Courtesy of the author
Nutritionist Katie G. Wilkens.

You Are What You Eat: Heavenly salads for springtime

Spring is here, and with it comes fresh fruits and vegetables. Now you can make delicious, low-salt fruit or vegetable salads any time. Keeping salt low is a big step toward keeping your blood pressure under control and your kidneys healthy.

A good cook once told me the secret to a heavenly salad is to add fruits, nuts and cheese. After trying the combinations below, I think you’ll agree.

Try this basic recipe and then have fun exchanging different fruits and vegetables for flavor year round!

Heavenly Salad

  • 1 cup fruit (one or two kinds)
  • 1 cup vegetables (one or two kinds)
  • 1-2 cups lettuce, spinach or greens
  • 1/2 cup nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazel nuts or pine nuts)
  • 1/2 cup cheese, diced (goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, cheddar, jalapeño or jack)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley or mint)

Try the following combinations for great-tasting salads:

Cantaloupe cucumber salad: cantaloupe, cucumber, lettuce, fresh tarragon, almonds, Manchego or other sharp white cheese.

Veggie fruit slaw: grated carrots, diced apple, chopped cabbage, celery seed and fresh celery leaves. Add sharp cheddar and pecans or walnuts.

Watermelon strawberry salad: watermelon, strawberries, fresh spinach or greens, fresh mint, canned mandarin oranges, goat cheese, sliced almonds.

Blackberry peach salad: blackberries, peaches, fresh spinach, fresh tarragon, Monterey Jack cheese, and walnuts.

Mango jicama salad: mangoes, jicama, red bell pepper, fresh cilantro, cashews and feta cheese.

Beet and bean salad: diced beets, cooked and chilled green beans, blue cheese, walnuts or pecans, fresh tarragon (add cheese last so it doesn’t turn pink, or use golden beets.)

Tomato cucumber salad: tomato, cucumber, fresh mozzarella, lettuce and fresh basil. Omit nuts and add 8 olives, cut in half.

Homemade salad dressings are usually much lower in salt (sodium). Try the recipes below:

Heavenly Blue Cheese Dressing

  • 1 pint low-fat sour cream
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon liquid hot pepper seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, minced and sautéed
  • 6 ounces Roquefort or 8 ounces blue-veined cheese, crumbled
  • Pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine sour cream, lemon juice, Worcestershire, hot pepper seasoning and sautéed garlic. Blend well. Stir in blue cheese, mashing any large pieces with a fork, until well-blended. Add pepper to taste. If made ahead, cover and refrigerate. Store for as long as 10 days. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Lemon-Thyme Dressing

  • 1/2 cup salad oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced and sautéed
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
  • Pepper to taste

In a container, combine oil, lemon peel, lemon juice, garlic, sugar, thyme and pepper. Stir in parsley just before serving. If made ahead of time, cover and refrigerate. Store for as long as 1 week. Makes 1 cup.

Want more tips for healthy, tasty salads? Come to Northwest Kidney Centers’ eighth annual Kidney Health Fest for African American Families on June 5. This free event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Van Asselt Elementary (formerly the African American Academy), 8311 Beacon Ave. S.

The Kidney Health Fest features free health screenings, entertainment and healthy food samples made by local celebrity chefs. Northwest Kidney Centers’ dietitians will be on hand to talk about low-salt, kidney-healthy meals. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. She has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington.

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