Summer on a plate: the best seasonal foods and how to enjoy them

Enjoy in-season foods that are delicious and packed with healthy goodness this summer.

There’s something about summer that lends itself to fresh, healthy eating.

You can load up on fruits, a rainbow of crunchy vegetables, lean fish and meats, and desserts that burst with flavour without expanding your waistline.

“People often see this time of year as an opportunity to get on track with their eating,” dietitian Cindy Shea from Melbourne’s Baker Institute says.

“It’s always a good idea to eat according to the season, and summer is a great time to start.”

Here are some delicious ways to enjoy foods that pack a nutritional punch this summer.

Load up on fruits

The blue colour of blueberries and blackberries, and the reds of raspberries come from disease-fighting antioxidants.

Some studies have linked berries to reduced risk of developing some cancers, inflammation and cardiovascular disease.

Stone fruits are in season, so try apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines and plums.

Tropical fruit is also affordable during summer – think juicy pineapple, mango and melons packed with vitamins C and E that may help lower the risk of cardiovascular problems.

“Fruits also contain dietary fibre that keeps bowel movements regular and help you feel fuller for longer,” Cindy says.

Put two pieces of your favourite fruit in a blender with low-fat yoghurt, milk and ice for a smoothie.

Or add frozen berries or chopped mango to Greek yoghurt and freeze it.

Make fresh fruit kebabs or freeze grapes for a cool summer snack.

Dig in to summer salads

Use your imagination to create some interesting salad combinations, suggests dietitian Margaret Hays from Dietitians Australia.

“The key is to include lots of colours because different-coloured vegetables contain different antioxidants and vitamins,” Margaret says.

For example, capsicums are high in vitamins C, A and B, which support immune function, wound healing and eye health.

Asparagus is high in vitamin K, folate and vitamins A and C, and boosts heart and bone health.

“Make summer salads with spinach, lettuce, capsicum, cucumber, tomatoes and rainbow chard,” Margaret says.

“Grill asparagus on the barbecue and toss that in a salad, too, and add some roasted capsicum and then some ricotta, haloumi or feta.”

Add crunch and some healthy fats with a handful of pistachios or cashews, or sprinkle over hemp, chia or sunflower seeds.

Seeds contain healthy omega-3, which help improve heart and joint health.

Throw a prawn on the barbie

Or a piece of salmon, calamari or whatever is your seafood fancy.

Seafood is a summer barbecue favourite, and contains some great nutrients, says Margaret.

“Fish, seafood and lean meats are low in fat and a good source of protein.”

Oysters are a mouthful of goodness – high in iron, vitamin D and vitamin B12, which is key in forming red blood cells and keeping nerve cells healthy.

Dress up your summer foods

Use low-fat, tasty dressings for seafood, meat and salads.

“Squeeze lemon juice or lime juice over dishes, and add some fresh herbs and olive oil,” Margaret says.

“Or make a dressing using yoghurt or tahini.

“You can also put some orange juice, mustard seeds, olive oil, salt and pepper in a jar, shake it up and it’s ready to pour.”

Enjoy healthy side dishes

Shop-bought side dishes can be high in calories, so make your own.

“You can buy pre-cut coleslaw mix or make potato salad, but add low-fat mayonnaise yourself,” Cindy says.

Corn grilled on the barbecue, or baked tofu with legumes are other healthy sides.

Cook and cool brown rice for a chewy side, or cook wholemeal pasta and toss through roasted vegies.

Get into healthy sweet treats

Summer is the perfect time for healthy sweet treats, such as a fresh fruit platter.

“Roast summer fruits with a drizzle of olive oil, vanilla pods or vanilla essence, some maple syrup or honey, and a sprinkling of brown sugar,” Margaret says.

“Dry roast in the oven for 15 minutes and serve with yoghurt.”

For more healthy eating advice, pick up your free copy of The House of Wellness at your local Chemist Warehouse.

Written by Sarah Marinos.