By: TV Personality & Naturalist David Mizejewski 

When it’s too hot to turn on the oven and you also need to get back on nutrition track after vacation indulgence (I was in Vegas and Tahoe for the last week, where sticking to my food goals was challenging), salads are the way to go.

I’m a gardener and I grow a lot of fresh herbs and vegetables in pots on my DC rowhouse patio and deck, so making salads is easy. Even if you don’t have the space to grow your own produce, or just have a black thumb, there are plenty of farmers markets in the region that you can take advantage of–or you can just pick up fresh stuff from your favorite grocery store.

I have a three-point strategy for making salads that are both delicious and healthy. First, variety is important. Salads can be way more interesting than the bagged mix from the grocery store. Add different kinds of greens, chopped vegetables and fruits, and even fresh herbs. Make it different every time. Second, add protein. I love adding shrimp or chicken breast to my salads for some lean protein. Nuts or marinated tofu are great to add too. Third, be smart about salad dressing. Most dressings are real calorie bombs, specifically fat calories. Choose “good fat” options such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado or yogurt as your base, and add acidity in form of lemon juice or vinegar, which adds tons of flavor without additional calories. Don’t go overboard with dressing. If the rest of your salad ingredients are packed with flavor, you’ll need less dressing.

Here’s what I put together for dinner last night. I started with a base of baby lettuces along with sunflower sprouts and scallions for some crunch and flavor. Then I chopped grape tomatoes, a super-ripe nectarine, and a blood orange for sweetness and citrus tang. I also added roughly torn fresh leaves of mint, dill and parsley and a few nasturtium flowers from my herb garden. The green herbs gave the salad an incredibly fresh flavor boost, and the flowers gave a sharp peppery kick. Then I topped it with chilled shrimp for protein and a dressing made of pureed avocado, Greek yogurt and lemon juice for some healthy fat, more protein, acidity and richness.

In addition to being fresh and packed with nutrients, the salad was beautiful to look at, which was a bonus because we eat with our eyes first. If it looks good, you’re more likely to eat it and enjoy it.

Even though I ate the whole bowl, I stayed within my calorie and nutrient goals. Even better, I was full and satisfied on a hot late spring night.