Memorial Day marked the unofficial beginning of summer with barbeques and pool openings, and with the hot weather, there’s no denying that the season is here. With the warm weather comes a number of deliciously refreshing fruits and veggies that you can incorporate into your diet. Mary Hartley, a registered dietitian, says that young adults need six to nine servings of produce a day, and there is good reason for that! Some of the benefits of a diet rich in produce include lowered blood pressure, decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, digestive problems and some cancers. Fruits, vegetables and other fresh produce can also help you maintain a healthy weight because they are naturally low in calories, but they still fill you up. Need more convincing? You might be surprised at all of the individual health benefits that these foods provide, so kick-start this summer with some recipes that include these in-season foods.
Sliced or diced, cucumbers can help make your hair grow and your skin glow. The silicon and sulfur found in cucumbers help stimulate hair growth, and there is a long list of vitamins in cucumbers that can help keep your skin looking great. Cucumbers are also 95 percent water, so you can simultaneously enjoy a tasty treat while increasing your H2O intake. “Most Americans do not drink or eat enough water, so cucumbers are a great choice to stay hydrated in the summer,” Hartley says. “Water is essential for cooling the body through perspiration.” Try this simple and flavorful recipe for a hydrating snack:
Cucumber-Feta Boats via veggylicious.blogspot.com
makes approximately 4 servings
- 2 cucumbers (about 1 pound each)
- 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh parsley or dill, chopped
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Cut the cumbers into boats: Gut them lengthwise, then cut a small strip off the bottom side so that the cucumber half will set level, without falling over.
- Use the cucumber that you cut out of the middle to make the boat filling: dice into ¼-inch pieces.
- Combine the diced cucumbers with feta cheese, dill, salt and pepper, and olive oil. Divide the mixture between the two cucumber “boats.”
- Slice into 1 ½-inch pieces.
It’s easy enough to pick up a bag of chips for a quick afternoon bite, but the next time you’re looking for a snack, try munching on celery instead. Unlike salty, dehydrating chips, celery has water that can rehydrate your body. It is especially important to stay hydrated during hot summers because you are more likely to lose water when you sweat. But let’s not forget about the other perks of this crunchy treat! Hartley says that celery contains large amounts of phenolic acids that relax and soothe the muscles that surround blood vessels. As a result, blood pressure can be reduced. Try eating this veggie alone, with hummus, or with the dip of your choice. You can also top off the celery with some “ants” for some extra flavor.
Ants on a Log via Allrecipes.com
Makes 10 logs
- 5 stalks of celery
- 1/2 cup of peanut butter (cream cheese works, too)
- 1/4 cup raisins
- Wash the celery and cut the stalks in half.
- Spread peanut butter into the celery.
- Top with raisins. You can also experiment with other spreads and toppings to find your favorite combination.
Nothing says summertime like slicing up a watermelon at an outdoor barbeque. But this snack is good for more than just having a seed-spitting contest! You can fight damage that is caused by the sun thanks to the many antioxidants that are found in watermelon. Hartley says that this fruit is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, which protect the skin from sun damage. One serving also has 18 grams of natural sugar, so when you want something sweet, reach for this fruit instead of an ice cream or a popsicle that is overloaded with sugar.
Watermelon Salsa via Food Network
Makes 3 cups
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest (from about 1 lime)
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 cups seeded and finely chopped watermelon
- 1 cucumber; peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 mango, peeled and diced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 8 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- Tortilla or pita chips, for serving
- Stir together the lime zest, lime juice, sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl.
- Add the watermelon, cucumber, mango, jalapeno, onion, and basil and toss gently.
- Chill the salsa until ready to serve.
- Add the garlic salt just before serving. Serve with chips.
As a member of the squash family, zucchini is a great vegetable to add to your summer cooking repertoire. Even though it only has 20 calories per cup, zucchini packs in a lot of good stuff. It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol, but it supplies your body with potassium, fiber, and B vitamins, which can help metabolize fats and protein. Hartley also says that zucchini helps protect your eyes from the risk of getting cataracts because of the antioxidants that support blood vessels in your eyes. “Excessive exposure to sunlight increases the risk of cataracts,” Hartley says. “Wear sunglasses outside and eat zucchini to reduce your risk.”
Marinated Zucchini Salad via Martha Stewart Living
Makes 8 servings
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Salt and pepper
- 6 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (You can also substitute the zucchini for yellow squash – another healthy summer veggie!)
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent (about three minutes).
- Add vinegar and sugar and season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to another bowl. Add zucchini and toss. Let marinate at room temperature 30 minutes.
