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5 Fresh, Simple Summer Salads

Eating fresh, healthy foods is never easier or tastier than in the summer in Tennessee.

Here are 5 simple vegetarian salads that are a snap to make.

shaved zucchini salad

Ribbon salad: shaved zucchini & squash

The only tool you need to create this light and lovely salad is a vegetable peeler.


2 zucchini
2 yellow squash
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced and salted
Your favorite vinaigrette (we like Girard’s Champagne Dressing)

Optional: chopped toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, pine nuts), crumbly cheese (feta), fresh herbs (basil, mint)


  1. Slice the zucchini and squash in half and place flat side down on a cutting board.
  2. Using the vegetable peeler, press down to peel long, thin slices of squash and set aside in a bowl. When you get to a part that’s too seedy or soft to peel, stop there. Discard seeds and pulp.
  3. Toss the ribbons together with the tomatoes and vinaigrette, taste and season, and top with your favorite nut, cheese or herb. Serve immediately.

Squash is low in cholesterol and sodium and is a good source of protein, vitamin A and fiber

marinated tomato cucumber salad

Marinated tomato, onion & cucumber

Many Southerners refer to this salad as “Fire & Ice” because of the mild heat you get from the white or yellow onion and the cooling effect of the cucumbers and tomatoes.


2 tomatoes
1 onion, sliced (Vidalias are best in this because of their sweetness if you can find them)
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper
Italian dressing or vinaigrette (champagne, poppy seed, etc.)

Optional: fresh herbs such as basil, mint or thyme


  1. Slice the tomatoes into rounds. Slice each round into 4 pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Keeping the tomatoes this size ensures they won’t fall apart once dressed.
  2. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl, season and add vinaigrette just to coat.
  3. Chill in the fridge for 15-30 minutes to let the vegetables marinate.

Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease and cancer

fruit salad in bowl on wooden table

Fruit salad with honey citrus dressing

The beauty of this salad is that you can make it with any fruit that looks good at the store or farmers market, and if you have kids, they can help pick which fruits should go in. Suggestions are below, but get creative! The dressing will pull it all together no matter what you choose.


Juice and zest of 1/2 an orange
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 TBSP of honey (more if needed to taste)
Optional: fresh mint, chopped

1 cup of pineapple, chopped
1 cup of honeydew melon, chopped
1 cup of watermelon, chopped
1 cup of mango, chopped
1 cup of strawberries, sliced
1 cup of blackberries


  1. Mix all dressing components together and taste. If you’d like it a little sweeter, add honey.
  2. Dress the salad and serve.

Citrus is an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C

strawberry salad with nuts and cheese

Fresh strawberry, butter lettuce & goat cheese

This salad can be made with any delicate lettuce, or spinach if you prefer. Bibb lettuce is a great substitute if you can’t find butter lettuce, as is mild romaine.


1 head butter lettuce, leaves pulled apart
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
½ cup goat cheese, crumbled
¼ cup pine nuts or pecans
Vinaigrette (champagne or French work well)
½ cup pickled red onions (see below)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 2 TBSP sugar

Optional: fresh basil or mint, chopped; drizzle of balsamic glaze (a thicker kind of syrup that is great to finish salads and especially delicious on caprese salads with olive oil)


  1. Slice 1 large red onion very thin.
  2. Boil all of the ingredients listed under the onion above.
  3. Pour over sliced onions and let cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Toss ½ cup of the onions with the other ingredients and serve.

Use the leftover onions on tacos or burgers, served with dips or spreads and in your next salad recipe. They will keep for several weeks in the fridge.

Strawberries are packed with vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants

kale pecan and apple salad

Kale & candied pecan salad

Kale salads are everywhere, yet few people make them at home. But they’re incredibly easy to make! The trick is to let the kale marinate and break down so it doesn’t taste too grassy or strong.


1 bag of kale, ribs removed and leaves ripped into smaller pieces
½ cup of pickled red onions (see above)
1 green apple, cut into matchsticks
1 cup candied pecans, chopped
     Buy or make these — they are great on salads and keep in the freezer for months
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated or sliced
     To create paper-thin slices, simply use a vegetable peeler to shave the parmesan
1 cup of vinaigrette + more as needed

Optional: roasted beets. Find an easy roasted beet recipe here, as well as another delicious salad idea from Nashville chef Levon Wallace.


  1. Combine all ingredients except pecans and apples. Add dressing, salt and pepper.
  2. Let the salad sit in the fridge for 15 minutes and taste to see if more dressing is needed (the kale may soak up more than you think).
  3. Let sit for at least another 15 minutes.
  4. When you’re ready to serve, add pecans and apples and toss to coat.

Note: This salad gets better with time, so it can be prepared hours and even up to a day in advance. If you are preparing it well in advance, don’t add additional dressing until you’re getting closer to serving time as the leaves may break down on their own.

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.

WellTuned provides inspiration and practical advice for healthy living.
WellTuned does not offer medical advice. Any personal health questions should be addressed to your doctor.

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