Fresh veggies, fruit lighten up summer meals

Cut calories by adding loads of produce, healthy grains

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DETROIT - Don't let calorie-laden side dishes and over-dressed salads sabotage your efforts to eat healthier this summer. 

Tina Miller, Meijer Healthy Living Advisor, suggests these simple and tasty ways to lighten up side dishes and summer salads at your picnics and family gatherings.

Add veggies:
Fresh and fast - grill fresh in-season vegetables. Toss with olive oil to lightly coat and season with salt and pepper.  Coat grill with non-stick cooking spray and pre-heat to medium.  Grill vegetables about 3-6 minutes per side (more for dense vegetables such as corn or potatoes, less time for lighter vegetables like zucchini).  Serve hot off the grill or chilled as appetizers.  Mix leftovers with beans or pasta for side salads. 
In a hurry - thaw frozen vegetables and mix along with pasta, potatoes or beans for a hearty side.  Dress with light salad dressing such as reduced calorie ranch dressing or light vinaigrette. 
Mix thawed Meijer California blend vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli and carrots) with cooked pasta, chopped fresh parsley, and dress with light ranch dressing.

Add fruit to the mix:
Top green salads with fresh berries and nuts or dried cranberries, cherries or raisins.
Mix up a classic melon side bowl.  Cube watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon.  Add a twist with a small squeeze of fresh lime juice and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
Grill pineapple slices or stone fruit for dessert: Peaches, nectarines, plums are great on the grill.  Spray your grill with non-stick cooking spray and pre-heat to medium.  Half fruit and remove pit. Season with cinnamon and/or nutmeg and grill 4-5 minutes on cut side, turn and grill an additional 2-3 minutes.  Top fruit with a dollop of vanilla yogurt or light vanilla ice cream.

Incorporate whole grains:
Go beyond potato and pasta salads and experiment with great grains like quinoa, whole grain rice, and barley for side salads.  Check out our recipes below for Vegetable Quinoa Pilaf and Pearl Barley Salad with Apricots and Walnuts.
Go easy on the creamy dressings:
Substitute plain low fat Greek Yogurt in recipes that call for full fat mayonnaise and sour cream.
Use lighter versions of dressing for potato salads, pasta salads and coleslaw.   Bolthouse Farms yogurt salad dressing, found in the produce area, is a fresh and delicious alternative to full fat dressing with about one-third the calories and fat.

Healthier Deli Options:
Try the new Kale salad from the Meijer deli.  A delicious and healthy blend of Kale, sunflower seeds, edamame, blueberries, dried cranberries and dressed with light vinaigrette.  A healthy grab and go side for your gathering or any time!
Other healthy options include broccoli crunch salad or hummus with vegetables.

Healthier Side Dish Recipes:
Looking for some new summer side dishes that deliver on both taste and nutrition? Try these delicious recipes that have a whole grain base and colorful, nutrient-rich fresh ingredients.

Vegetable Quinoa Pilaf
Makes 6 servings
1 cup quinoa (NuVal® score: 91)
2 cups Meijer low sodium chicken broth
¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. Meijer olive oil
1 cup red onion, finely chopped (NuVal® score: 93)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup yellow bell pepper, finely chopped (NuVal® score: 96)
½ cup Meijer frozen green peas (NuVal® score: 96)
½ cup zucchini, chopped (NuVal® score: 99)
1-2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
¼ cup fresh basil, thinly sliced (NuVal® score: 100)
1. In a medium saucepan toast quinoa, stirring constantly, until it begins to brown. Bring broth to boiling; pour broth into quinoa. Add salt; cover, reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes.
2. In a medium sauté pan heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, bell pepper, peas and zucchini; cover and cook until vegetables are tender.
3. Season quinoa with salt and pepper to taste. Stir vegetable mixture into quinoa. Add lemon juice and stir. Sprinkle with fresh basil.
Nutrition information per serving: 128 calories; 3g fat; 8mg cholesterol; 162mg sodium; 21g carbohydrate; 83g fiber; 5g protein

Pearl Barley salad with Apricot, Walnuts and Summer Lemon Vinaigrette
Makes 8 servings
8 oz. pearl barley (NuVal® score: 91)
1 cup frozen edamame (NuVal® score: 91)
½ Vidalia® onion, minced (NuVal® score: 93)
2 celery stalks, sliced ¼-inch thick (NuVal® score: 96)
½ cup sliced dried apricots (NuVal® score: 91)
¾ cup chopped walnuts (NuVal® score: 82)
¼ cup Meijer olive oil
¼ cup rice or sherry vinegar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 Tbsps. Agave nectar
1. Cook barley until tender according to package directions. Transfer barley to a large bowl; set aside to cool.
2. Bring a small saucepan of water to boiling. Add edamame; cook 1 minute to barely soften. Drain. Rinse in cold water, drain, and set aside.
3. To the large bowl add onion, celery, edamame, apricots, walnuts, oil, vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, agave, and salt and pepper to taste; combine well. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes before serving. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories; 16g fat; 0mg cholesterol; 10mg sodium; 36g carbohydrate; 8g fiber; 7g protein

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