The cravings for heavy winter fare are now behind us and the desire for lighter, healthy meals is on the menu. Chef Rama Ginde, owner of the New Jersey-based cooking studio WannaBee Chef, shares her top tips for whipping up delicious, quick and healthy summer recipes.
8 Cooking tips for healthy summer meals
1. Sink your teeth into summer produce
“Summer is one of my favorite times to cook,” says Chef Ginde, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and French Culinary Institute. “Most of the time a great meal can be prepared with little to no cooking and the produce is so fresh, satisfying and beautiful.” Visit your local farmers’ market, co-op and supermarket produce aisle and make fruits and vegetables mainstay ingredients in all of your summer meals.
2. Reap the benefits of raw fruits and vegetables
According to Chef Ginde, who is also a holistic health counselor, using raw produce is beneficial for your health in many ways. “Fruits and vegetables retain their vitamins and minerals when not cooked,” she explains. “When consumed in their most natural form they have a lot more fiber, water content and antioxidants.” The health-centered chef suggests adding fruits and vegetables to salads and enjoying them as a side dish for your favorite grilled meats.
3. Sit down with a satisfying salad
Salads can be so much more than a simple side dish. “Salads are a great ‘one pot meal’,” says Chef Ginde. “They can be so versatile and are a great way to incorporate your leftover grilled meats.” Even better, not only are salad greens more abundant in the summer, they also tend to be less expensive.
4. Make your own vinaigrettes
Chef Ginde recommends steering clear of store bought salad dressings. “They are high in sodium and sugar, making them very high in calories and fat,” she says. “Instead, make your own.” Chef Ginde’s secret to a delicious dressing is whisking together 2 parts oil to 1 part acid (vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice). You can use homemade vinaigrettes on salads as well as for marinades and sauces for meats, fish and poultry. Make one or two types of dressings and keep them on hand in the fridge.
5. Love your fat
Chef Ginde recommends including unsaturated “good for you” fats, such as olive, sunflower and avocado oils for cooking. A handful of nuts is also a healthy choice. “Crushed nuts like almonds and walnuts are perfect atop a piece fish for a unique crunchy coating,” she adds.
6. Make a simple summer salsa
A fresh homemade salsa is the perfect accompaniment for grilled meats and fish. Chef Ginde suggests mixing together diced mango, pineapple, red onion and cilantro to partner grilled chicken, or combine roasted corn, red peppers and scallions to top grilled shrimp.
7. Grill, grill and grill some more
When the weather heats up, keep the heat out of your kitchen. “Make your barbeque grill your best friend,” says Chef Ginde. “Grill anything from pizzas to fruits.” You’ll be deliciously surprised how grilling can make fruit even more sweet and succulent. “Grilling fruit brings out their natural sugars, and they make a great topping for frozen yogurt or ice cream,” she adds.
8. Cook for the week
Plan your weekly meals so you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Chef Ginde encourages cooking your grilled meats and vegetables in larger quantities and enjoying them later in the week in a wrap, tossed with a pasta or salad, or even used for tacos. Not only will you have convenient, healthy meals in a snap, you can spend the time you save having fun in the sun.