Easy Summer Meal Ideas + Recipes

Cruise through summer with these nutrient-packed foods that will keep you out of a hot kitchen.

It seems easy enough to eat well in the summer when markets overflow with fruits and veggies. But long, hot days may leave you less than eager to hover over a hot stove. The solution: simple tips for light, fast, and fresh food prep that takes advantage of the season’s bounty and helps you keep cool.

Sprout Your Beans

WHY?Simple to prepare without cooking, sprouted beans add variety to veggie dishes and are packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients. Plus, a recent study showed the fiber in beans may help lower harmful LDL cholesterol and decrease heart-disease risk. Like grains, nuts, and seeds, beans contain phytic acid, a compound that helps them store minerals to fuel growth, explains researcher Stephan Guyenet, PhD. But phytic acid also makes these foods harder for your body to digest, and can limit absorption of their mineral content. Sprouting produces the enzyme phytase, which breaks down phytic acid and aids digestion. Sprouting also increases the antioxidants in beans, especially phenolic compounds and flavonoids.

TRY:Three-Bean Salad; or serve sprouted lentils with green onions, grated carrots, and chopped kalamata olives; or sauté pea sprouts with ginger and tamari.

Blend and Serve Chilled Soups

WHY? Chilled fruit- and veggie-based soup is a delicious way to pack ample vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants into a single serving—and you never have to turn on the stove. Plus, unlike juiced fruits and veggies, which concentrate calories and sugar, whole produce blended into soup retains important fiber, good for balancing blood sugar, reducing cholesterol, and supporting gut health. Soups are also more filling than calorie-dense juices—good news, because studies show that we feel satisfied based on the volume of food we eat, not the calories, says Elisabetta Politi, RD, nutrition director at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center.

TRY: Blend cucumber, yellow pepper, avocado, and sweet corn for a tasty gazpacho, or try our Cantaloupe and Basil Soup.

Cook with a Light Touch

WHY?When produce is ripe, sweet, and delicious, it’s easy to fill up on salads and other raw, fresh foods. But don’t forget to vary your cuisine with some cooked dishes, too. Heat liberates important nutrients and phytochemicals (such as lycopene and beta-carotene) in some produce, especially red and orange plants such as tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and squash, allowing your body to better absorb these health-promoting compounds, says Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of Super Immunity(HarperOne, 2011). Simple cooking techniques such as steaming and pan frying can enrich your summer diet. And don’t be afraid to cook with healthy oils; some important nutrients are fat-soluble and are best absorbed when eaten with fat.