Fresh summer produce is shown in a wooden bin. Broccoli, squash, zucchini, tomatoes and carrots are shown.
The abundance of fresh summer produce at local markets should be all the reason you need to conjure up healthy meals the whole family can enjoy. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

With summer upon us, it’s time to start enjoying all those bright, fresh fruits and vegetables at the local farm markets and grocery stores.

Making dinner at this time of year can be especially fun if you’re inspired by the many interesting flavors that satisfy taste buds, all without delivering empty calories.

It is possible to eat healthy without sacrificing flavor or comfort.

For me, cooking is a way to de-stress, to let my mind wander as I prepare my family’s favorites—made with pasta, lemon, grilled chicken and anything with berries.

I love planning meals and heading out to shop at my favorite farm market, then back home to chop, sauté and mix it all together with my favorite key ingredients.

Lemon pasta

I want to share a dish I frequently make with the variation of the season: lemon pasta.

It fulfills the basics of the Mediterranean diet—whole grains, vegetables, lemon, olive oil as a healthy fat, parmesan cheese as a source of calcium and then chicken as a side.

My kids love it. You can easily double or triple its size for a crowd and it’s even good cold at a picnic or in lunches.

Lemon pasta is easy to make:

  • Brown rice pasta (spirals or bow-tie)
  • Green vegetable of choice (asparagus, broccoli, peas, pea-pods, edamame or green beans)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • 6-8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, zested and then squeezed for juice
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
  • Cooked chicken, grilled or roasted

Directions: Heat salted water to boiling, add green vegetables and cook just four to five minutes, then ladle the bright-green veggies into a large serving bowl, add pasta to still-boiling water and cook to desired texture.

Drain and rinse with cold water and place in bowl with vegetables. In a separate sauce pan, heat olive oil and add lemon zest and garlic, cook until fragrant (three to five minutes) on medium heat. Then add pine nuts and pour over noodle mix. Squeeze lemon for juice over noodles and mix. Add salt to taste. Add chunks of cooked chicken or serve on the side.

The dish is easy, inexpensive and it can be made in advance. It has everything for a satisfying dinner in one bowl.

A splash of sweet

Adding something sweet to a meal introduces flavor and fun.

Berries are always a healthy option.

I have a favorite way to spice up seasonal berries, with strawberries as a main ingredient.

I want to share a simple recipe I found in a cookbook: Add crystallized ginger to strawberries in the food processor and add a small amount of orange juice to balance the flavors and make a sauce. Then pour the mixture over a portion of fresh berries.

It’s full of good nutrients, including vitamin C and antioxidants.

The plant-focused diet is a way to lower cholesterol, control blood sugar and reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

A diet high in antioxidants can lower your risk of developing cancer and a high-fiber diet can reduce your risk of colon cancer.

Women and men alike are stressed and busy, so it makes sense that most people would want an easy fix or a magic pill.

But there is one magic solution that works: Master the basics of a healthy lifestyle.

Planning and cooking a meal such as lemon garlic pasta and berries with ginger sauce is a great way to slow the world, if only for a short time. You get to employ multiple senses—sight, smell, taste—to provide a healthy meal for your whole family.

It provides healthy fiber, many vitamins and minerals, healthy complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fats. It has antioxidants and it’s low in sugar.

Most of all, it’s a shining example of how to make dinnertime something that everyone at the table can look forward to.