Like a summertime dip in the pool, few things refresh like a cold meal.
That's fortunate, because the cold foods that go down so well in the summer are also perfectly suited to supporting your health and weight-control goals.
Chief among cold foods are fresh summer fruits and vegetables. High in fiber and water content, these foods are filling, hydrating and low in calories. Find ways to build your diet around these foods for the next few months. It isn't hard. Among the good ways to work them in:
Cold soups: Blend fresh, uncooked tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, bell peppers, celery, olive oil, parsley, chives, minced garlic, red wine vinegar and lemon juice in a food processor to make gazpacho, a traditional Spanish soup. Melon soup is also easy to make, using fresh cantaloupe or honeydew melon, nonfat plain yogurt and a few teaspoons of honey whirled together in a blender.
Mixed salads: Your imagination is the only limit to the number of appealing combinations you can try using fresh salad greens and chopped summer vegetables and fruits. Mix salad greens with chunks of fresh fruit, or try a “chopped salad” consisting of lettuce and several summer vegetables, all chopped finely and tossed with oil and vinegar.
Simple sandwiches: My favorite is a BLT made with lettuce, a thick slice of tomato, a thin slice of low-fat cheese, soy mayonnaise and soy-based “fakin” bacon, available in many supermarkets and natural foods stores.
Pasta mixtures: Toss cooked, whole wheat bow tie or rotini noodles with chopped, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, chopped walnuts and grated, part-skim mozzarella cheese.
Finger foods and snacks: Keep a ready tray of washed, peeled and sliced summer vegetables – red, green and yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli florets – to serve with salad dressing dips as a snack while you're fixing dinner. If there's a drawback to fresh summer produce, it's the preparation time. Do the work in batches, storing extra peeled or chopped fruits and veggies in airtight containers in the refrigerator.