Sensible summer sides

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Mexican Tortilla Salad with Lime and Jalapeno

When the weather allows, having a barbecue is part of the summer schedule for many local families. The warmer weather and the longer evenings draw us outdoors to enjoy all that summer has to offer. Today I would like to discuss how to add a little more nutrition to your barbecue meal. In particular, let’s talk about side dishes!

A lot of the time, the protein portion of the meal takes centre stage. A barbecue is usually no exception. When someone asks “what are you cooking on the barbecue tonight?” the answer rarely includes what the side dish while be. The side dish to your evening barbecue, however, has the ability to top up your fruit and vegetable intake for the day.

We are very fortunate here in Nova Scotia to have access to fantastic produce that is grown close to where we live. However, although many of us are aware that we should eat more fruit and vegetables, research shows we just are not getting enough. While it’s OK to occasionally indulge in summertime favourite side dishes of potato salad or Caesar salad, attempt to reach for lighter dishes that that are packed with produce – especially if you barbecue a few times a week! Read on for some tips on healthier side dish options and incorporating fruits and vegetables into your meal when cooking on the grill this summer. 

  • Keep it simple: raw sliced vegetable such as cucumber, peppers or carrots are a perfectly acceptable accompaniment to any meal. Everyone loves to dip! Use hummus, tzatziki or salad dressing to add flavour to your vegetables. And for the barbecue chef – while you are grilling, grab a handful of carrots or munch on an apple
  • Corn on the cob can easily be cooked right on the grill or quickly boiled on the stove top (or side burner of your barbecue). If you like to add butter (which most of us do), use a brush rather than a knife to spread it, as your butter will go further this way. 
  • Other vegetables that work great on the grill include asparagus, peppers, and slices of zucchini or eggplant. Lightly brush them with your favourite cooking oil.
  • If hamburgers are on your menu, consider adding a slice of avocado. The creamy texture can replace mayonnaise and add some heart-healthy fat to your meal.
  • Let your produce take centre stage! Consider an entrée size salad and slice your lean meat on top. 
  • Look for new salad recipes. Consider making your salad the night before. When you arrive home from work, toss the dressing and let it sit while you barbecue the protein. There are lots of great summer salad recipes to choose from at
  • Finish your meal with slices of watermelon or a fruit salad. A favourite of mine is to cook down some rhubarb and strawberries and stir the sauce in to plain Greek yogurt. 

Stop by the New Glasgow Atlantic Superstore and speak to registered dietitian Terry Jordan.  You will often see her at her booth in the produce section teaching customers how to incorporate fruit and vegetables, and the benefits to be gained from doing so. Oftentimes, we just need a little inspiration to get started!

Today’s recipe would be a great addition to a backyard barbecue or potluck. Crispy tortilla strips are a nice twist on the usual crouton. They stay crisp a surprisingly long time, even once tossed in with the salad.

Mexican Tortilla Salad with Lime and Jalapeno

Measure   Ingredient

8 cups (2 L)   shredded romaine lettuce

2/3 cup (150 mL)   julienned sweet yellow pepper

2/3 cup (150 mL)   halved PC Grape Tomatoes

1/2 cup (125 mL)   drained and rinsed canned black beans

1/3 cup (75 mL)   julienned red onion

2 tbsp (25 mL)   seeded and minced jalapeno pepper

Half   ripe avocado, diced

1/4 cup (50 mL)   PC Blue Menu Omega Oil

2-½ tbsp (32 mL)   fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp (2 mL)   salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL)   freshly ground black pepper

1-¼ cups (300 mL)   PC Tortilla Strips Salad Topper – Chili Lime

2/3 cup (150  mL)   chopped fresh coriander

  1. In large bowl, combine romaine, yellow pepper, grape tomatoes, black beans, red onion, jalapeno and avocado. Gently toss together until mixed. Drizzle with oil and lime juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss again. Add tortilla strips and coriander; toss gently and serve immediately.


Makes 9 servings

Per serving: 140 calories, fat 10 g, sodium 220 mg, carbohydrate 11 g, fibre 3 g, protein 2 g 

Recipe source:

Anne Marie Armstrong, BscAHN, PDt is the Senior Manager of the Dietitian Program for Atlantic Superstore.

Have a nutrition question?  Contact me by calling 1-888-225-5295 ext. 632157 or through email at

Organizations: PC Blue Menu Omega Oil

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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