Salsa–A Great Summer Food

I am a huge fan of salsa. It’s fresh, full of flavor, contains lots of healthy vegetables, and is usually pretty low in calories. Summer is a great time to use different salsas in grilling, as sauces and dips or even as vegetable side dishes.

Last spring I did a blog post on a healthy Black Bean Salsa (click the link) that is one of my favorites. I love this recipe because it tastes great, incorporates a good balance of healthy carbohydrates, protein and fat, is packed with nutrients, and is very versatile. This salsa makes a great side dish when grilling, can be used as a type of salad, works great for a snack, or can even make a main meal if served over brown rice or rolled up in a whole wheat tortilla.
I also really enjoy making my own tomato salsa. It is very easy to do and can be healthier than buying ready-made salsas, as you can use fresh, wholesome ingredients and reduce the amount of sodium used in the recipe. To make your own salsa, just quarter a few fresh, ripe tomatoes and place them in a food processor. Then add 1/2 of a purple onion, a few cloves of garlic, some fresh lime juice, some fresh cilantro and a pinch of salt. I like to add a bit of cumin to give my salsa a more smoky flavor. If you like some heat to your salsa, you can add a fresh chopped jalapeno pepper or a pinch of cayenne or chilli powder. Ancho chilli powder is another spice I like to use in salsa, as this gives a really nice smoky flavor without adding a lot of heat.
Just blend all the ingredients together, and it’s done. If you like your salsa less chunky and more smooth, blend for a longer time until you get the consistency you want.
Salsas can be used as dips for various foods like raw vegetables, whole grain crackers, or whole grain tortilla chips. For a healthier tortilla chip, try making your own. Just cut some corn tortillas into triangles, place on a baking sheet, and bake in the oven until crisp. You can brush a little olive or canola oil on top before baking, if desired.
Salsas can make great sauces for grilled fish, steak, burgers or chicken. Adding salsa to these dishes is a good way to boost the flavor and nutritional content of your meal without adding a lot of calories. You can also replace your salad dressing with salsa for a healthier, lower-calorie option. Salsas are also a great way to add vegetables to classical Mexican dishes like tacos, burritos and fajitas.
So try adding salsas to some of your favorite summer grills, salads or snacks. It’s a great way to sneak in those vegetables and boost the nutritional value of your food!
Rachel Andrew MPH, RD, CD