Clockwise: A refreshing summer juice drink topped with pineapples, vermicelli noodle bowls with fresh vegetables, and a tofu-vegetable sandwich. Photos credit: Tanantha Couilliard.

Summer is here — kind of. It reached 90 degrees a few weeks ago after 200+ days of being below 70 degrees.

Anything that is labeled for outdoor purposes is a big hit — strolling in the park, swimming, and firing up the grill.

Many Seattleites are ready for some fun in the sun, and in traditional Seattle fashion — a perfect opportunity to get healthy. While these activities are summer highlights, they aren’t accessible everyday for everybody. But food is a simple and effective way for everyone to lighten the load and get healthier this summer.

While Asian cuisine is claimed to be healthier than others, it’s Americanization has introduced many ingredients that have increased the salty intake and decreased the nutritional value. But with the right adjustments, you can enjoy healthier Asian food this summer without giving up the flavor.

Here are some ideas to try. Instead of having stir-fry noodles, opt for noodle salad and play with whole wheat noodles. Rather than enjoying meat for a barbeque, try tofu or grilling seasonal vegetables. And opt for fresh juice instead of milk shakes.

A Vietnamese salad with your choice of meat is one of the healthiest of Asian salads. You could even leave out the meat and voila, a vermicelli salad! It’s great with whole wheat soba noodles, too. Cut out oil and add flair to the salad – a little sour, salty, and sweet dressing with a kick of chili garlic sauce compliments well with fresh noodles and vegetables. Roasted peanuts (no chop) add a fun texture and flavor. It’s filling enough that you don’t need to have side dishes. The dressing can also be used as a dipping sauce for fresh rolls. Two birds with one stone — who doesn’t like that?

Fresh rolls, spring rolls, or summer rolls — the name varies by individual creativity — are refreshing and healthy. Aromatic scents of fresh herbs are a secret weapon to cool down on a sunny day. Although the filling has variety, try to add tofu, cooked shrimp, or mushrooms. Your cholesterol level will not call for a doctor’s appointment.

Ken Khoo thinks of cold noodles and Vietnamese spring rolls as an “Asian” summer food. “They are refreshing and good for my body. Sometimes fried food makes me uncomfortable on a hot day”.

Bubble tea is a popular and fun Asian beverage. Ask for soy milk with tea instead of regular whole milk. If Starbucks can offer a soy latte, we should be able to get a soy bubble tea drink!

Another wise way to make Asian food healthier during the summer season and beyond is to utilize local seasonal produce. Grocery shopping at farmers markets in the summer is time well spent in your day. Asian food is flexible enough to allow you to play around with what you have on hand. Grilled eggplant, bell pepper, and zucchini are great for sandwiches. Add dill, lemon, and mayonnaise for a spread. Grill up a bok choy and serve on the side of a marinated miso tofu steak. Having a meatless meal once in a while is a way to excite your appetite.

Asian food is a delectable treat when picnicking or while hiking. They are often less messy than hearty American food, and provide nutrients to support an active lifestyle.

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