in no time at all.

A salad can be a nutritious powerhouse meal and not just something to eat on the side or as a starter.  To boost the nutrition and appeal of your salad, think about adding color and texture.  Let me teach you my favorite tips on how to build a great satisfying salad no matter what veggies you have on hand in 6 simple steps.

 #1 Start with the greens

Instead of using only iceberg or romaine lettuce, try mixing in darker greens like spinach, kale, rocket or red leaf lettuce.   You can also sprinkle on some sprouts for a nutritious and flavorful twist.

*Try tearing, shredding or leaving small leaves whole to achieve different textures.

 

#2 Add your favorite veggies

For flavor and crunch, cucumber, tomato, shredded carrot, radish, red onion or bell peppers are a few options.  If using root vegetables like beetroot  or tougher veggies like broccoli you could lightly steam them first if you prefer or cut them into finer pieces so they’re easier to chew.

Alternate different cutting methods such as slicing, dicing or grating to keep the look and texture of your salad interesting.  Avocados are also a tasty addition.  They’re a great source of healthy fat and add a delicious creamy texture.

 

#3 Add your favorite fresh herbs

Fresh herbs are packed full of flavor, nutrition and medicinal properties.  Chop up a handful and scatter over your salad to make your the flavors really pop!

 

#4 Add sweet fruit (optional)

Adding sweet fruit is a great way to add juiciness and sweetness to your salad.  Try varying your fruit by using either citrus fruit like mandarins, oranges and grapefruit or go with sliced strawberries diced mango or whole fresh raspberries as a topping.

 

#5 Don’t forget the protein.

Nuts and seeds make a terrific topping, adding crunch and flavor.  Also, beans like chickpeas, black beans or if you prefer lentils can add protein, fiber and flavor to any salad.

Quinoa and millet are also a great  source of protein, adding them to your salad will make it more filling and nutritious.

If you want to include an animal protein, raw goat’s cheese, and organic free range boiled  eggs are some better options.  If you desire, even a small amount of home cooked (or leftover) organic good quality fish, poultry or meat could be good additions.

 

#6 Make a healthy dressing.

I’m going to share the ratio for a super easy dressing recipe that you can make in a clean screw top jar. It’s really fast and will add a yummy flavor to liven up any salad:

First, pour 2 parts of an acidic liquid (like balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice).  Add one part oil (use the best quality extra virgin cold pressed oils you can get). Season with sea salt and a pinch of ground pepper.  You could also add a dollop of your favorite mustard and a drop of honey, maple syrup or stevia to balance out the taste (optional).  Shake the jar well and it’s ready to use.  So simple and delicious.

 

Toss your salad together and enjoy!

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