Summer is pretty fantastic in Michigan. Not only do we have wonderful weather, but there are lots of walking paths, outdoor activities, and beautiful lakes to admire. In addition to all those wonderful things, Michigan’s summer produce is pretty great as well. 

Whether you have your own little garden, you visit the summer farmer’s markets regularly, or you just notice better local produce options in your grocery store, summer brings a lot of great options for fresh and healthy eating.

One of my favorite summer side salads is simple and uses fresh ingredients that are easy to find this time of year.

Tomato & Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces

1.5 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

0.5 medium red onion, sliced

5-10 fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

Feta cheese, crumbled 

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

This salad is a nice break from leafy salads and it’s the perfect side for almost any summer dish. 

I asked my friend Bethany Frazier, Registered Dietitian behind The Kansas City Dietitian, to weigh in on the health benefits of this summer side. 

“Cherry tomatoes are lower in acid than traditional beef steak tomatoes, making them a friendlier solution for those suffering from reflux or heartburn. Additionally, just 10 cherry tomatoes has as much potassium as a banana, which helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure.” 

Another summer favorite is pesto. This versatile sauce can be used on so many things. For a twist on the original, try this Cilantro and Basil pesto from Bethany.

Cilantro & Basil Pesto

2 cups cilantro, firmly packed

1 cup fresh basil leaves

¼ cup green onion, chopped

½ tsp paprika

½ cup walnuts

½ cup olive oil

Zest from 1 lemon

Juice from 1 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine cilantro, basil, green onions, paprika, nuts, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a food processor. Process until smooth. 

Pesto is great on pasta, sandwiches or wraps, or used as a dressing for a salad. The health benefits of this summer favorite from Bethany are many! “Walnuts are a good source of omega 3s that help to reduce inflammation and support a healthy heart and gut too! If you want to include other sources of omega 3, have fish like salmon or tuna, and add chia seed or flaxseed to your regular diet.” 

One more summer favorite is a simple but delicious strawberry and spinach salad. 

Strawberry Spinach Salad

4 cups raw spinach

1 ½ cups sliced strawberries

½ cup raw pecans

½ small red onion, sliced

Feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing of your choice

Combine all ingredients and toss with a poppyseed dressing or olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can make this salad a complete meal by adding cooked chicken as well. According to Bethany, spinach is a good source of lutein, an antioxidant that supports eye health.

When planning your meals, Bethany recommends including sources of protein, fat, and fiber. Keep it simple and pair your favorite grilled protein like chicken or steak with a bowl of spinach salad drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

Whatever your plans are this summer, I hope you try some new things using this season’s delicious produce.

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