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How to make the perfect summer salad

Kate Freeman

As we edge closer to hot summer days, I don’t know many people keen to cook up a roast or stew for dinner.

When I’m feeling hot and bothered the easiest thing for me to do is throw together a salad. Salads can often get boring, so if you’re lacking inspiration, here are some tips on how to whip up something delicious that’s bursting with nutrition and flavour.

Below are some must-have fridge and pantry items for the perfect salad creations.

Staples – these foods form the major component of your salad

Lettuce leaves: baby spinach, rocket, mixed leafy greens, cos, iceberg, oak leaf, watercress, kale

Vegetables: cucumber, capsicum, snow peas, carrots, sprouts, sweet potato, avocado, asparagus, mushrooms

Cheese: feta, goats, blue, tasty, parmesan

Lean meat and eggs: shaved ham, shredded chicken breast, sliced steak, leftover roast meat, tinned tuna or salmon, smoked salmon, boiled eggs

Legumes: 4 or 5 bean mix, lentils, chickpeas, cannelloni beans

Whole grains: wholewheat couscous, quinoa, brown rice

Flavours – These foods will make your salad extra special with a burst of flavour!

Fresh herbs: chives, coriander, basil, flat-leaf parsley, dill

Citrus: lemons, limes, orange

Yoghurt: natural or greek

Fruit: green or red grapes, watermelon cubes, pomegranate pulp, pear slices, orange slices, apple slices, dried cranberries, raisins

Jarred or canned foods: sun-dried or semi-dried tomatoes, olives, roast capsicum, artichokes, beetroot

Nuts: sliced almonds, toasted pine nuts, crushed walnuts, dry-roasted cashews

Oils: extra-virgin olive oil, grape seed oil, sesame oil

Click HERE for more salad recipe ideas.

Need some more guidance?

Here is my step by step guide to creating the perfect summer salad.

Use fresh ingredients

Wilted baby spinach, floury tomatoes, slimy cucumber or brown iceberg lettuce just doesn’t cut it. Always use fresh, quality produce and plan to make your salad within the first 2-3 days of buying your ingredients as this is when your ingredients will be at their best.

Pick your leafy base

Salad generally contains some kind of green leafy vegetable. Don’t be boring and just buy iceberg all the time. Try mesclun, rocket, baby spinach, oak leaf and coral type lettuces as well. In fact, the darker and more purple the leaves the higher the nutritional content. The darker lettuces and leaves also have much better flavour and are a little more gourmet!

Go for lots of colour

Try yellow capsicum, orange carrots, red cherry tomatoes, purple Spanish (red) onion, green cucumber… you get the idea. The bigger the range of colour the better it will taste and the more nutrition it will have.

Add some healthy fats

Add some avocado, raw or dry-toasted nuts such as pine nuts, cashews, peanuts or walnuts, sprinkle with flaxseed or chia seeds or drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

Add flavour

Using very strong flavoured ingredients are a good way to add flavour but minimise the kilojoule content of the meal because you only need to use a small amount. Crumble over feta, toss through pitted olives, sprinkle with parmesan, drizzle with lemon juice, lime juice or sweet chilli sauce, add sliced roasted capsicum, baked sweet potato or sun-dried tomatoes.

Add some fibre

Fruit and vegetables are great sources of fibre but if you want to ‘beef’ your salad up a bit try adding some chickpeas, lentils, buckwheat, quinoa or another kind of bean such as butter, kidney or black.

Add fruit

You may not be a fruit in salad kind of person. This always used to seem weird to me until I tried a walnut and red grape salad, a roasted duck and pear salad, and other fruit such as sliced apple or orange. Just go with what you like and experiment with different flavours. It’s good, I promise!

Add fresh herbs

Herbs are packed full of flavour, antioxidants and contain very little kilojoules. I love a good salad full of freshly chopped or shredded herbs. Basil, parsley, coriander and chives are a few of my favourites. Finely chopped fresh herbs are even a great addition to homemade salad dressings.

If you would like some specific guidance on healthy eating for your lifestyle check out The Healthy Eating Hub.

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Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life!

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