Happy Friday! To all my fellow Americans (I sound so Patriotic, don’t I?), hope you’re looking forward to a relaxing long weekend—or at least to making time-and-a-half at work. I’m actually off for a few days and am making time to see friends and take a short trip with my family to welcome the unofficial start to the summer season.

farmigo scallops and arugulaWe tend to think burgers & dogs when it comes to summer cookouts, but what about what else is on the plate? I happen to think salad makes a delicious side dish to these meaty (or fake-meaty, if you’re opting for a vegetarian version) summer staples. A simple mix of crisp greens with a light dressing and a few well-selected vegetables offers a nice contrast. With the abundance of seasonal produce available (finally), this is also a great time of year to make a meal-worthy salad. Here are a few tips to help you avoid plate-envy.

Start with your favorite greens. Need ideas? Start with what’s seasonal (google what’s available locally when in your area) and let your tastebuds be your guide from there. In the summertime, I am all about arugula. If you hate arugula, maybe you’ll dig lettuce or spinach.

Pick a protein. Meat, fish, hard-boiled egg or egg whites, tofu, beans, nuts…whatever does it for you, really! Just try to keep it simple. Go with grilled, baked or steamed over breaded or fried.

Pile on the veggies. If you want crunchy, cucumber, celery, and blanched asparagus are where it’s at. Tomatoes are lovely when in-season. You can also go a little fancier with things like caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, steamed beets, or roasted cauliflower. I all about roasted eggplant and zucchini, as you may be sick of hearing about, but it’s totally worth trying.

Pick one high-calorie add-on. When it comes to extra like cheese, bacon, nuts, avocado, and dried fruit, pick the one that you’ll enjoy the most.

Complex carbs: optional but encouraged. Having a small serving of complex carbohydrates in the form of beans/peas/lentils, whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc), or starchy veggies like sweet potato can help round out the meal to keep you satisfied for hours. Not feeling it? Have a piece of fruit for dessert.

Get dressed. An article I wrote about healthy salad dressing options was featured on YouBeauty this week. You can shake up some olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice with your favorite spices and maybe a little dijon mustard to get fancy with it, or you can even skip the dressing altogether and top your salad with a little salsa, hummus, or guacamole.

Think about what flavors you like in all different kinds of foods—chances are you can come up with a salad adaptation. BLT salad, for example. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

What are you looking forward to this weekend? Do you have a favorite salad recipe? 

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