Celebrating salads during the month of May

May 12, 2014

Around this time in the month of May, things start to heat up quickly — meaning the weather on bright and sunny days, temperatures of vehicles from the capture of heat, and in homes when kitchens are in full use with every stove top burning!

That being said, on days when the weather is hot and muggy, the last thing anyone wants to do is stand behind a hot stove to make a hot meal to get even hotter. To make things simple in the kitchen and to keep temperatures around the house cool, how about making a cool refreshing salad for meals? Salads are quick and easy to prepare, healthy and tasty, and above all, refreshing to the body and satiating, which keeps us full for hours – especially on those hot summer days when no one feels like cooking!

The month of May is also National Salad Month, a month celebrating the deliciousness of cold salads, and encouraging everyone to be creative when adding a salad to your eating regimen. The first thought that pops into many peoples’ heads when hearing the word salad is something like a garden salad made of crisp iceberg lettuce. When actually, the word salad can mean many different types of salads such as cold pasta salads, seaweed salads, chicken or tuna salads, salads that include fruits or nuts, or even dessert salads. Basically, salads are a mixture of cold foods, usually including vegetables and fruits, and often paired with a dressing - at times, nuts and croutons are served on the side. In addition, meats, fish, pasta, cheese, or whole grains are added to salads to bulk up the portion size and to add more sustenance on one plate, which depends if a salad is served as an appetizer or entrée.

Salads can be pre-packaged and store bought, or freshly tossed and home made. Regardless of how you get it, let’s celebrate National Salad Month by eating healthy and trying new salads all month. I have included a few favorites that would be great for serving at cookouts, parties, celebrations, and many more occasions.

— Fruit Salads: A dish consisting of an assortment of fruit, also known as a fruit cocktail, is fruits chopped up and served either in their own natural fruit juices or a fruit based glaze. Adults and kids will love this!

— Seafood Salads: A dish prepared with one or more types of seafood usually mixed with mayonnaise can be served over a garden salad, as a seafood pasta salad, or paired as a side item. Packed with protein and great choice for seafood lovers.

— Garden Salads: These salads usually consist of a variety of vegetables tossed over a bed of leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, or iceberg lettuce. Common vegetables include tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, and mushrooms, but remember, add vegetables of your choice to make the salad taste better for you!

— Seaweed Salads: This salad originated from Japanese cuisine and is made from algae. Similar to leafy greens, seaweed is nutrient dense containing vitamins C, A, and B12. Nutritious and tasty. If you are feeling adventurous, ask your local Japanese restaurant for an order and try it today. (Some grocery stores may carry this on their fresh produce aisle)

— Salads made from foods (Cole slaw, broccoli salad, potato salad): Instead of a mix of leafy greens, these salads are made based on food items such as cole slaw made with cabbage, egg salad made with eggs, tuna salad made with tuna – get my drift? Salads made from foods usually require only a few ingredients, the main food and a dressing, but flavor up the taste by adding seasons, spices and herbs until it satisfies your taste buds.

As you can see, salads come in many forms, colors, and tastes, including a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats and pastas. Spruce up your plates with wholesome foods of all colors, and play around with combining those foods until you find a salad that you just can’t get enough of. Give yourself a break from staying behind unbearable hot ovens and stovetops, and enjoy a healthy salad.

Sandra Ruan is an former Elizabethtown resident who is now a dietetic intern at Southern Regional Emory Healthcare in Riverdale, Ga.