As the temperature dials up and we head into summer, it’s only natural to begin craving anything and everything that feels refreshing: a chilled glass of rosé, a crisp bite of watermelon, a bright herb, tomato, and sweet corn salad. Sure, decadent foods are always welcome no matter the season, but summer calls for all things cool, crunchy, and fresh. A healthy side dish, such as grilled artichokes or broccoli slaw, is often the perfect foil to summer’s richer main dishes like seared steak, barbecued chicken, and juicy burgers. The bounty of available summer ingredients gives ample opportunities for experimenting with all sorts of healthy salads and side dish ideas. Some of these recipes may even steal the spotlight from the main dishes at your next cookout. Read on for 20 healthy side dishes whose fresh flavors are the epitome of summer.
Substituting mashed avocado for oil in this recipe retains moisture but reduces unhealthy fat content. Many cornbread recipes call for vegetable oils, such as canola and sunflower, which contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory (unlike omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory). In addition to being full of healthy fat, avocados are a great source of vitamins E, C, K, magnesium and potassium.
Add shredded broccoli to ramp up the nutritional value and fiber content of a classic Waldorf salad. This recipe calls for half of the usual amount of mayo and uses Greek yogurt in place of it, adding protein and calcium to the salad.
Who knew prunes would be making an appearance at your barbecue? This healthy version of slaw is chock-full of fiber and vitamins K and C. Did you know that one serving of cauliflower contains 77 percent of your daily vitamin C needs? Just another reason to indulge in seconds!
If you are looking for something to go along with your grilled chicken but are over salads, try this twist on classic hummus. This dip, served with cut-up veggies, makes a simple, healthy side dish.
This salad has enough substance that it would make a great main as well as a side dish. If you can’t find pea shoots, try swapping in watercress. Surprisingly, watercress contains protein, with nearly 1 gram per cup! Pea shoots are a good source of beta carotene, vitamin C, folate, and fiber.
Here’s a healthy way to enjoy a classic summer side dish. These beans are sweetened with a combination of stevia, maple syrup, molasses, and orange juice, and pack a hearty punch of fiber, which helps keep blood sugar from spiking.
The tahini and yogurt dressing on this salad is so addictive, it just might eclipse the main dish on your plate. Although it’s available year-round, eggplant is at its peak from July to October.
Grilled artichokes are delicious enough to be the star of any barbecue, but they also make a great accompaniment to grilled lamb and steak. These artichokes are lightly steamed first, which creates a tender texture. They are finished on the grill, which gives them a flavor that is the perfect complement to the lemon butter sauce (which you can serve on the side, if you want to curb the richness).
When you think of classic summer side dishes, corn is the first thing that comes to most people’s minds. Here’s a foolproof recipe for grilled corn that you’ll come back to all summer long.
Grilled cornbread might not sound healthy at first, but with the right proportions, it can be! When used as a garnish, it imparts a lovely crunch to the tomatoes, onions, and basil in this salad.
Eggplant, also known as aubergine, contains important phytonutrients, which can help prevent disease. When grilled, the center becomes sweet and tender, and the crispy edges mix perfectly with cool cucumber and feta cheese.
What could be more summery than mango and avocado? Black beans add protein, and the lime- jalapeño dressing pulls it all together.
No summer cookout would be complete without a pasta salad. This version mixes chopped broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots with whole wheat pasta, and a dash of peanut butter adds flavor while increasing the protein content.
Big, juicy portobello mushrooms are a perfect main dish on their own, but also complement spicy grilled chicken or seared steak. Red wine, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce add bold flavor while keeping the mushrooms healthy.
Couscous salads are great for summer cookouts: They are sturdy and stand up to long hours spent outdoors, and you can add whatever fresh produce and herbs you’ve found in your garden or local farmers market.
Though normally made with corn and lima beans, this succotash recipe has summertime flair. It combines fresh corn kernels with zucchini, poblanos, and red bell pepper.
Jicama is part of the legume family, and originates in Mexico. Its texture is similar to a turnip, but its flavor closely resembles that of an apple, making it the perfect base for this creative slaw.
Peak tomato season is a magical time, and this recipe highlights the tomato in all its sweet, juicy glory. If there ever was an official taste of summer, the tomato would be it.
Watermelons are about 92 percent water, so they are hydrating as well as delicious! Sweet, crunchy watermelon pairs with cool, creamy goat cheese to create a spectacular side dish salad.
If you’re looking for a dish that will pair nicely with heavier mains, try kimchi. It’s both tangy and delicious, and full of gut-friendly probiotics. Kimchi is just one of many natural, healthy foods that contain the good gut bacteria you need without requiring a costly daily supplement.
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