Summer is an ideal time to embrace raw eating — there's tons of produce available, and no-cook meals and apps keep your kitchen from turning into a sauna. Beyond that, raw foods — especially produce — typically have higher levels of water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C or B vitamins that are sometimes destroyed or degraded through the cooking process. If you’re not ready to go whole-banana with a raw foods lifestyle, set a goal to eat one raw food a day to get you closer to your fruit and vegetable quota (2 1/2 cups of vegetables or 2 cups of fruit, according to dietary guidelines). Here are some easy ways to get started:
Crudité is the fun French word for an appetizer of raw vegetables — and it's making a comeback. Simply cut carrots, fennel and bell pepper into strips; break broccoli and cauliflower into smaller florets; or thinly slice radishes, jicama, cucumber or zucchini. The big surprise vegetable you can eat raw: sweet potatoes! (Check out our videos for more advice on prep.) Spend a little time assembling a crudité platter and have it at the ready in your fridge, so when that craving for something crunchy, sweet, or spicy hits, you’ll be prepared to indulge for relatively few calories. (We’re talking produce only — not dips.)
Homemade salsa is easy to make, can use all manner of produce, and can be tailored to your ideal heat level. Use it to dress up grilled fish, poultry, or even grain salads! Bonus benefit: Whipping it up yourself allows you to control the amount of salt (and sodium) you add. For 25 calories a serving, you can use this salsa for quesadilla dip, salad dressing, over tacos or for a snack with tortilla chips. For a flavor twist, a melon salsa provides about 1/4 cup fruit per serving, and is a smart way to use leftover melon. Enliven earthy beans and rice or grilled tofu with a vibrant pineapple salsa, which provides about 1/4 cup fruit per serving towards your daily goal.
Sauces and dips
For Italian flavor profiles, a classic basil pesto is a rich sauce for vegetables or as a topper for fresh tomatoes or raw squash. A sun-dried tomato gremolata adds zest to raw cauliflower or your favorite whole-grain pasta for a low 25 mg sodium per serving. Raw sweet potato slices are the perfect companion to a tangy olive spread. And sometimes you need to up the ante for raw fruit snacking: Avocados and sweet dates combine for a creamy chocolate dip that also contains a good source of fiber per serving, which complements raw strawberries, bananas or raspberries.
The house dressing in my kitchen is often based on what produce and herbs we have in ample supply — maybe a boatload of juicy, seasonal fruit or vegetables or a bumper crop of basil. For instance, with lots of sweet peaches, we make a peach and walnut dressing to pair with mild greens. Fresh strawberries can get whirled into a quick and easy dressing or dip with no fat and very little sodium. Find plenty more ideas for working vegetables into your condiments and salad dressing here.
Wraps and rolls
Veggie-centric wraps and rolls are the light meal answer for when it’s too hot to cook. Beautiful butter lettuce is the vessel for corralling other vegetables (and netting a healthy 5 grams fiber per serving) in a filling lettuce wrap. Here’s how to pack carrots, cucumbers, onions, lettuce and bean sprouts in spring roll wrappers for lots of fiber, crunch and flavor. And these healthy wraps have just enough protein to make a light lunch or satisfying dinner.
Raw summer squash
Summer often means a bumper crop of squash — from generous neighbors and friends sharing their garden’s yield to all of the beautiful options available in-store. With extra squash, we’ll make a quick raw salad to pair with dinner — thinly sliced zucchini topped with olive oil, flaky salt and some nuts. My kids love the firmer texture of the raw version, and I love that they’re eating the green veg on their plate — even if they’re using their hands to pick up the squash rounds. Another good option: squash “pasta,” which presents raw squash in a very familiar format noodle format, and provides a good source of fiber per serving.