Power Your Summer Fun with Plants

Sharon Palmer, RD Curried Tofu Papaya Wraps Curried Tofu Papaya Wraps

While summer weather keeps you moving and motivated, let your food keep you fueled, energized, and feeling great all summer long!

Stay Fueled, Energized, and Feeling Good

With the summertime season now in full swing, you may be spending your days hiking with friends, playing games with your kids at the park, going for bike rides with your family, or soaking up the sun on the beach or at the swimming pool. While it may be the weather that keeps you moving and motivated in the summer, food should be able to keep you fueled, energized, and feeling good the whole season through.

Turn to Plant Foods First

That’s why I encourage people to turn to plant foods first. Plants offer so many benefits in terms of long-term health, including reduced risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure levels, healthy body weight, and protection from cancer. Simply put, a diet diverse in a variety of plant foods offers you the best eating strategy for your health. Yet, when we think of some of our most iconic “American summer foods," hamburgers or hot dogs on white buns, blackened chicken, 8 ounce steaks, and baked potatoes with butter and sour cream come to mind. It’s easy to see that we have a ways to go.

It's About What You CAN Eat

Shifting our plates to plant foods first can be such a good thing. When you plan your meals around plant foods – such as a rainbow of delicious fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds – the sky’s the limit. A plant-powered diet is about what you can eat rather than what you can’t!

3 Simple Ways to Turn to Plant Foods

During this summertime season, here are three simple ways to turn to plant foods first.

  1. Pack whole grain salads for picnics - Whole grain salads are a wonderful way to pack all the nutritious components of a well-balanced meal in one bowl. Combine your favorite whole grain, such as brown rice, quinoa, farro, or bulgur with your favorite summertime fruits, such as plums, peaches, and berries, and vegetables, such as kale, greens, bell peppers and cucumbers, and top with your favorite toasted nuts and seeds. 
  2. Take a healthier spin on your favorite sides - Love potato salad? Rather than dousing nutrient-rich potatoes in mayonnaise, try a lighter version by mixing your potatoes with herbs, vinegar and a little olive oil. Are French fries your weakness? Make your own sweet potato fries. Their sweet, earthy flavors and gorgeous sunny-orange shade making the perfect pairing for just about any meal. Look to the wide variety of recipe resources online for healthier spins on the classic less-than-healthy versions.
  3. Use the grill for dessert - When fruit is heated the natural sugars caramelize resulting in a super-sweet and healthy treat! Grilled peaches pair well with basil. Grilled pineapple is delicious topped with balsamic vinegar. Even warmed berries can be delicious dessert atop soy yogurt.

Here’s a simple, delicious recipe to fuel your active lifestyle this summer.

Curried Tofu Papaya Wraps 

Active preparation time: 18 minutes

Total preparation time: 48 minutes (including chilling time)

Servings: Makes 6 servings (one 9-inch wrap each)

Now this is what I call healthy, delicious eating on the run! Filled with a colorful, flavorful tofu, papaya, and coconut filling, this wrap is a delicious treat as an appetizer or for lunch. Stock up on powerful nutrients, such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, fiber, and protein in this meal-in-one. 


½ cup (119 g) canned light coconut milk (well mixed before measured)

1½ teaspoons Thai red curry paste

½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 medium garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce

Pinch of cayenne pepper (see Notes)

One 12-ounce (340 g) package extra firm tofu, drained and cubed (pressed, for best results—see page 000)

1 medium papaya, peeled and diced

½ cup (48 g) chopped green onions, white and green parts

¼ cup (15 g) chopped fresh cilantro

Pinch of sea salt, optional

Six 9-inch (23 cm) whole grain tortillas or wraps 

3 cups (102 g) fresh watercress, or baby salad greens, if unavailable


  1. Mix together the coconut milk, curry paste, ginger, garlic, turmeric, soy sauce, and cayenne in a mixing bowl until smooth. 
  2. Fold in the tofu, papaya, green onions, and cilantro. Taste and season with sea salt, if desired. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or overnight, if desired).
  3. Place one tortilla on a cutting board. Spread ½ cup of the tofu mixture down the center of the tortilla in a row. Top with ½ cup of the watercress.
  4. Fold the right side of the tortilla over the center and start to wrap tightly, pressing in as you wrap. Place the wrap on a serving dish seam side down. 
  5. Serve as a whole wrap for an individual meal (cut in half for easier eating), or slice into thin pinwheels for an appetizer. 


Adjust the spiciness of the wraps by increasing the cayenne pepper.  

Store the curried tofu wraps in plastic wrap or in an airtight container as a perfect lunch to go. 

If you won’t be consuming all of the wraps at one time, reserve the filling in an airtight container in the refrigerator and prepare the wraps no more than four hours before serving time to prevent the greens from wilting and the wrap from getting soggy. 

Variation: If papaya is not available, substitute 1 large mango or 2 large peaches. 

Nutrition Information

Per Serving: 213 calories, 10 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 5 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 256 mg sodium

Star Nutrients: folate (10% DV), vitamin C (80% DV), vitamin A (30% DV), calcium (19% DV), iron (14% DV), magnesium (10% DV), niacin (11% DV), phosphorus (21% DV), thiamin (17% DV), zinc (10% DV)

From Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipes - Copyright © 2014 Sharon Palmer

Sharon Palmer, R.D.

Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™ is a writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 850 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Today’s Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Blog. Her specific expertise is in plant-based nutrition, including Mediterranean, vegetarian and vegan diets. Her second book, Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipes, will be in stores spring of 2014.

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