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10 of the Best Summer Vegetables and Cooking Ideas

By Shoshana Pritzker, RD, CDN, CSSD, CISSN

Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RD

Science-Backed

Don’t you just love the summer months? Not only is the sun shining and breeze blowing, the grocery stores and farmer’s markets are bursting with fresh seasonal produce. Healthy summer foods like vegetables are chock full of nutrients and flavor. No matter how you prepare them, summer veggies like bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and corn are a surefire way to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.

 

We’ve rounded up a list of the best summer veggies, what makes them healthy as well as tips and tricks for cooking and preparing them.

 

If you’re a Jenny member, good news: most of these vegetables can be added liberally to your plan! Just make sure to consult your coach for the best results.


What vegetables are freshest over the summer?

1. Beets

This gorgeous pink root vegetable sometimes gets the short end of the popularity stick. Beets are an underrated, nutritious summer vegetable that are low in calories, and packed with valuable vitamins and minerals. Plus, beets are a natural source of nitrates, and when consumed regularly, may help reduce blood pressure and in turn, potentially reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.1 The best way to cook raw beets is to roast them in foil packets. This method helps concentrate the sweet flavors while maintaining the beets’ moisture.

 

What seasonings work best with beets? Basil, caraway, coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, garlic, marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary and tarragon.

How to Make Roasted Beets

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Using large pieces of aluminum foil, cover a baking sheet with foil hanging over the edge of the pan to create a pocket.
  • Cut off the ends of the beets, and scrub clean if dirty.
  • Lay the beets on the aluminum foil and spray with nonstick olive oil spray, and then season with salt and pepper.
  • Fold up the sides of the aluminum foil and fold over to create a large pocket.
  • Bake until fork-tender, 40 to 60 minutes, and allow to cool in the foil packets. Beets are done when a fork pierces the outside easily. When the beets are cool to the touch, peel off the skins and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

2. Bell peppers

Red, orange, yellow or green — which color bell pepper do you prefer? Truth is, the only difference between bell peppers is the sweetness, with red being the sweetest. All bell peppers start off green, the longer you leave them on the stem, the more their colors and sweetness will change. Bell peppers can be eaten raw or cooked. They’re loaded with vitamin A, which is an essential vitamin for eye health.

 

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Did you know?

One cup of chopped red bell pepper contains almost 3 times the amount of vitamin C of an orange!2

 

 

The easiest way to slice a bell pepper is to first cut off the tops and bottoms of your bell peppers. Then make one vertical slice down the side and open it up. Peel out the core and seeds. Then slice along the flesh removing any remaining ribs. From there, keep the pepper skin side down for easier slicing. At this point you can slice, dice, or chop — whatever you like.

 

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Healthy Summer Snack Tip: try cutting bell peppers in the shape of a chip, then using them to scoop up your favorite nutritious dips like tzatziki, salsa, guacamole, hummus or baba ghanoush.

 

3. Celery

With less than 10 calories per stalk, celery is the ultimate diet-friendly food.3 Not only is celery low in calories, but it’s also a great source of anti-inflammatory antioxidants and compounds that support digestion and reduce inflammation.4 In addition, celery contains a multitude of minerals including calcium, sodium, copper, magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium; as well as vitamins A, C, D, E and K, and important B vitamins including riboflavin, folic acid and vitamin B12.

 

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Pro Tip: Did your celery go limp while waiting to be used in the fridge? Give celery new life by cutting and storing upright in a container partially filled with water in the fridge. The celery will soak up the water and firm up in no time.

 

Grown-Up Ants on a Log Recipe

Spread low-fat or fat-free cream cheese on celery slices, and then top with sliced olives, cherry tomatoes, grapes or blueberries. Bonus: sprinkle with flavor enhancers such as Everything Bagel seasoning, ground flaxseeds, hemp seeds or sesame seeds.

4. Corn

This starchy veggie sometimes gets a bad rap, but the fact of the matter is, corn is a nutritious, delicious, and versatile hot weather vegetable that’s the perfect addition to any summer spread. It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals, and though corn is high in carbs, just one cup of yellow corn kernels contains 4.6 grams of fiber.5

 

Easy Corn on the Cob Recipe

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  • Add ears of corn to the boiling water.
  • When the water returns to a boil, set the timer for 5 minutes.
  • Drain and serve.

