It has been hot and muggy in New Jersey and the hot weather is supposed to continue. When it gets hot and humid, I'm always looking for lighter meals for dinnertime. Salads are a perfect way to eat healthy, light and nourishing dinners. There is no shortage of how to build salads. Vegetarian, vegan or with lean, organic proteins, I bet you can find a salad recipe that everyone in the family will love.
One fun thing to do is to create a make your own salad bowl dinner. There are plenty of shortcuts that allow you to create a do-it-yourself salad bar. Pre-cut and washed organic salad mixes. Canned organic beans such as chickpeas and black beans. Organic chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch to any salad. The only thing you may have to chop is celery, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, fresh herbs, any proteins you may be adding (chicken, steak or eggs) and radishes. Another great add-in is fruit, such as seedless red grapes, green apples or mangoes.
Let's talk salad dressing. While the grocery store I shop at is getting better at offering dressings made from ingredients such as avocado oil, the dressings still contain a fair amount of added sugar. It is really easy to make a herb infused vinaigrette so you can eliminate added sugar from dinner. All you need is a little vinegar (such as balsamic or red wine or apple cider - your choice), a good olive or avocado oil and a few fresh herbs (think basil or thyme). Mix it all together with a whisk to combine it well and you have a healthy, fast dressing.
Now you may have someone who wants a thicker dressing, such as a creamy blue cheese or Thousand Island. No worries! I've included some recipes on how to make healthy creamy dressings as well. You'll be surprised how easy they are to make.
If you make any of the recipes below, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram as @heatherleehurst and use the #heathershealthhabits hashtag. I love seeing your takes on the recipes I share!
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Chicken Fajita Salad from Cafe Delights. This salad requires prep time since the chicken marinates in a chili lime marinade for about 2 hours. You can also reserve a portion of the marinade for dressing if you need to add some dressing to the final salad. This is an affordable salad since it calls for chicken thighs, which are typically less expensive than chicken breasts. Although, if chicken strips are on sale, I could see using those as a substitution. Click here for the recipe.
Mango Mandarin Sesame Shrimp Salad from La Creme de la Crumb. Have a sweet tooth? This salad will satisfy a sweet tooth with the mango and mandarin oranges that are added to an Asian flavored dressing. I love using shrimp in salads because they are high in protein and are the only seafood that does not contain mercury. That's right! Shrimp have been tested over and over again and mercury does not penetrate the shrimp. Plus, I always have a bag in the freezer for quick dinners. Click here for the recipe.
Blueberry Broccoli Spinach Salad from Peas and Crayons. This is a perfect vegetarian dinner salad that can be served with a piece of Naan if you need to add some bread to keep everyone satisfied on a meatless Monday. So many green vegetables provide fiber, calcium, antioxidants to fight free radicals combined with brain healthy blueberries. This recipe includes a poppy seed ranch dressing recipe which contains dairy. So if you are dairy free, I would use a balsamic vinaigrette to add a little tartness to the salad. Click here for the recipe.
Thai Steak Salad with Sweet and Spicy Tahini Dressing from Half Baked Harvest. This salad has Asian flavors and I love the idea of Tahini dressing. Tahini contains healthy fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, as well as Vitamin B1. Vitamin B1 is good for your nervous system, muscles and digestive health. (Source: Livestrong) The surprise of the recipe is cashews that are sauteed in sesame oil and chili powder. Giving a nice spice to the salad. Click here for the recipe.
Southwest Chickpea Salad from The Recipe Critic. Another vegetarian option in case you decide to get crazy and have two vegetarian dinners in one week! I know - it is a radical idea. But when we cut down on meat consumption, your body gets healthier since it is taking in fruits and vegetables instead. This salad is fast to the table because it relies on readily available canned ingredients. Just make sure to look for organic options to maximize nutrient intake. The dressing is a very simple and refreshing lime juice based dressing. Perfect for hot summer nights. Click here for the recipe.
Now, as promised, a few quick dressing recipes that you can make and store in the refrigerator. As I mentioned, store bought salad dressings can have a lot of preservatives and added sugar. I like making my own so I know exactly what went into them. Here are some quick dressing ideas, Just click on the description to go to the recipe:
Italian Salad Dressing from Wholefully.
Simple Salad Dressing from A Couple Cooks
The Best Homemade Ranch Salad Dressing from Barefeet in the Kitchen
Sweet Asian Dressing from Wellness Mama
Sunshine Salad Dressing (aka Honey Mustard) from Cookie and Kate
I hope this post inspired you to eat salads for dinner. There are so many ways to make salads a healthy and filling meal. If you try any of the recipes, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram as @heatherleehurst and use the #heathershealthhabits hashtag.