Summer Salads!

Any way you toss it, a main dish green salad is an easy, nutritious meal -- especially on a hot summer's night, reports Lisa Franzen-Castle, RD, PhD, Nutrition Specialist, Nebraska Extension. National Salad Week is in July, and summer is a great time to fill up -- and not out -- on fruits and veggies in a lightly dressed salad! Check out these tips on how to make salads spectacular this summer.

For nutritious and delicious salads try these tips:

Choose your own greens. Salad greens are easy to grow in the home garden and an important source of vitamins and minerals. Iceberg lettuce is popular but other lettuce and salad greens like spinach, arugula, and romaine add interest and nutrients to meals. Dark green leaves are good sources of vitamins A and C, iron, folic acid, and calcium.

Add a topper. Enhance eye appeal and nutrition by adding colorful fruits and vegetables to your salad greens. Try adding carrots, cucumbers, beets or fresh or dried fruits to add interest and flavor to your salads. Limit the amount of salad dressing to about a tablespoon to 2 cups of greens. Make the flavor pop by adding artichoke hearts, nuts, or seeds.

Keep fruits looking great. Keep cut fruits, like apples and pears, from turning brown by coating them with an acidic juice such as lemon, orange or pineapple juice. Cut fruits as close to serving time as possible. Refrigerate cut fruits and veggies so the total time at room temperature is less than 2 hours.

Fresh herbs. Toss small herbs or chopped larger ones in with your greens. Try chopped fresh dill, small basil leaves, minced chives or parsley. Start with about a teaspoon of herbs per person and adjust according to taste preference. Herbs boost flavor without increasing calories.

Kabob kickers. Try kicking up your salad by adding meat and cheese kabobs! Including protein-rich foods helps promote a feeling of fullness after meals and may help you eat fewer calories throughout the day. Kabobs with chunks of cheese, grilled chicken, beef, or pork with a combination of vegetables such as peppers, onions, and zucchini would be the perfect topper for a mixed green salad.

Food safety with salads. Summer is a great time for salads and it’s important to store leafy greens at refrigerator temperatures and rinse well under running water before using. To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, observe “use by” dates printed on bagged leafy vegetables and salad mixes and use within two days after opening.

Remember to dress, don't drown, your salad in dressing to keep the calories lower and experiment with different combinations and flavors this summer.

Find more information about salads on the web at: Nebraska Extension In Our Grit, Our Glory.