If you’re a salad junkie, then you are in luck. Use green summer veggies like spinach as a base for your salad and then toss in your favorite toppings for a well-rounded meal. By using a variety of greens, like dark green spinach and lighter green lettuce, the dish is full of fiber and antioxidants. The fiber in spinach aids in digestion, and Hartley recommends mixing vegetables with a variety of color to get the maximum amount of vitamins. So no matter what else you choose to put on top of your salad, you can feel confident that you’ve picked a healthy choice. For a creative way to combine summer veggies and summer fruits, try this simple recipe:
Spinach and Strawberry Salad via Allrecipes.com
Makes 4 servings
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced onion
- 10 ounces fresh spinach; rinsed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 quart strawberries; cleaned, hulled, and sliced
- 1/4 cup almonds, blanched (without skin) and slivered
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and onion. Cover and chill for one hour.
- In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries, and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Chopped, sliced, skinless, or whole, almonds should be your go-to snack on the run. Whether you toss them in trail mix or just eat them by themselves, this is an easy, protein-filled treat to satisfy your mid-day (or night) need for a crunch. Almonds pack a lot into their tiny oval shape: calcium, vitamin E, and folic acid are just a few of the nutritious perks. In simpler terms, these nutrients may help prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and the calcium keeps your bones, teeth, and hair strong! If you want to get creative with almonds, try out this recipe, or go for chocolate covered almonds or almond milk for an easier way to incorporate this nut into your diet.
Almond and Cranberry Coconut Bread via Taste of Home
Makes 32 servings (2 loaves)
- 2 cups flaked coconut
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup (8 ounces) vanilla yogurt
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 can (15 ounces) cream of coconut
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- Place coconut and almonds in an ungreased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. pan. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally. Cool.
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in yogurt and extract until blended. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with cream of coconut, beating well after each addition. Fold in the cranberries, coconut, and almonds.
- Transfer to two greased and floured 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
No matter your preference, any kind of berry can turn your summer diet into a super diet. According to Hartley, berries like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are all superfoods that are bursting with nourishing vitamins. “Berries are loaded with fiber, vitamin C, and many trace minerals. They also have anti-carcinogen, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties,” Hartley says. That’s a lot of health talk, but to sum it up, she says that berries help reduce the risk of disease, and blackberries contain the most antioxidants to fight cancer. Summer also presents the perfect opportunity to pick your own fruit. Kaitlin Noe, a recent grad of William & Mary, loves to pick her own strawberries and add them to pies and smoothies, or even just eat them by themselves. “They’re fresher, taste so much better, and it can’t get more natural than that!” she says.
Triple Berry Smoothie via On Sugar Mountain
Makes 1-2 servings
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 1/3 cup strawberries, sliced
- 1/3 cup blueberries
- 1/3 cup raspberries
- 1 large banana, sliced
- 1 tablespoon agave (or honey)
- In a blender, pulse oats for 1-2 minutes until broken down. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and yogurt.
- Add yogurt/milk mixture, along with all berries and banana slices, to the blender, and blend until smooth. Add agave or honey and pulse a few times to evenly incorporate.
- Pour into glass and serve immediately. Incorporate different berries to taste.
Add some animal protein to your summer palette with this fishy favorite. Salmon offers a large serving of omega-3 fatty acids (two grams per four-ounce serving!), which are heart-healthy fats that are great for boosting metabolism and lowering blood pressure. But the health benefits don’t stop with the omega-3s. Salmon also packs protein and amino acids that provide protection for joint cartilage, reduce inflammation and promote skin, eye, and hair health! And not only does salmon have some super health benefits, but it’s easy to cook, too. Even if you don’t consider yourself a pro chef, there are plenty of recipe variations that you can use to cook salmon, whether you’re at home with a fully stocked kitchen or living on your own with limited supplies.
Salmon with Lemon-Mint Dressing via MyRecipes
Makes 4 servings
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
- Garnish: fresh mint sprigs
- Whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl; slowly whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir in shallot and mint. Set aside.
- Sprinkle salmon with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté salmon 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Drizzle with dressing. Garnish, if desired.
When you take a bite out of fresh corn on the cob, did you know that you’re also doing wonders for your digestive system? As an excellent source of fiber, corn has very well-documented digestive benefits, and it also helps support your immune system, according to Hartley. “Corn supports the growth of friendly bacteria in our large intestine,” Hartley says. “These bacteria communicate with our immune cells to protect the entire body.” To boost your digestion and your overall health, chow down on some classic grilled corn on the cob, or try something new by incorporating corn into your breakfast with healthy summer fruit!
Corn Hotcakes with Blackberry Syrup via CHOW
Makes 12 pancakes
- 1 pint blackberries
- 1 1/2 cups maple syrup
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 3 ears corn), divided
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- Vegetable oil, for the griddle
- Softened butter, for serving
- To make the blackberry syrup, combine the berries and syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the berries are tender and have given off their juices (about five minutes). Remove from the heat and keep warm.
