Diet Detective: Healthy recipes for summer

Harvest-fresh strawberries star in nutritionist Natalie Jill’s chicken salad.
Harvest-fresh strawberries star in nutritionist Natalie Jill’s chicken salad. Natalie Jill’s 7 Day Jumpstart

Every year I ask the best chefs and cookbook authors to send me their healthiest and tastiest spring recipes.

The requirements are that they use whole ingredients and are low in calories, and, of course, tasty. See what you think.

Charles Platkin, PhD is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of

Black bean burgers with sun-dried tomatoes and cilantro

Black beans make for a hearty vegetarian burger that tastes like a regular burger. Serve on crusty bread or a hamburger bun with spicy mustard, pickles and greens (arugula works nicely).

Makes 4 large or 6 to 8 small burgers

  • Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray, for pan
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  •  3/4 cup panko or breadcrumbs, plus more if needed
  •  1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  •  3/4 teaspoon salt
  •  1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 large eggs
  • Olive oil, if needed to moisten (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and a bit of oil or cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl or food processor, pulse the beans until mostly mashed, while still maintaining some bits of bean.

3. Add all the remaining ingredients except the eggs and olive oil, and taste for seasoning; adjust as necessary. Add the eggs, pulse to combine, and let sit for about15 minutes. During this time the panko will soak up a bit of the moisture. The mixture will be wet but still able to form a patty, similar to ground meat. If the mixture feels dry, add a bit of olive oil to moisten. If too wet, add a bit more panko.

4. Form four patties and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes on each side.

Nutritional information per serving: 271 calories, 3 grams fat, 45 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 108 milligrams cholesterol, 427 milligrams sodium, 12 grams fiber and 10 percent of calories from fat.

Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta, authors of “The Meals to Heal Cookbook: 150 Easy, Nutritionally Balanced Recipes to Nourish You During Your Fight With Cancer” (Da Capo Press, 2016)

Greek chicken burgers with tzatziki sauce

Makes 4 burgers

Tzatziki sauce

  • 1 medium cucumber
  •  1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves


  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves
  •  1/4 cup pitted, chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 whole-wheat pita (pocket) breads (6-inch), cut in half to form 4 pockets
  •  1/2 cup chopped tomato (1 small)

1. Set oven control to broil. Cut 12 slices from cucumber; set aside. Chop enough remaining cucumber to equal  1/2 cup; place in small bowl. Stir in yogurt, onion and mint. Refrigerate until serving time.

2. In large bowl, mix chicken, spinach, olives, cornstarch, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Shape mixture into 4 oval patties,  1/2 -inch thick.

3. Place patties on broiler pan. Broil with tops about 5 inches from heat 10 to 12 minutes, turning once, until thermometer inserted in center of patties reads 165 degrees.

4. Place 1 burger in each pita half. Add tomato and 3 reserved cucumber slices to each pita half. Serve with tzatziki sauce.

Nutritional information for 1 burger: 270 calories, 6 grams fat, 24 grams carbohydrates, 32 grams protein, 70 milligrams cholesterol, 460 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber and 20 percent of calories from fat.

“Betty Crocker’s Fast From-Scratch” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)

Summery chicken salad

This salad is the perfect way to use the chicken from making chicken broth. You’ll love the zing of berry flavor and the crunch of the walnuts, and you’ll want to make more broth just so you can eat this salad again and again! Or, to make things really easy, use the meat from a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, preferably an organic one.

Serves 6

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  •  1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
  •  1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups trimmed fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 cups fresh spring mix
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 cups shredded chicken
  • 2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Prepare the asparagus by breaking off and discarding the tough ends, and cutting the asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and roast in the heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until just crisp. Remove from the oven and let cool.

3. Using a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. In a large salad bowl, combine spinach and spring mix. Toss to combine the salad greens. Add the asparagus, strawberries and chicken. Pour the dressing over all and toss to thoroughly coat all the ingredients.

5. Divide among 4 bowls and sprinkle with toasted nuts.

Nutritional information per serving: 395 calories, 29 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrates, 24 grams protein, 573 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber and 66 percent of calories from fat.

Natalie Jill, author of “Natalie Jill’s 7-Day Jump Start: Unprocess Your Diet With Super Easy Recipes, Lose Up to 5-7 Pounds the First Week!” (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2016)