How to make your salads interesting

PUBLISHED: 14:17 24 June 2016 | UPDATED: 14:17 24 June 2016

Salads can be fun!

Salads can be fun!

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The long dark days of comfort eating are finally behind us and summer is by far the easiest time to boost nutrition with fresh, crunchy greens

But it’s not all about lettuce. There is not a great deal of inspiration to be had from a mountain of iceberg no matter how much you try to dress it up (and those dressings are laden with sugar so let’s nip that one in the bud right now).

Salads really are wallowing in their new found fame as celebrity food bloggers bombard us with the attributes of colourful, exotic ingredients to throw into the mix. They are simple to prepare, virtuous, and there is no danger of losing those vital nutrients to over-cooking. We all want that healthy summer glow so start from within, choose your base leaves and then get creative.

Bring the holiday home

Salads always seem to taste so much better when you’re lounging around, a cold glass of wine in hand, soaking up the atmosphere. They become a feast for the senses, not just taste, so starting with quality ingredients will go a long way to enhancing the experience.

We’ve been very vocal about organic produce and local farmers markets, just pick up a few of those ripe tomatoes and the aromas of the Med will come flooding back. Take the humble Greek salad for example, a simple mix of tomatoes, cucumber, olives and salty feta cheese. But then throw on a handful of chopped mint and a drizzle of olive oil and you’ve added vitamin A and C, iron, antioxidants, and some very good fats.

For a really refreshing alternative feta and mint are great with chunks of juicy watermelon and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Not only will it quench your thirst (the melon is about 90% water), but you’ll be super-charged with vitamins (A, C and B1 and B6), lycopene (a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory), and magnesium. Not bad for something that is also fat free!

We could pretty much fill our ages this month with salad ideas but sometimes it’s more fun to use your imagination. Mix up your leaves – leafy greens are the holy grail of nutrition – with spinach, watercress, rocket, pea shoots, and chard; then throw in lots of colour with peppers, sweet pomegranate seeds, roasted squash or sweet potato pieces, and fresh figs for a middle-eastern vibe.

Add grilled chicken or halloumi, a sprinkle of seeds and you’ll have heaven on a plate.

Simply add…

• A handful of herbs for a burst of flavour. Parsley, mint, and basil (a must with mozzarella and tomatoes) are packed with goodness and far better than shop-bought dressings.

• Avocados for some seriously good fats. They also contain about 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients and have a wonderful creamy texture that make a salad seem more substantial.

• Oily fish for your hit of omega 3’s. Make a simple Nicoise come alive by swapping tuna for grilled salmon or sardines, then add some fresh asparagus and you’ve also packed in vitamins A, C, B2, E and K as well as iron, magnesium, zinc and potassium to name a few.

• Beautiful beets for wonderful colour, an earthy flavour, and a big dose of calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, plus fibre. If you can get them with leaves still attached, even better.

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