The end of summer can mean long, sweltering afternoons and balmy evenings perfect for grilling outdoors, catching fireflies, and walking barefoot on recently cut grass. Even if the kids are back in school and work seems busy as ever, Labor Day weekend is the perfect time to savor some time with loved ones outside.
Our roundup of low-glycemic recipes for the last days of summer includes brilliant produce-heavy salads, grilled proteins, and desserts sweetened with fruit or sugar alternatives that shouldn’t spike your glucose. These recipes make the most of the bounty of summer produce but—more importantly—are easy to prepare so you can kick back, eat well, and soak up the final hazy days of summer.
The vibrant red, orange, and pops of green of this julienned no-cook salad could win accolades as the prettiest, simplest summer salad. Beets, the star ingredient, pack potassium, folate, vitamin C, iron, and fiber; their earthy, mild flavor is brightened with sweet carrots, creamy pepitas, tart lemon juice, sharp and tangy balsamic vinegar, and grassy parsley in this raw vegan salad by Maria Ushakova, a holistic nutritionist.
High in protein (13 grams for 1 cup), millet is a slow-release carb with a low glycemic index score. This Mediterranean salad from Food by Maria combines typical isle-by-the-sea ingredients like pine nuts, crumbled feta, capers, fresh basil and dill, chickpeas, and artichoke hearts, but adds a spicy pop from pickled jalapenos. This plant-based salad packs a ton of fiber-rich goodies into one bowl, proving that eating whole grains doesn’t need to be bland.
If you haven’t tried grilled romaine lettuce, prepare to have your tastebuds blown. The char and smoke from the grill add more interest to regular romaine. Toss any veggies you’d like on the grill to top your charred romaine, but make our Avocado Cilantro Lime Dressing as is to drizzle on top. The tangy, tart, sweet, creamy, grassy flavors of the dressing accentuate the smoky flavors of the grilled vegetable salad beautifully.
If you have a leftover cooked salmon filet or even a can of wild salmon, this fresh, quick, and crowd-pleasing salad from Primavera Kitchen can come together in minutes. The base uses green and red chopped raw veggies like cucumbers, tomatoes, red bell peppers, avocado, lettuce, red onions, and parsley tossed simply with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice as a bed for flaked salmon.
As substantial as a salad can get, this classic cobb salad from Natasha’s Kitchen doesn’t drown the greens in ranch or blue cheese dressing. Rather, she uses a mustard-enhanced balsamic vinaigrette as a way to enhance, but not overpower, the unctuous flavors of hardboiled egg, crumbled bacon, blue cheese, and sliced avocado.
Another satiating salad topped with tuna, this salad bursts with contrasting flavors and textures. It originated from Nice, a sun-dappled city that hugs the Cote d’Azur, and the ingredients exemplify the mild Mediterranean climate there. Bursting tomatoes, creamy baby potatoes, snappy green beans, and briny olives are scattered on a bed of butter or bibb lettuce with salty flaked tuna and hardboiled eggs. The Modern Proper’s version of Nicoise salad adds cucumber and basil. Omit the potatoes if they tend to raise your glucose.
Fresh summertime berries need little adornment, but this mixed berry salad from Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen adds a scattering of bracing, slightly anise-flavored mint, and the juice and zest of a lime. These small enhancements make all of the berries taste like the ripest versions of themselves. Omit the suggested stevia if it doesn’t agree with your stomach—you might find that the berries don’t need any extra sweetness.
Seasoned with a homemade steak rub without sugar, this grilled steak recipe by Iowa Girl Eats starts with punchy seasoning, continues with a grill-kissed sear, and concludes with a slather of herb-and-garlic flavored butter. Our only suggested change is to swap the vegetable oil in this recipe with avocado or olive oil. If you don’t eat dairy, either omit the butter or try ghee (clarified butter that’s very low in lactose).
Our low-glycemic chicken marinade uses coconut milk, fresh garlic and ginger to keep skinless, boneless chicken thighs moist while cooking on the grill. Make a large batch of these grilled chicken thighs for leftovers; they make fabulous protein-rich additions to salads, whole grain bowls, collard green wraps, or egg-wrapped burritos.
If you aren’t familiar with the popular West Coast burger haven In-N-Out, the cult classic double double is two beef burger patties with melted American cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and fry sauce. This copycat recipe from Cast Iron Keto is a keto-friendly version of the famous one that uses no-sugar ketchup and no bun. It’s made in a cast-iron skillet but could also be cooked on an outdoor grill. Try to use high-quality mayonnaise made with avocado or olive oil and no added sugar.
This seven-ingredient grilled white fish recipe by A Couple Cooks uses an easy-to-follow method for grilling fish without drying it out. You may want to oil the grill grates with avocado or olive oil (either spray directly on grill grates or add to a clean kitchen towel and wipe over the grates) before you heat the grill to make sure the delicate fish doesn’t stick.
For a vegan-friendly protein, this grilled tempeh recipe from Kathy’s Vegan Kitchen uses a homemade steak sauce marinade to flavor the fermented soybean. While soy can cause some people’s glucose to rise, tempeh does have a low glycemic score.
The end of summer means peaches are in season and their honeyed aroma and blush-colored flesh add beauty and sweet sun-ripened flavor to this keto-ized cobbler recipe by Sweet as Honey. This peach cobbler recipe uses erythritol, a sweetener that did not increase glucose or insulin in healthy participants in this study.
The Big Man’s World’s sugar-free vanilla ice cream uses an unexpected ingredient: vodka! Arman says it’s a dairy-free way to make the keto ice cream (made with coconut milk) creamy and scoopable. If you’ve ever tried any commercially made keto ice creams, you’ll know that scoopability is a neglected quality.
Little can beat sun-ripened summer strawberries. This sugar-free strawberry popsicle recipe from Live Eat Learn uses three ingredients to make these family-friendly frozen treats. Sweetened with monk fruit and only 15 calories per pop, keep this recipe template in mind and use them throughout the year with seasonally available fruit or frozen berries.
If Indian summer is digging its heels in, turn to no-bake desserts when you want a treat beyond fresh fruit. These keto-friendly key lime pie bars by The Roasted Root will satisfy any sweet-tart itch. Made with a grain-free crust and sugar alternative, these bars shouldn’t raise your glucose and are best eaten cold.