Simple Side Dishes

Healthy side dishes round out a nutritious meal.
by Dick Benson

Like many people you try to make healthy meals; but between busy workdays, carting kids around to activities, and doing regular household tasks, a healthy dinner seems impossible to tackle. To prepare an all-around nutritious meal, you need to include healthy side dishes. Off-the-shelf sides like Rice-ARoni, for example, contain nearly half the daily recommended amount of sodium. And cream-sauce pasta dishes can top 25 grams of total fat per serving. Next time you stroll down the supermarket aisle with packaged pastas, rice mixes, and other side dishes, beware of the decision you make. What you gain in convenience you may lose in nutrition.

It can take some effort to find healthier dishes that are both convenient and provide a better nutritional addition to your meal. Our editors found some great options in the local supermarket. Annie’s macaroni and cheese, for instance, is a viable alternative to traditional macaroni and cheese. It’s available in a variety of shapes, and there is even a gluten-free option. Many of these side dishes also include a seasoning packet and use whole-wheat pasta or brown rice instead of the tradtional, processed pasta or white rice. You can add additional flavor to these dishes by adding Mrs. Dash, garlic, or a variety of pepper flakes. You can also integrate a handful of fresh or frozen vegetables a few minutes before the dish is done to add extra fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. You’ll fill up faster and consume fewer calories by eating these veggie-filled side dishes.

Feeling creative? Try inventing your own side dishes! Cook up some brown rice or couscous and save it in the refrigerator. Add seasoning and mixed vegetables and it will pair well with any main course. Another idea for a side dish is to add sautéed veggies, a bit of pesto, and a small can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes to cooked whole-grain pasta or grains. Add a bag of shredded carrots or broccoli-slaw mix with any cooked grain (in addition to rice or pasta, try barley, couscous, wheat berries, or quinoa). Don’t forget to use olive or canola oil instead of butter and skim or one-percent milk instead of whole milk; add flavor by adding balsamic vinegar, basil, pepper, or lemon.

So, don’t make selecting a side dish too complicated. Spend a few minutes reading labels and experiment with your own homemade dishes. And when you find a quick solution that works, share it with us so we can pass it on to our readers!