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Temps are rising and if you’re like me, cranking up your oven or stove is the last thing you want to do as you’re preparing meals! If you’re craving a meal that keeps things cool, in all senses of the word, look no further than these souped-up salads.

All too often, we mistake salads as something that’s bland, boring, or unappetizing to eat. I beg to differ because, with the right combination of flavor, textures, and colors, you can create a nourishing, satisfying, and enjoyable meal. All without breaking a sweat!

We know fruits and vegetables are foods rooted in a better mood. Use these tips to enjoy more of them this summer and keep cool with these no-cook, low-heat ways to spruce up your salads.

Get Familiar with Your Flavor Preferences

One of the keys to creating healthy eating habits that stick is making sure your meals include foods you genuinely enjoy. Not sure what that looks like? Here are some things to consider:

  • Which flavors do you love most? Sweet, spicy, salty, sour, and savory (umami) are the five main flavor categories. Try to brainstorm ingredients that fit each flavor profile and get creative with how they top your salads. For example, if you’re a fan of savory or salty flavors, think marinated mushrooms, quick pickled red onions, or sun-dried tomatoes. Is sweet more your style? Grilled pineapple or peaches and the various types of dried fruit could fit the bill.
  • Talk about texture. Crunchy, crispy, chewy, creamy…the list goes on! See how many different textures you can describe and think about if your current salad selections offer the variety you might be craving.
  • Dress it up. Don’t limit yourself to salad ingredients only. Dressings offer another opportunity to infuse the flavors you like best. Whether you go the DIY or store-bought route, creamy or oil-based, let your imagination run with how you can create complementary flavor pairings and avoid boredom in your summer salad routine.

Pick Your Protein

Produce usually takes center stage in a salad, but adding a hearty protein (animal- or plant-based) gives your salad staying power for a more satisfying meal. Here are a few of my reliable favorites that are quick and tasty, but don’t require heat for cooking:

  • Rotisserie chicken (store-bought)
  • Canned or pouch tuna and salmon
  • Shelled edamame or seasoned chickpeas
  • Marinated tofu
  • Hard-boiled eggs (sliced or chopped)

Set Up Your Space

Sourcing what you need to prepare meals is another important factor in home-cooking success. But don’t think you need to rush out there and drop serious dough on top-of-the-line equipment. Simplifying and organizing what you already have can make it more efficient (AKA, less time-consuming) to create cool salads in your kitchen.

Here are some examples:

  • A reliable, well-sharpened knife and cutting board
  • Can opener
  • Strainer/colander for draining canned ingredients and washing leafy greens
  • Stackable food storage containers for leftovers, prepped ingredients, or grab-and-go lunches

There are also things that are “nice to have” but not mandatory:

  • Whisks (especially a mini size for stirring up your own dressings)
  • Salad spinner, especially if you wash a lot of leafy greens by hand
  • Mandolin, grater, or food processor for easy slicing and shredding

At the end of the day, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to make a delicious salad. So I encourage you to ditch the salad playbook and come up with a few variations that please your palate. Increased variety of foods is associated with better overall diet quality, and fruits and vegetables in all forms count towards your total number of servings each day. For more tips and inspiration download my new e-book Salads That Don’t Suck.

Fill up on cool summer salads and share your creations with #HaveAPlant!

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