As the temperature heats up outside and our calendars become packed with fun summer activities, it’s a great time to switch gears in the kitchen as well with lighter dinners, like entree salads, that can be made in advance so that dinner is ready when you are.

On today's "On the Menu" segment, Registered Dietitian Katie Francisco shares ideas for some sensational summer salads.

Tips for creating a healthier salad:

  • Start with a healthy base. Choose baby spinach, romaine or spring mix instead of iceberg lettuce. The darker greens are a better source of folic acid and lutein. Also trying adding herbs like basil, oregano, thyme or mint-they give a burst of flavor plus antioxidant power!
  • Add protein to turn a simple salad into a meal helping you to feel full for longer. Try adding lean protein like grilled chicken, shrimp, fish, egg whites or beans (garbanzo beans, black beans, etc). You can also add cheese (1-2 T) but limit the portion size due to the higher fat and salt content.
  • Fat, however, is an important source of fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin E. Healthy fat sources for your salad include unsalted nuts, avocado, olive oil or canola oil.
  • Don’t forget carbohydrates as an important energy source. Instead of eating the traditional croutons or garlic bread with your salad, try adding a few whole grains like couscous, farro, quinoa or brown rice. They are great both warm and cold. Another option for carbohydrates is fresh fruit which can add color, crunch and tons of vitamins. My favorites are berries, pears and apples. If you choose dried fruit, make sure to select it without added sugar and be aware that the calorie content is much more dense so the portion size should be smaller (1/8 c dried fruit ~½ c fresh fruit).
  • Extra veggies - why not? Extra veggies add more color, more crunch and more nutrients. Try raw carrots, broccoli, cucumber or be more adventurous with roasted vegetables like asparagus, green beans and squash.
  • Finish strong. Choosing the right dressing in the right quantity is essential. Try making home-made vinaigrette with red-wine or balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs, plus olive oil or canola oil. If purchasing prepared dressings, read the label & be mindful of what is considered a portion size. It adds up quickly!


Green Bean Farro Salad with Chick-Peas plus Basil Vinaigrette Dressing

Serves 4

  • ¼ lb. green beans, halved
  • 4 c. cooked farro, cooled
  • 1/2 pt. red grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 pt. yellow grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 c. chickpeas - drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper


  1. Steam green beans until bright green; transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine farro, tomatoes, chickpeas, and green beans.
  3. In a food processor or blender, combine basil, lemon juice and garlic. Add olive oil; blend until smooth.
  4. Pour basil vinaigrette over salad and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Summer Shrimp Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

Serves 4

For the salad

  • 1 large heads fresh romaine, chopped
  • 2 lb. boiled or steamed shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 avocados, cut into large pieces
  • 2 c. sliced grape tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. diced red onion

For the cilantro-lime vinaigrette

  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c. lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • kosher salt
  • Black pepper


  1. In a large bowl, add chopped romaine. Top with shrimp, avocado, tomatoes, and red onion.
  2. Whisk together olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, Dijon, salt, and pepper.
  3. Pour dressing over salad and toss.

Asparagus Quinoa Salad

Serves: 4

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, bottom 2" trimmed off
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ c uncooked quinoa (2 c cooked)
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt to season


  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Add asparagus to a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil and ½ teaspoon of sea salt over asparagus. Toss to coat the asparagus then lay them out in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cut into ½" slices. Set aside.
  4. Cook quinoa per package instructions. Fluff with fork.
  5. Add quinoa to a medium bowl along with chopped asparagus, pecans, goat cheese, red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic powder, and salt to season. Toss everything together and serve!

Mixed Berry Spinach Chicken Salad

Serves 4

  • 4 cups baby spinach, rinsed and dried
  • 1 pint fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup sliced Strawberies
  • 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 grilled Chicken Breasts sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, toss together baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and green onion.
  2. Toss with Balsamic vinegar.
  3. Top with grilled chicken breast, berries, nuts & feta.
  4. Enjoy!


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