We all know how important it is to eat balanced, healthy meals. Many times, figuring out the protein portion of your meals is easy, but deciding what else to include can be difficult. A serving of chicken, turkey or fish — fresh out of the oven, off the grill or out of the air fryer — makes a great foundation for your meal. The next question is…what do you pair with it? Adding healthy side dishes is a great way to try different flavors, pack in extra nutrition and make your family smile.
Healthy Side Dishes
Consider Whole Grains
Whole grains are packed with vitamins and minerals, fiber, and complex carbohydrates for energy. A diet containing whole grains has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides, a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. A side of whole grain rice, pasta or quinoa is a great meal addition.
Rice and Lentil Salad
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- 1 (15 oz.) can lentils, rinsed, or 1 1/3 cups cooked lentils
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Whisk oil, vinegar, shallot, mustard, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add rice, lentils, carrots and parsley. Stir to combine.
Pack in Some Produce
It’s always a great idea to add a serving of fruit or vegetables to your plate. Each serving is packed with fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Produce is low in calories but filled with nutrients, making it a great option for side dishes when you are trying to manage your weight.
Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Minted Yogurt
- Cooking spray
- 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets, about 6 cups
- 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
- 1 1/2 Tsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. curry powder
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, toss cauliflower florets, drained chickpeas, olive oil, curry powder, salt and pepper. Spread mixture on the baking sheet. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until cauliflower and chickpeas are golden brown.
Meanwhile, mix together the yogurt, mint, sugar and lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, divide yogurt and spread on the bottom of each plate. Top with roasted cauliflower and chickpeas.
Dive into Dairy
Don’t overlook the value of dairy in your meal. A serving of yogurt, cheese or milk provides protein, calcium and vitamin D. Incorporate dairy into your dishes by melting cheese on top of your protein, using yogurt to make dressings and sauces, or drinking milk with your meals.
Vanilla Berry Parfaits
- 2 (8 oz.) containers vanilla yogurt
- 1 (10 oz.) package frozen mixed berries
- 2 Tbsp. crushed graham crackers
- 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
Cover the bottoms of two small glasses with a layer of yogurt. Cover layer with berries. Repeat until both glasses are full, ending with a fruit layer. Sprinkle with graham crackers and nutmeg.
Now it’s your turn. Experiment with your side dishes and get creative!