 

Mexican Street Corn Recipe

  • Preheat a grill.
  • Grill corn on each side, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine ¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon garlic salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  • Remove corn from the grill and brush with the mayonnaise mixture.
  • Serve warm.

5. Eggplant

Part of the nightshade family, eggplants are another nutrient-dense, low-calorie summer fruit (that’s considered a vegetable). With only 35 calories per cup and nearly 3 grams of fiber,6 it’s the perfect addition to your weight management routine. Their deep purple vibrant color means they’re rich in anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that protect cells against damaging free radicals.7

 

What seasonings work best with eggplant? Basil, curry, garlic, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme.

 

Bigger is not always better when it comes to eggplant. The more seeds there are, the more bitter the eggplant. Pick smaller eggplants and be sure to salt the eggplant or remove the seeds before cooking to reduce any bitterness.

6.  Green Beans

Did you know green beans actually are an excellent source of calcium, helping to build and maintain strong bones?8 Plus, one cup of raw green beans has only 31 calories and almost 3 grams of fiber, while cooked green beans have 4 grams of fiber.8,9 On top of that, much of the fiber is soluble, which may help lower bad cholesterol and improve total cholesterol levels boosting heart health.10 They’re also a great source of vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin C, A, K, and manganese.8

 

What seasonings work best with green beans? Basil, dill, Herbes de Provence, garlic, nutmeg, oregano, pepper, rosemary, savory and thyme.

 

If using frozen green beans, cook them in a small amount of water for the least amount of time necessary to avoid any loss in nutrients during the cooking process. And fresh green beans should be refrigerated and used within one week. Keep it simple; try tossing steamed green beans with balsamic vinegar and cherry tomatoes, or slice them and add them to a salad.

7. Okra

Maybe not the most popular vegetable in the bunch, Okra is often underrated. It’s super high in fiber, helping you to stay fuller for longer, cuts cravings, and aids digestion. The easiest way to cook okra is on the stovetop.

 

Learn more about the benefits of fiber and weight loss.

 

How to cook okra

Simply place Okra in a saucepan; add enough water to cover the okra and season with salt. Bring to a boil; cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until the okra is tender. Drain and serve.

8. Summer Squash

Most commonly yellow in color, summer squash is often the lesser sibling to zucchini. Yellow squash is just as delicious and nutritious as its green counterpart — it’s fabulous roasted, grilled, raw or even spiralized. Plus, an entire medium yellow squash contains only 38 calories, 8 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber.11 Yellow squash is a great source of vitamins including vitamin C, A, and B, as well as beta-carotene, lutein, calcium and iron.

 

What seasonings work best with summer squash? Basil, chives, coriander, dill, marjoram, oregano, pepper and rosemary.

 

How to cook summer squash

Cut yellow squash in rounds, wedges or fries. Spread on a baking sheet, then spray with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with a small amount of Parmesan cheese. Roast or air-fry until tender and crispy.

 

9. Tomatoes

A member of the nightshade family, tomatoes are a powerhouse of nutrition, containing vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, potassium, vitamin K and folate.12 They’re also an excellent source of the antioxidant compounds lycopene and beta-carotene, which have both been shown to potentially improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.13 Lycopene is highest in tomato products – think ketchup, tomato juice, tomato paste and tomato sauces.

 

This juicy and sweet fruit (that’s considered a vegetable) can be eaten raw or cooked. Include in your favorite salad, dice and make into tomato sauce for a pasta dish or enjoy cherry tomatoes for a tasty afternoon snack! If you pick a tomato too soon, don’t fret – simply place it in direct sunlight and watch the colors change as it ripens.

 

10. Zucchini

Also a summer squash, zucchini is the perfect addition to any nutritious meal plan because it’s low in calories and super versatile. One cup of cooked zucchini has only 17 calories, 3 grams of carbs and 1 gram of sugar.14 It contains 40% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, making it ideal to support eye health and the immune system. Zucchini can be eaten raw, grilled, roasted, used in baked goods and even makes a delicious low-carb swap for noodles in pasta or lasagna.

