Summer recipes with a healthy twist

Though warmer weather often means fresh fruits and abundant leafy salads, there are also food traditions that are not as virtuous. Potato and macaroni salads are often made with lots of mayonnaise, baked beans are both salty and sugary, and lemonade and tea can contain many tablespoons of the sweet stuff. Here are some tips to make your favorite summer foods more healthy.

watermelon water
Chunks of watermelon pair well with mint to subtly flavor water.

Reduce sugar

In the heat of summer, an icy cold beverage is often necessary though many favorites have a lot of added sugar. Though soft drinks are the most obvious culprit, drinks like lemonade, punch and iced tea often have a lot as well. Sugar is high in calories but not nutrition, and is linked to obesity, heart disease, and cavities, among others diseases.

Try using vegetables or fruits to flavor water, without adding sugar. Slices of cucumber, lemon, and sprigs of mint are refreshing, and melon chunks can add some natural sweetness.

Find mayo alternatives

Many summer dishes call for mayonnaise like pasta and potato salads, deviled eggs, or veggie dips. Mayonnaise is high in saturated fat, calories, and sodium. Try reducing the amount in the recipe or substitute low-fat yogurt for some or all of the amount. You may need to add more of other healthier ingredients to add flavor.

For example, Karleen Sakumoto, manager in the Human Resources Division, reduces the mayo in her deviled egg recipe by about one quarter and adds more Dijon mustard for flavor. If mustard doesn’t fit your recipe, a squeeze of lemon juice can brighten up the taste of many dishes.

Spiralized cucumbers
Spiralized cucumber makes for an interesting and healthy salad base.

Swap veggies for refined carbs

Try radishes, carrots, celery sticks or even romaine hearts in place of crackers to pair with hummus, dips and cheeses. Vegetables pack more vitamins and fiber than crackers or chips and are much lower in sodium. Too much dietary sodium is linked to diseases like hypertension and diabetes.

If pasta is one of your summer staples, try introducing a whole wheat version to get more fiber, or swap in vegetables. A spiralizer tool will create pasta-like noodles out of vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, sweet potatoes, or whatever else is in season. Spiraled veggies create a more nutritious base for salads or sauces – try King County CSA@Work partner Mezza Luna’s suggestion of garlic scape pesto atop zucchini “pasta”.


Got a favorite healthy summer eating tip? Tell us all about it at

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