(BPT) - Summer is the perfect time to turn over a new you. With the arrival of warm weather, a relaxed schedule and summer vacations, this is the moment to invest in a new wardrobe and, of course, a new, healthier menu. When you think of summer cuisine, light and flavorful is the order of the day, and nothing captures that order quite like a fresh, vibrant salad.
Salads can be so much more than just a healthy lunch or dinner choice, thanks to their minimal prep requirements and the boatload of benefits they can deliver, such as the five posted below. So, take a mindful turn toward salads this summer and enjoy their many perks.
* A great source of vegetables - and fruits, too. You're constantly hearing you need to eat more fruits and vegetables, so make it easy by including them in whichever kind of salad you choose. Peppers, cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes are all popular salad staples, but no matter which vegetable you crave, feel good knowing that it's a natural fit on your salad plate. And if you're trying to up your fruit intake, you'll find plenty of reasons to add strawberries, grapes and other delicious treats to your salad serving.
* A window of opportunity. If the idea of a salad seems same old same old, it's time to get creative. And it's so easy. There are virtually no rules when it comes to whipping up a salad, so don't always settle for what you think 'just has to go in there.' Seize the day and mix in what you truly want, instead. The inclusion of seafood is an easy way to add both a lean protein and the omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your body. Plus, seafood flat-out tastes great. Salmon, shrimp and crab are all excellent options.
* Easy, carefree meals. With so much to do during the summer, your life is constantly on the go. When you don't have much time, a salad can be your best friend. Simply toss those ingredients together and grab a fork. It's the perfect quick fix when you just want to relax after a fun-filled summer day.
* Loaded with health benefits. You already know salads are an easy, scrumptious way to satisfy your recommended vegetable intake, but did you know they can also be your path to numerous other nutritional benefits? Adding spinach to your salad, for instance, has been proven to support your need for vitamins A and K, which help your bones and your vision. Meanwhile, romaine lettuce has been shown to lower the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, and arugula can reduce the chance you'll get diabetes.
* New tastes every single day. Even if you don't consider yourself the creative type in the kitchen, you can still enjoy the limitless options that salads present. The web is loaded with unique salad recipes, allowing you to sample a tasty combination you may have never tried before. For example, you can start your summer salad stretch with this inventive Island Coconut Shrimp Salad.
Island Coconut Shrimp Salad
1/2 of 18-ounce package of SeaPak Family Size Jumbo Coconut Shrimp
2 packets orange marmalade sauce (included in coconut shrimp package)
2/3 cup bottled ranch salad dressing
1 package (10 ounces) bagged mixed salad greens (or 1 head of lettuce, chopped)
1 mango, peeled and sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
4 tablespoons macadamia nuts or pecan halves (if desired), chopped
Prepare coconut shrimp according to package directions. In small bowl, whisk together the orange marmalade sauce and salad dressing.
Divide the salad greens, mango slices and diced peppers among 4 serving plates. Evenly top each plate with shrimp.
Pour the salad dressing mixture over each serving of the coconut shrimp salad.
Sprinkle chopped nuts over the salads and serve immediately.