• Margaret Kavanagh Nutrition

10 Quick & Easy Summer Salads

As the temperature starts to climb, so does our willingness to eat salad. A good salad can be an amazing addition to your healthy diet if you do it right. Want to lose weight this summer? Eat salad. But believe it or not, there is a skill to creating a great, balanced salad!

In this article, I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned over years working as a personal nutritionist and health coach.

A couple of things go wrong when clients start making their own salads at home (and making them is something I encourage you to do as it works out so much cheaper and often more nutritious than anything you can buy ready-made).

The biggest barrier is that clients can’t think of what to put in a salad without it being painfully boring. Here, I’m thinking of the ham, cheese, tomato and lettuce salads (with Heinz salad cream) we ate as kids 😊

A salad is a celebration of loveliness. Don’t’ disrespect it!

The other thing is that clients create their perfect salad of all time. They are throwing absolutely everything into it. And eating it every day. It doesn’t matter how amazing it is, very soon you’re going to get sick of it. So, then it’s ‘salads don’t work for me’. Pretty soon, you’re back in the (not going to lie) less healthy world of the sandwich.

Instead, take the strategic approach used by the likes of your favourite restaurant or cafe. Do they put every possible ingredient into a single salad? Of course not. People would quickly tire of the same thing over and over. Instead, they find tasty combinations of a handful of ingredients, giving them variously an Italian, Spanish, Japanese, French or Greek spin, for example.

So, this article is all about how to make your salads interesting and sustainable, so you actually want to eat them. I’m going to give you a list of stuff to have in the fridge and cupboards to make putting your salad together a breeze — and yes you can find the 5 minutes in the morning (or even the night before) to prepare something excuses!

So before we get to the salads, here are a few ground rules to create the best summer salad:

1. Always add greens (as much as you like).

  • Romaine lettuce, lambs lettuce, baby gem, oak leaf, endive, spinach, chicory, radicchio, rocket, watercress, red cabbage, bagged leaf mix.

  • NOTES: iceberg lettuce contains virtually no nutrients and it is possibly the dullest and most tasteless of your options.

  • Rotate your greens, have different ones every day/week.

2. Add unlimited veggies (variety is key - mix up your combinations):

  • RAW ingredients - red onions, spring onions, cucumber, tomatoes, avocados (½max.), peppers, celery.

  • ROASTED veg - asparagus, red onions, peppers, courgettes, aubergines.

  • STEAMED veg- asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans.

3. One portion (fist size) of starchy veg (optional)

  • Raw carrots (grated).

  • Roasted sweet potato, squash/ pumpkin, beetroot, butternut squash, sweet potato.

4. Protein amounting to one portion (palm-sized, unless mentioned below) – choose from any of the following:

  • Cooked poultry/meat chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb.

  • Fish tuna (tinned or steak), salmon, (tinned, smoked, fillet), trout, hot smoked (flaked), prawns.

  • Cheese (30 g/person): mature cheddar (grated), Roquefort (crumbled), feta cheese (crumbled), goat’s cheese, parmesan shavings, halloumi (grilled, baked, fried).

  • Pulses (tinned and rinsed) kidney beans, butter beans, cannellini beans, flageolet beans, chickpeas, lentils (pouch/tinned).

  • Nuts walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio, hazelnuts, cashews, flaked almonds.

  • Other eggs (boiled), tofu.

5 Add a garnish.

  • Antipasti - One tablespoon jarred antipasti like sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives, jalapeños, artichokes.

  • Seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds (ground is always best as the nutrients are more digestible in this form).

  • Herbs parsley, basil, coriander, chives.

  • Dressing — 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 tsp mustard, salt, pepper. OR 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, salt, pepper.

That’s it, plain and simple.

10 great summer salad ideas

1. Antipasti salad — chicken, roasted peppers (from jar) and I also love the spicy piquillo peppers you can now get in most supermarkets, artichoke (antipasti jars, from the supermarket), chopped cucumber, chopped tomato, olives, a handful of leaves, fresh herbs (basil, parsley or mint would work here), chopped pistachio nuts (add at end — they will go soggy in a salad).

2. Chicken and avocado — chicken, chopped avocado, cherry tomatoes, a handful of spinach leaves. A creamy dressing works brilliantly here or a lemony one. And I love watercress or alfalfa in this salad. Alfalfa is a phytoestrogen, which is a plant source of oestrogen that has magic, hormone-balancing effects

3. Tuna Nicoise: green salad leaves, boiled egg, cooked (and chilled) green beans, cherry tomato, cucumber, black olives, tuna (leave out the bread or croutons).

4. Prawn and rice salad —  green salad leaves, cooked jumbo prawns, whatever salady veg you have to hand (tomato, cucumber, pepper, avocado, etc), a couple of tablespoons of flavoured, pre-cooked brown basmati rice (the Tilda’s range has some great flavours such as lime & coriander basmati if you’re time pressed).

5. Chicken tikka salad — I’d love to you make your own tikka (cubed chicken, covered with a mix of natural yoghurt and tikka paste, then grilled) but you can buy the pre-made stuff (or something similar) in the supermarket chiller cabinets. Again the flavoured Tilda rice works well here. Add in whatever else you have on hand like tomatoes and chopped pepper. And you’re done!

6. Stir fry leftovers, if you have them. Always worth making more if you’ve got the wok out. Broccoli is a great one to stir fry and is lovely served cold in a salad.

7. Lentil salad. Pre-prepped and flavoured puy lentils, chopped walnuts, goat’s cheese or feta, chopped avocado, chopped parsley or coriander (if liked), rocket and anything else you might like.

8. Quinoa salad. 2 versions. Roast veg, harissa paste, quinoa, griddled/ grilled halloumi cut into strips OR fried onion, harissa, wilted spinach, chickpeas (just rinse straight out of the tin), quinoa, chopped chicken. You can get quinoa pre-made (find it in the rice aisle).

9. Falafel (chickpea balls), spinach leaves, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, olives, hummus, a sprinkling of seeds. Serve with half a wholemeal pitta or flatbread, if needed. Happy Pear Hummus is delicious but it’s also super quick to whip up yourself.

10. Cauliflower rice (you can buy it ready-made from most supermarkets now) with assorted salad veg and either some tinned fish or chicken. Adds bulk but not carbs. I love to mix mine with herbs and I always add some chopped garlic and cumin for an Asian-inspired twist. Small note on the cooking… I always find it takes at least an extra 5 mins of cooking time. For a really quick salad, I’ll often add some nuts (any in theory but I gravitate to almonds), crumbled feta or goat’s cheese, finely chopped red onion, chopped coriander, grated carrot and, a little chopped chicken.

Happy salad making!

And if you're heading on holidays, grab my free guide to help keep your healthy eating journey on track (and not have to go on a crash diet when you get home!)

Click HERE to grab your free guide or click on the image below.

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