- To make the pancakes, preheat the oven to 200°F.
- Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl to combine.
- In a blender, process 1 cup of the corn kernels and the milk until the corn is pureed. Add the eggs and pulse to combine. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir just until smooth. Fold in the remaining 1/2 cup corn kernels.
- Heat a griddle over high heat until the griddle is very hot (when a sprinkle of water evaporates immediately). Lightly oil the griddle.
- Using 1/4 cup batter for each pancake, pour the batter onto the griddle. Cook until the tops of the pancakes are covered with bubbles (about 2 minutes). Turn the pancakes and cook until the undersides are golden brown (about 1 minute). Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven until all of the pancakes are cooked.
- Serve hot, with the syrup and butter on the side.
Even if you can’t vacation on a tropical island this summer, you can still eat like you’re there! Mangoes might not get the same hype as other “super fruits,” but this juicy fruit provides plenty of helpful nutrients. Just one cup of sliced mangos supplies about 25 percent of your daily dose of vitamin A, and the vitamin C helps lower cholesterol. Hartley also says that the combination of minerals, antioxidant vitamins, and enzymes that are found in mangoes may help prevent sunstroke. No matter how you slice it, this sweet treat is not one to pass up.
Mango Popsicles via Desserts for Breakfast
Makes approximately 8-12 popsicles
- 2 cups ripe mango, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Big pinch of ground cardamom
- Big pinch of salt
- Combine the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour the blended mango mixture into the popsicle molds and freeze until solid, preferably overnight.
- To unmold, run hot water around the outside of the molds for a brief time until you can easily pull the popsicles out.
As an added bonus, check out this refreshing drink recipe. For collegiettes who are 21+, switch out the coconut water for tequila to make it a true mango margarita!
Mango Margarita via The Lunchbox Bunch
Makes 1-2 servings
- 1 1/2 shots coconut water (1 1/2 ounces) *or substitute one shot tequila
- 1/2 cup freshly diced champagne mango cubes (any mango will work, but champagne mangoes are the creamiest)
- 3 limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup fresh lime juice)
- 1/2 banana, frozen
- 1/2 cup organic peaches, frozen (add a few more slices for a frostier blend)
- 1/3 cup ice
- Slice mango in half and cube. Reserve a few cubes for garnishing. Add remainder of mango to blender (about 1/2 cup cubes).
- Add lime juice, frozen peaches, frozen banana, ice, and coconut water to blender as well. Blend until smooth.
- Garnish with fresh mango, plentiful lime slices, and fresh lime zest on top.
When we say cherries, we don’t mean those sugary, bright red cherries that you find in jars. We mean the au naturel summer cherries that are packed with healthy goodness. “Cherries are loaded with natural melatonin, a hormone made by a small gland in the brain that helps to regulate sleep and wake cycles,” Hartley says. “Melatonin calms down nervous system irritability to help relieve insomnia.” If you’re having trouble getting out of a not-so-normal college sleep schedule, then give this treat a try. Who said dessert couldn’t be good for you?
Cherry Pie via Allrecipes.com
Makes one 9-inch pie
- 1/4 cup margarine
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 cups fresh cherries, pitted
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- In a medium bowl, cream together margarine, brown sugar, and vanilla. Stir in oats, flour, and water. Then press mixture into 9-inch pie pan. In a medium bowl, stir together the cherries and sugar. Pour into the crust.
- Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
There is no magic remedy that adds years to your life, but peaches might be a good start. Hartley says that peaches contain certain compounds that help control genes that effect obesity, inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Stone fruits, like peaches, plums, and nectarines, have been known to promote a long life and increase your lifespan. For a healthy dessert, pull together all of these summer fruits for a complete summer medley.
Summer Fruit Salad via Yummly
Makes 4 servings
- 2 plums (pitted and sliced)
- 2 nectarines (pitted and sliced)
- 2 peaches (pitted and sliced)
- 2 1/2 apricots (pitted and sliced)
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup blackberries
- 2 teaspoon honey
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup mint leaves (fresh)
- Toss ingredients together in a large bowl. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving.
There are many other healthy summer foods that you can add to your diet this season to fuel your body, but Hartley suggest that no matter what you choose, you should incorporate a variety of produce into your diet. “Eat produce with every meal and try new fruits and vegetables regularly,” she says. “Eat fruit on cereal and in pancakes, baked into quick breads and muffins, in smoothies, salads, salsas. Eat vegetables in salads, on sandwiches, on pizza, roasted, in soups, stews, and omelets.” So go all out this summer and find your favorite seasonal dish!