The 4 Step Formula to Light, Healthy & Fast Summer Meals
It’s finally time to pack away those bulky sweaters, coats, and boots that have been in regular rotation the last few months and dig out our shorts, swimsuits, and flip flops from their long hibernation. Our new wardrobes will, however, reveal a bit more of our bodies than those cozy sweaters and boots ever did. So it’s inevitable that around this time of year, we also start thinking about ways to lighten up our meals to look and feel our best.
The great news is that we do not have to go on any type of starvation diet to be able to rock those shorts with style and confidence. By simply taking advantage of summer’s amazing fresh produce, we can create an endless variety of detoxifying, cleansing and nutrient dense meals.
I’m sharing my simple four-step meal-building formula that will help you construct some amazing breakfasts, lunches and dinners. These mix-and-match mea lbuilding steps will show you that the combination of possibilities is endless. If only the summer could be, too!
4 Steps to Creative Smoothies
Smoothies are a nutrient-dense way to start your day. You can pack them full of a variety of produce and protein for a quick breakfast that is easy to take on the go or to sip slowly while enjoying your lazy summer mornings. They’re also perfect for those especially warm days when you’re craving something cool and refreshing.
Step 1: Pick Your Produce
Pick as many or as few items from the list below to equal about 2 cups of produce. Use fresh or frozen fruits, vegetables and greens.
Fruits & Vegetables:
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, etc.)
- Melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, etc.)
- Pomegranate seeds
- Sweet potatoes
Greens & Herbs:
- Beet greens
- Collard greens
Step 2: Pick Your Liquid Base
Use about 2 cups of liquid. You may have to adjust the amount to your preference based on the combination of fruits and vegetables used.
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk
- Coconut water
- Dairy milk (cow, goat, etc.)
- Fresh fruit juice
- Plain yogurt
- Tea (chilled)
Step 3: Add Protein
Pick one or more of the following proteins to help keep you feeling satisfied all morning.
- Chia seeds or flaxseeds (about 2 tablespoons)
- Hemp seeds (about 3 tablespoons)
- Nut or seed butter (about 3 tablespoons)
- Oats (about ½ cup)
- Pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds (about ¼ cup)
- Quinoa, cooked (about ½ cup)
- Raw almonds, walnuts, or cashews, soaked (about ½ cup)
- Whey or plant-based protein powder (1 scoop)
Step 4: Add Super Foods & Natural Flavorings
This is where you can take the flavor and nutrient level of your smoothie to the next level. Adding healthy fats like coconut oil, fish oil, or avocado will turn your smoothie into more of a meal and will help your body absorb the nutrients to keep you feeling full longer. These are all purely for taste and preference and are not necessary, but a little will go a long way for most of these in both flavor and health benefits.
- Acai powder
- Aloe vera
- Bee pollen
- Chlorella powder
- Coconut oil
- Fish oil
- Fresh ginger
- Goji berries
- Maca powder
- Maple syrup
- Probiotic powder
- Raw honey
- Spirulina powder
Blend it up: Start out on a low setting and work your way up to the top speed. It should take about 30 to 60 seconds – depending on ingredients – to blend thoroughly. Pour, drink, and enjoy!
4 Steps to Flavorful “Sandwich” Wraps
By eliminating the heavy grains and wrapping sandwich fillings in crunchy lettuce instead of bread, you’ll have a light and quick meal that is great to pack up and take on the go or enjoy at home without a lot of fuss or prep.
Step 1: Pick a Green Base
Use whole leaves for wrapping.
- Bibb lettuce
- Collard greens
- Large spinach leaves
Step 2: Add Protein
Use about ½ cup to 1 cup of protein, depending on the size of your greens.
- Cooked beans
- Cooked shrimp
- Crab or lobster
- Diced hard-boiled eggs
- Grilled or smoked salmon
- Ground bison, turkey, pork, or chicken
- Roast beef slices
- Rotisserie chicken pieces
- Scrambled eggs
- Tuna (water packed)
- Turkey bacon
- Turkey slices
Step 3: Top with Fresh Herbs, Vegetables or Fruits
Use as much or as little of the following based on your own preferences.
- Apples, pears or mango, thinly sliced
- Avocado, thinly sliced
- Basil, roughly chopped
- Cabbage, thinly sliced
- Chives, snipped
- Cilantro, roughly chopped
- Fresh figs (sliced), dried cranberries or golden raisins
- Grapes, quartered
- Pickles or olives
- Red onions, thinly sliced
- Sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables
- Sweet bell peppers, thinly sliced
- Tomatoes, diced or thinly sliced
- Zucchini or carrot ribbons (sliced with a vegetable peeler)
Step 4: Add Your Favorite Sauce or Spice
Use 1-2 teaspoons, to taste. (Ensure that all store-bought condiments are gluten-free.)
- Barbecue sauce
- Flavored mayonnaise
- Ginger shavings
- Hot sauce
- Lemon juice
- Oil and vinegar
- Olive oil mayonnaise
- Red pepper flakes
- Sea salt and cracked pepper
- Sriracha hot sauce
Wrap it up: Layer all of the ingredients in the order of steps listed. Fold up the leaves to enclose the ingredients. Enjoy!
4-Steps to Simple & Healthy Fish Dishes
It’s easy to make the same favorites over and over again during the summer but we can only eat so many chicken breasts, ribs, and steaks before it starts to weigh us down and tire us out … literally and figuratively. Branching out and trying some lighter meals on the grill can add an entirely new combination of options for us.
Choose a fish from the list, top it off with some fresh herbs and produce, and then give it all about ten minutes or so on the grill. You’ll have a light and healthy meal that will go a long way in adding some lean protein to your day and some healthy omega-3 fats to your diet.
Step 1: Pick Your Fish
Choose wild caught fish whenever possible.
- Wild ahi tuna, about 2 pounds
- Wild mahi mahi, about 2 pounds
- Wild salmon, about 2 pounds
- Wild snapper, about 2 pounds
- Wild swordfish, about 2 pounds
Step 2: Choose Your Herbs & Seasonings
At this time of year, fresh herbs and seasonings are in abundance so take advantage of them. Dried versions will work well, too, though. Roughly chop about ½ cup of the following (except where noted):
- Garlic, about 3 cloves, minced
- Ginger, about ½ inch piece, peeled and grated
Step 3: Pick Your Fresh Produce
Again, make use of some of the wonderful produce available in the stores and farmers’ markets this season.
- Asparagus spears, trimmed
- Eggplant, thinly sliced
- Heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Lemon, thinly sliced
- Red or yellow onions, thinly sliced
- Summer squash, thinly sliced
- Sweet bell peppers, thinly sliced
- Zucchini ribbons (sliced with a vegetable peeler)
Step 4: Create, Assemble & Grill
Follow the directions below to prepare your summer grilling creations.
1. Preheat grill to medium-high.
2. In a bowl with the back of a spoon (or in a food processor for a finer paste), mix together the herbs/seasonings of choice with 1 teaspoon sea salt and about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.
3. Lightly oil a heavy piece of aluminum foil that is slightly larger than the fish filet. Place the fish on it, skin side down (if there is skin) and spread herb mixture evenly over the fish. Then, layer your thinly sliced produce of choice to cover the fish.
4. Sprinkle with another ½ teaspoon of sea salt and ¼ teaspoon fresh pepper. Transfer the fish, on foil, to the preheated grill. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Cooking times will vary slightly based on type and thickness of fish filets.
5. When fish is done, slide it off of the foil onto a serving platter. Serve with a fresh salad.
Written by Kim Maes
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