 

What seasonings work best with zucchini? Basil, garlic, Herbes de Provence, oregano, parsley, smoked paprika, and tarragon

 

Zucchini Pizza Bites

  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Line a baking pan with foil or parchment and set aside.
  • Slice zucchini in ¼ inch thick rounds.
  • Arrange the zucchini rounds on the prepared baking pan.
  • Top each zucchini slice with about a teaspoon of tomato sauce; then top with a sprinkle of part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese and some chopped basil.
  • Bake for 4-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and zucchini is tender.

How to store summer veggies

Stocking up on summer veggies from the local farmer's market or even your own backyard is a seasonal pastime. But storing them in the fridge is simply too cold to keep them at their peak. Instead, maintain their flavor and help fresh produce last a little longer with these quick tips:

 

  1. Keep the stem on. This helps keep bacteria out and freshness in.
  2. Don’t wash produce until you’re ready to use them.
  3. Store ripe peppers, summer squash, and green beans in the fridge. For best results, wrap them in a paper towel and put them in a plastic perforated bag.
  4. Store ripe tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, and okra in a cool, humid place — think the garage, basement, or north-facing room out of direct sunlight.
  5. If you have a separate, spare fridge or mini-fridge, set it to 50°F, an ideal temperature for storing most summer vegetables.

How to cook summer veggies

When it comes to cooking summer vegetables, grilling and roasting are probably the easiest and most flavorful ways to do so. Simply toss the sliced veggies in a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and your favorite seasonings while the grill or oven heats up (anywhere from 350 to 450°F works best). Then grill or roast until tender, flipping once halfway through. Depending upon the thickness of your vegetable slices, it will take anywhere from 3-8 minutes per side until done. Store cooked vegetables in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-7 days.

 

Did we miss any of your favorite summer vegetables? Leave us a comment below. If you want to incorporate more vegetables in your diet and lose weight this summer, Jenny Craig can help! With our most effective program ever, Rapid Results Max, you can lose up to 17 pounds in your first 4 weeks!^ Learn more about Rapid Results Max.

^First 4 weeks only. Average weight loss in study was 13 lbs. for those who completed the program.

 

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Sources:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6316347/

[2] https://chicagohealthonline.com/12-foods-with-more-vitamin-c-than-oranges/

[3] https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/nutrition-information-raw-vegetables

[4] https://www.livescience.com/50640-celery-nutrition.html

[5] https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169349/nutrients

[6] https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169229/nutrients

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10962130/

[8] https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169961/nutrients

[9] https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169141/nutrients

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566984/

[11] https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103378/nutrients

[12] https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/321360/nutrients

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5974099/

[14] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/zucchini-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2

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Contributors

Shoshana Pritzker, RD, CDN, CSSD, CISSN

By Shoshana Pritzker, RD, CDN, CSSD, CISSN

Shoshana is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Sports Nutritionist in private practice based on Long Island, New York. With over 15 years in the health, nutrition and fitness fields, Shoshana has worked with brands including Nature’s Bounty Company, Joy Bauer “The Today Show Dietitian,” Oxygen Magazine, and others. Shoshana’s nutrition philosophy includes the mantra that “all foods fit,” making room for a healthy balance while building a healthy relationship with food. In her spare time, you’ll find Shoshana sharing tips and tricks for feeding her two toddlers, while trying to manage it all — from the meltdowns to the messes to the kisses and the hugs.

Favorite healthy snack: Greek yogurt topped with fruit, granola and yogurt almonds
Briana Rodriquez, RD

Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RD

Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.

Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)

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I love beets but I am not sure how much I can have. I am on the RR Max, vegetarian menu. I would love to add a sliced beet into my salads with other free and fresh veggies but beets are not on that list.  
Francesca

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17 minutes ago, Chesca said:

I love beets but I am not sure how much I can have. I am on the RR Max, vegetarian menu. I would love to add a sliced beet into my salads with other free and fresh veggies but beets are not on that list.  
Francesca

Hi Francesca,

 

Thank you for your comment! If you're on Rapid Results Max, our registered dietitian recommends sticking to 1/4 cup of beets. 1 cup of beets would count as a starch. Let us know if you have any other questions. Have a great day!

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