Enjoying a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables does not have to be bland or boring. Taking time to infuse flavor can transform plant-based favorites. With hot summer temperatures now is the time to whip up a cold bean salad or veggie heavy slaw that requires minimal cooking. Think of it as prepping a salad that will marinate and deepen in flavor.

Try a few simple tips and techniques to liven up your palate and favorite plant.

Try these fool proof techniques to dress up you’re your fruits and veggies:

Start with a crunch

While most of these tips are going to focus on flavor enhancers, do not forget to add variety with texture. Adding a crunch factor can help with avoiding a soggy salad. Vegetables are going to deliver a crisper bite than most fruit counterparts.

Try these veggie picks to increase crunch factor: shredded or baby carrots, sliced bell peppers, sugar snap peas, shaved cabbage, broccoli slaw, Persian cucumber, or radish.

Balance sweet and savory

While salads typically conjure thoughts of vegetable filled bowls fruit can add a pop of color and sweetness. A serving of fruit offers additional vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

Favorite fruit add-ins: pineapple, citrus fruit, mango, pomegranate, grapes, pears, or apples.

Herbaceous flavor

Flavor, or lack thereof, is a common contributing factor to not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Herbs can help boost the flavors, smells, looks, and texture in recipes and have also been linked to health benefits. Fresh herbs are preferable for a raw dish, like a salad. If using dried a general guideline is one teaspoon of dried herbs equals 4 teaspoons of fresh.

Here a few favorite herb pairings to spice up your plant palate:

  • basil – with chives, chili, garlic, oregano
  • cilantro – with garlic, ginger, lemon grass, mint, parsley
  • dill – with chives, cumin, parsley, tarragon
  • sage – with rosemary, garlic, marjoram, paprika

Get saucy

Sauce, marinade, or dressing no matter the name, the mission is the same marrying the flavors and textures of each individual component for a cohesive final dish.  When it comes to sauces this can be in the form of creamy dressings or an oil-based marinade.

For a creamy dressing try using yogurt, avocado, hummus, or nut purees as the base.  These options feature more mono and poly unsaturated fats, which are better for heart health and can help with absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from salad ingredients.

For a simple and versatile choice pair oil, vinegar, and herbs.  To punch up the flavor use a combination of citrus juice and citrus zest.

Do not be afraid to experiment and try dressing up your favorite produce pick.

Try this quick Sweet & Spicy Summer Slaw that brings together all these tips.

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