Warm (and hot) days are ahead.  Cool, refreshing, summer salads are the perfect answer for a cool kitchen and picnic eats. Let’s talk about lettuce, the ‘bed” of the green salad.

The most common lettuce types are loose leaf (green and red), romaine, crisp (iceberg) and butterhead (bibb and Boston).  However, arugula, spinach and spring mix are also healthy salad greens easily found in today’s markets.

What nutritional benefits could ever be found in a veggie that’s over 90% water? 

Nutrient-wise, lettuce can offer significant amounts of certain vitamins (folate, A, K) and antioxidants (anthocyanins, carotenoids, lutein). Important to recognize, though, that not all lettuces are created equal. An easy rule-of-thumb: the darker the lettuce, the more nutritional value.

Check out the nutritional value of your favorite salad greens at https://lettuceinfo.org/lettuce-nutrition. Notice the nutrient values are in 1 cup portions.  The official serving size of salad greens is an easily met 2 cups.

Importantly, salad greens are an easy way to meet the MIND approach’s encouragement to include a leafy green vegetable every day. 

Lettuce safety at the farm level is occasionally in the news. The consumer, though, is responsible for practicing safe lettuce handling at home.  Check out the YouTube videos available at https://lettuceinfo.org/lettuce-safety for kitchen safety tips.

Pre-washed salad greens are an awesome timesaver that reduce a common prep barrier to eating more often.  Outside of watching the “Use by” date, spoilage can be managed by opening the lid and “fluffing” the greens.  This lets fresh air get between the leaves. Two other tips: (1) put a paper towel in the package to absorb excess moisture that lends to spoilage, and (2) fluff the greens every time the package is opened.

To make summer green salads more interesting, consider mixing complementary taste sensations and textures: 

  • texture (sunflower seeds, fresh corn kernels, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, chickpeas, shredded red cabbage, fennel)
  • sweet or tart (green apple, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, mandarins)
  • salty (green olives)
  • sour (flavor infused vinegars, fresh lemon juice)
  • flavored infused olive oils (lemon, basil)
  • herbs (mint, parsley, cilantro, basil) 

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:

Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.