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In general, I’m not a huge fan of summer. (Shocking, I know!) I was born and raised in Minnesota, and I come from Scandinavian heritage, so I was basically bred for the cold; the summer heat and humidity are too much for me. However, there’s something about a warm, sunny, summer day that makes a salad seem like the perfect lunch. And I do love a good salad. So now that summer is in full swing, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite healthy and simple salad recipes.

One thing you’ll notice about all of these salads is that none of them uses a store-bought dressing. I do occasionally indulge in pre-made dressings, but most of the time I make something in the moment that has simpler and more natural ingredients. And I’ve found some easy and delicious ways to do this. Plus, whereas you might not have a particular dressing in the house, these ingredients are pretty common, so you’ll likely have them in stock when you want one of these salads.

The other thing you’ll notice is that I don’t specify the types of greens to be used. I’ll leave that up to you and your personal preference. But I will say this: if you’re looking for healthier, go for greens that are more deeply colored; that’s a sign of more nutrients and antioxidants. As such, there isn’t much value to iceberg lettuce, romaine is an excellent step up (much more nutritious while still being a little sweet), and spinach is a nutrient king (and also one of my favorites!). I’m particularly fond of a half-and-half mix of romaine and spinach, and it should work well with all the recipes below.

Chicken (or Turkey or Tuna) Avocado Salad

  • Put your greens in a bowl.
  • Add some cut up chicken. (Turkey would also go well, as would tuna or salmon. I think I tried it with steak once; that was good, too.)
  • Sprinkle on a good handful of shredded Swiss cheese.
  • Mash up an avocado (mash it well, because this is the dressing) and mix it into the salad.
  • Optional add-ons (delicious, but not as essential as the above elements): chopped green onions, cherry tomatoes, dill, chopped broccoli, a splash of lemon juice

Dill and Lime Tuna Salad

  • Put your greens in a bowl.
  • Add a can of tuna. (If you’re not fond of canned tuna, you can use tuna steak or salmon. Turkey will work, but the flavor palate goes best with fish, in my opinion.)
  • Add a good handful of shredded Swiss cheese. (Can you tell yet what kind of cheese I like?) 
  • Sprinkle with a hearty helping of dill, add a good splash of lime juice, drizzle with a little olive oil, and mix.
  • Optional add-ons: chopped onions (green will probably the best, but red will work), chopped bell peppers, tomatoes

This photo by Dustin Meriwether (2020) is used with permission

Mediterranean Chicken Salad

  • Put your greens in a bowl.
  • Add some cut up or shredded chicken. (Turkey, as shown in the featured image, is a good substitute.)
  • Add feta cheese (or Mozzarella, but the boldness of the feta pairs well with the Balsamic vinegar), some cherry tomatoes, and some chopped onions (preferably green, but red will work).
  • Drizzle with Balsamic vinegar, add a splash of olive oil, and mix.
  • Optional add-ons: walnuts, chopped bell peppers

Rosemary and Red Wine Steak Salad

(This one may not be as light and summery as the others on this list, but it is so yummy that it’s worth including.)

  • Put your greens in a bowl.
  • Add some cut up steak or roast beef. (Chicken or turkey could also work well.)
  • Add feta cheese. (It works with Siwss, but I think feta pairs a little better with the red wine vinegar.)
  • Add chopped onions, preferably red.
  • Sprinkle with rosemary, drizzle with red wine vinegar (if you don’t have that, Balsamic vinegar works, too), add a splash of olive oil, and mix. (If you want it a little sweeter, mix the red wine vinegar, olive oil, and rosemary in a bowl with a little honey.)
  • Optional add-ons: tomatoes, broccoli slaw, walnuts (but probably only if you’re using turkey instead of steak; I don’t see walnuts pairing well with beef), fruit (strawberries, dried cranberries), chopped bell peppers, chopped cauliflower

This photo by Dustin Meriwether (2020) is used with permission

Cottage Cheese and Sunflower Seeds Salad

  • Put your greens in a bowl.
  • Add a good handful of sunflower nuts. (I’d recommend salted ones.)
  • Add a good helping of cottage cheese (probably ½ cup or more); this is both your protein and your dressing. (If you need a little extra flavor or sweetness, add a drizzle of honey.)
  • Optional add-ons: chopped bell peppers, tomatoes

DISCLAIMER: Every person’s body is unique and has unique nutritional needs and dietary sensitivities. The advice and recommendations in this article are not meant to constitute nutritional advice and should not be substituted for advice from a physician or from a certified nutritionist or personal trainer.

Featured image, “Mediterranean Turkey Salad”, by Dustin Meriwether (2020) is used with permission