10 tips and tricks for healthy summer salads

"Real Food...Real World"

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By Denise Murray

Health and recipe blogger

Salads fit the bill on those nights when it's hot outside and you just feel like something light and cool for dinner. Plus, summer is the official season for barbecues, block parties, and picnics, for which, nine times out of 10, we're asked to "bring a salad." Healthful salad or high-calorie, high-fat salad -- it's all about the ingredients you choose. You can cut way back on calories and fat grams just by making some simple substitutions.


To help get you started, here are 10 quick tips and tricks for healthy salads.

Tips from webbed.com


1. Turn a salad into "dinner" by adding a protein-rich food. This balances the carbohydrates in the salad and helps stave off hunger for hours. It can be as easy as:

• Adding leftover chicken, shrimp, salmon, or lean steak from last night's barbecue.

• Opening a can of beans (kidney, garbanzo, or black beans).

• Dicing smoked or baked tofu or adding cooked edamame (green soybeans).

• Tossing in diced, reduced-fat cheese (try reduced-fat Jack or cheddar, part-skim mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, or soy-based cheeses).


2. Boost the smart-fat quotient by using canola oil or olive oil in your dressing. Canola oil is pumped with monounsaturated fats, and has more healthy omega-3 fatty acids than other cooking oils. Olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fat, and also contributes helpful phytochemicals. If you're using a bottled dressing, check the label to make sure it uses either canola or olive oil.


3. Lighten up your homemade dressing by substituting a flavorful, liquid-type ingredient for half (or more) of the oil. Try fat-free sour cream; plain yogurt; fruit juice or fruit nectars; tomato, carrot or V-8 juice; honey or light corn syrup (eliminate any sugar called for in the recipe if you use these); wine, champagne, or nonalcoholic beer; or low-sodium chicken broth.


4. Lighten up regular (that is, not light) bottled salad dressing. Just blend a tablespoon of the dressing (per serving) with a tablespoon of any of the oil substitutes listed above in #2. For example, blend 1/4 cup of raspberry or Italian vinaigrette with 1/4 cup raspberry or cherry juice.


5. Try some new salad recipes instead of the traditional, mayo-drenched coleslaw and potato salad. Pesto sauce blended with condensed chicken broth, fat-free sour cream, or fat free half-and-half makes a fun and different dressing. Bottled or homemade vinaigrettes can be used as dressing for pasta and potato salads and coleslaw.


6. When you DO make a mayonnaise-based salad, lighten it up by mixing regular or light mayonnaise with your favorite fat-free or light sour cream. Use about 1 tablespoon of regular mayonnaise with 3 tablespoons of fat-free sour cream, or 2 tablespoons of light mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons of fat-free sour cream.


7. Perk up pasta and rice salads by tossing in crunchy veggies. They'll add fiber and nutrients without a lot of calories. Snow peas, cherry tomato halves, broccoli or cauliflower florets, green onions, bell peppers ... they all work great.


8. Try the new whole-wheat pasta blends for your pasta-salad recipes, and brown rice for your rice-salad recipes.You'll increase the fiber, vitamins, and minerals and phytochemicals just by making this adjustment.


9. Use dark green lettuce for your green salad. The darker green the lettuce, generally the more vitamins and phytochemicals it contains. Two of the best choices are spinach and romaine lettuce. And while it isn't dark green, cabbage is also a good choice. As a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, it contributes important protective phytochemicals such as indole-3-carbinol.


10. Kick the flavor up a notch with high-flavor (but lower calorie) ingredients like dill pickle relish, fresh herbs and spices, spicy mustard, flavored vinegars (such as balsamic vinegar), green onions, or a handful of toasted nuts or a tablespoon or two of chopped green olives (a little goes a long way).


Mixed Green Salad with Chive Dressing                Serves 4

provided by EatingWell



2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

Salt & freshly ground pepper

8 cups washed and torn salad greens

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup thinly sliced cucumbers

1/2 cup low-fat croutons



1. To make dressing: Combine oil, vinegar, mustard and sugar in a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add water and shake until smooth. Add chives (or scallion greens) and season with salt and pepper; shake again.

2. To make the salad: Just before serving, toss salad greens with the dressing in a large salad bowl. Arrange carrots, cucumbers and croutons on top.








Fennel & Lemon Green Bean Salad            Serves 6



4ounces fresh green beans

4 bulbs fresh fennel

4 ounces mushrooms

1 2-by-1/2-inch strip lemon zest

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt & freshly ground pepper




1. Steam beans for 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender-crisp. Rinse under cold water. Place them in a salad bowl.


2. Trim fennel leaves, reserving 2 Tbsp. minced leaves. Slice the stalks. Quarter bulb lengthwise, remove core and thinly slice. Add to the salad bowl along with mushrooms and lemon zest. Whisk vinegar, water, lemon juice and oil in a small bowl until well blended. Pour the dressing over the salad and add the reserved fennel leaves. Toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.


Seven Layer Salad                                        Serves 8

Ingredients and Directions

  • 2 each head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1 each onion, sliced or diced
  • 10 oz. frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 pound bacon, fried, crumbled
  • 5 each eggs, hard boiled, sliced
  • 2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded


Using a fairly deep dish or clear glass punch bowl at least 1.5 gallon in size , place a bed of chopped lettuce on the bottom, then lay down a layer of celery, then onion, then green peppers, then peas, then eggs. The order is really not that important, and they will not really constitute a solid layer. Then and another layer of lettuce and repeat the procedure. Mix mayonnaise and sugar together and spread on top. Sprinkle bacon and cheddar cheese on top of the whole thing. Cover tightly and leave overnight in refrigerator, allowing mayonnaise to permeate the whole thing.


Best of Cooking, Denise


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Reader Comments

6 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Comment Policy

Denise from Forest Park  

Posted: August 1st, 2013 12:58 PM

I know of the website, and with a weight watcher's referral, that is always trustworthy, thanks again for sharing. It IS SO important to stay away from the artificial ingredients, as they cannot be processed well by the human body, and this is often a great food contributor to the "Muffin Top"


Posted: August 1st, 2013 8:52 AM

Another great, tried and true, healthy website is www.skinnytaste.com. She keeps away from a lot of 'fake' ingredients and has some very delicious options. Weight Watchers friendly!!

LiveHealthy ForestPark from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 1st, 2013 8:08 AM

Thanks for the healthy twist recipe link referral to eating well .com, they are one of the recipe site I often recommend, as they are one of the few recipe websites that are tried and true recipe...they actually will turn out when followed by the user....and please keep in mind that portion control is key to any eating. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

LiveHealthy ForestPark from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 1st, 2013 8:04 AM

Thanks for the healthier version!, as well the website reference is great for eating well.com. They are one of the websites I often recommend to people for great search options. They are one of the few recipe websites that provide tried and true recipes that actually will turn out when followed.

7 layer salad healthier  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 4:22 PM



Posted: July 31st, 2013 4:19 PM

After a whole column about how to make a better and healthier salad, the recipe for the 7 layer one is horrible. 2 cups mayo! Iceberg lettuce! Pound of bacon! 3 cups of cheese! Yikes.

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