The summer season is usually marked by cookouts, beach parties and plenty of good food. Because of COVID-19 precautions, this summer may look a little different. However, most of the people in my life are still looking forward to the yummy food part.

Cookouts can present an interesting blend of healthy and not-so-healthy foods. You might have greasy burgers or high-fat hot dogs in white rolls served beside fresh watermelon or grilled veggies. As such, I like to think that cookouts are a great opportunity to add some new healthy dishes to your family’s diet.

July is also prime farmers’ market season. There is so much fresh produce available this time of year! And so many ways to eat it. Snack on fresh snap peas, munch on just-picked berries, grill peppers and onions, or put together a colorful salad. The variety of fruits and veggies available this time of year pairs perfectly with my desire to serve healthy dishes.

For my own family’s upcoming cookout, I am planning to make one of my favorite summer side dishes, strawberry and cucumber salad. This crisp and colorful salad is topped with a yummy yogurt-based dressing. It comes together quickly and can be served fresh, though I like it best when it has chilled for an hour or two. It keeps for a few days in the fridge, but be aware that the juice from the strawberries will slowly tint the entire dish red. If you’re looking for a nice presentation, I recommend mixing it up fresh.

This salad is delightful to me in so many ways. It brings back memories of strawberry picking when I was a kid. I still enjoy this today! I remember spending lots of time in my Nona’s kitchen, washing and processing the berries to make jam. I also recall growing our own cucumbers in the garden, and the satisfying snap as you twist a ripe cuke off the stem.

This dish is also quite nutritious. Strawberries and cucumbers are both low in calories and sugar. They also provide water. Yes, that's right, you can increase your water intake by eating fruits and veggies like cucumbers, berries, even watermelon! This is a great trick for a hot summer day, or for folks who may find it difficult to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and folate. Our bodies need vitamin C for a strong immune system, folate for energy and fiber to help us stay regular. Plus, they taste great! Cucumbers also provide fiber without excess calories and sugar. They are a good source of vitamin K, which we need in order for our blood to clot properly.

Poppy seeds are particularly high in minerals and B vitamins, nutrients that our bodies use in countless ways. Poppy seeds also provide fiber, protein, and heart-healthy fat.

Finally, the yogurt in this recipe adds calcium and vitamin D for strong bones, and active bacterial cultures for gut health. This salad really packs a nutrition punch!

The recipe below makes six 2/3-cup servings. Each serving provides 50 calories with 1.5 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar and 1 gram of protein. I hope you find the time to try this dish out soon, and that you love it as much as I do!

Strawberry Cucumber Salad

2 tablespoons nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt

4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar

1/4-teaspoon onion powder

1/4-teaspoon prepared mustard

1/4-teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1-1/2 teaspoons oil

3/4-teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)

2 cups strawberries, sliced

2-1/2 cups cucumber, sliced thinly into rounds

Directions: In a small bowl, combine yogurt, vinegar, honey, onion powder, mustard, salt, lemon juice, oil and poppy seeds (if using). Mix well. Gently mix the dressing with the strawberries and cucumbers until evenly coated. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Note: Honey is not recommended for children younger than 1 year old.

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If you’re interested in learning more about healthy cooking that saves you money, check out Facebook @cceniagaracounty or email For more tips and tricks and to find virtual classes, visit . Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, funded by USDA, provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. To find out more, call 1-800-352-8401.

Sarah Martin is an Eat Smart New York nutritionist with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. 

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