Summer-Ready Salads

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Since the warm weather hit, all I can think about is how I am going to cover up the damage I did this winter with comfort food when the inevitable first pool party or beach day invitation comes around. While I briefly considered investing in a burqini, I decided eating a bit better would probably be the best course of action. This means lots of salads. At first it seemed like a death sentence, but then I figured out these three easy, flavor-boosting additions that will make even a simple salad tasty and satisfying without threatening your waistline.

1. Simple Vinaigrette The problem with salads often stems from the dressing. Most salad dressings are way over-salted, have way too much fat and completely overwhelm any other flavors in the salad. I find a simple vinaigrette adds the right amount of flavor without being overwhelming or adding in too much of the bad stuff. I usually make a basic batch using this recipe and then add in other ingredients during the week. I like to experiment by adding different citrus zests or herb blends like herbes de Provence or an Italian herb mix. This dressing is flavorful enough to make plain old lettuce appetizing -- just make sure not to go overboard.

2. Fruit and Cheese Right, I know cheese is probably not the best thing to be eating when you're trying to get swimsuit-ready, but in a proper portion size and used instead of dressing, I think it's just fine. My favorite combinations are watermelon with feta (bonus points if you add in some mint), goat cheese with grapes, and avocado with grapefruit. Okay, I know avocado isn't a cheese, but it is just as creamy and tasty, and I needed to fit it in this category. Tossed with simple greens and a few other veggies, these additions help make the salad more satisfying by hitting both the sweet and salty taste buds.

3. Spiced Nuts I have a sick obsession with the Union Square Café's delicious bar nuts. They are simultaneously spicy, sweet and salty. I usually keep a batch in the freezer ready to be heated up and snacked on, but I recently realized that the nuts are the perfect addition to my salad in lieu of nutrition-barren croutons. Added to a simple green salad with berries, these nuts provide a balance of flavor and make the salad much more filling. Try this recipe for a similar flavor profile.

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