Side dishes are often the best part of a big meal. When you think of barbecues in the summer or Thanksgiving in the fall, not only the main meal has to be great, but also the sides everyone shows up for. Oh, and the pie!
Keeping side dishes healthy can be tricky because they are often cooked in a puddle of oil or slathered in a creamy dressing. Or have random and unhealthy ingredients casually tossed in - like you can say marshmallows on the sweet potato?
Here is a list of 31 healthy side dishes, including mac and cheese! Because it’s possible to cook a calorific dish but take it down a notch and create a healthier version.
Arguably one of the best side dishes in the entire universe, this recipe from Chick-Fil-A takes delicious mac and cheese and reduces the calorie content to make it a healthy choice. It comes together in about 30 minutes, which is anyway quicker than heading out to Chick-Fil-A! Don’t be tempted to sub out any spices here, or you’ll miss out on the true copycat taste.
Three Bean Salad is such a simple yet nutritious side dish. Just toss fresh green beans, kidney beans, and cannelloni beans into a bowl and drizzle with the tangy balsamic vinaigrette. It pairs well with grilled meat or a burger.
Not all healthy side dishes have to be green salads! The Broccoli Salad recipe uses broccoli as the main vegetable, adding to the crunch even more by throwing in sliced almonds. It is mixed with a yummy dressing comprising Greek yogurt, lemon juice, honey, and seasoning.
Pasta salads aren’t always the healthiest choice for a side dish, but this combines lots of vegetables to boost the nutrition levels. The creamy dressing uses Greek yogurt to keep it healthy, with plenty of flavor from the garlic cloves, feta, and chili.
Roasted vegetables are pretty tasty on their own. But sometimes it’s nice to change up the seasoning a bit. For those autumnal evenings when squashes are in abundance, cube up butternut and try out this recipe. It uses chili powder and cayenne pepper; combined with brown sugar and cinnamon to give a sweet and spicy kick.
Baked potatoes are a standard and crowd-pleasing side dish. If you feel more adventurous than just adding a dollop of butter, this recipe has to inspire you. Loaded with low-calorie and fat-free ingredients, it is pretty healthy too.
In addition to a metric ton of corn, this recipe calls for feta and bacon bits to boost the flavors tasted in this salad. Perfect on the side of a BBQ or even on the side of something low-key like a simple sandwich.
Finally, a healthy mashed potato recipe! Not just any recipe either but a herby, garlicky, cheesy one. It uses a low-fast herb and garlic cream cheese for the delicious flavor and 1% milk, bringing the calorie content of this dish way down from your regular mashed potatoes.
The cucumber usually takes a side character of a salad, but here it’s given the starring role. It doesn’t disappoint by bringing a cool, refreshing crunch; to the dish. Slathered in an equally refreshing Greek yogurt, lemon, and dill dressing.
Side dishes are just for vegetables, but starched fruit can also be a side dish! Think of a light sandwich or wrap for lunch with a crisp yet sweet fruit salad on the side. Yum! The watermelon chunks are paired delightfully with berries and topped with fresh mint and lemon.
Inspired by the flavor of spinach and artichoke dip, this pasta side dish is tasty enough for a filling lunch. The creaminess of the dip is taken down a notch calorie-wise by using Greek yogurt and low-fat or fat-free mayo and sour cream. There are still plenty of flavors though, especially with the tossed-in shredded parmesan cheese.
Think of the flavors of deviled eggs with pasta, without all the unnecessary calories. Of course, the Dijon mustard and paprika are present, giving the expected taste. It’s transformed into a healthy side dish by using fat-free sour cream and Greek yogurt rather than their full-fat counterparts. Sometimes it can be as simple as trading out full-fat for fat-free to make it healthy.
When ‘cheesy’ is in the recipe title, you might write it off as being unhealthy or loaded with fat. However, keep in mind that sometimes you only need a bit of cheese to give it that epic taste. The main base of this dish is cauliflower rice with only one cup of reduced-fat cheddar, keeping it within the healthy eating perimeters.
A little parmesan goes a long way, making it a perfect cheese for healthy eating, bursting with flavor in small amounts. The key to this recipe for keeping it healthy is to make your ranch dressing at home. The store-bought stuff is oh-so-good but oh-so-loaded-with-calories.
A simple and exceedingly healthy side dish option is Roasted Vegetables. The wonderful part is that you can easily roast whatever vegetables you need to use up, ideally including some root vegetables. This will be a basic recipe, so mix some seasoning too.
Making full-on roast potatoes can seem excessive for a simple side, and they are also loaded with fat when roasted in a tray of oil. These mini roasties are a much tastier and healthier alternative. Cut the potatoes into cubes, coat them with the garlic/parmesan mixture, and roast them in some olive oil. Delicious!
If you’re looking for a side dish that’s like an appetizer, rather than a potato, pasta, or salad dish; check out these sausage balls. For followers of Weight Watchers, two of these balls are only three points. Pretty good for an uber-tasty sausage side.
This side dish is a good choice when you want something with a bit more substance. The taco seasoning is delicious, and the ground turkey gives a huge dose of protein for a side dish. The leftovers can be used for lunch the next day too.
While it’s tempting to just slather a baked potato in spinach and artichoke dip, that wouldn’t be healthy. Making something at home almost immediately reduces the calories, but this recipe has been tweaked to avoid the unnecessary fat from all the cream in store-bought versions.
Holidays can be hard when you’re trying to stick to a healthy eating plan. Thanksgiving, in particular, is difficult because it’s all about food loaded with calories! Cornbread is one side you can whip up and know with confidence that you’re not going to pile on the pounds.
Potato wedges are delicious, yes! But when you still want potatoes but something a bit different way, Parmesan Garlic Bacon Potato Patties is a great recipe to try. Lots of flavors come from the parmesan and garlic, making them feel more indulgent than they are. They work brilliantly instead of hash browns for breakfast too!
Usually, you’d expect a casserole recipe to be a main dish, but this one works much better as a side. While delicious, probably best eaten in smaller quantities due to the richness of its flavor. It’s also a great side dish to serve during the holidays at Thanksgiving or Christmas, and know you’ve got at least one dish that’s not overly calorific.
This is a delightful pasta salad that works well as a potluck addition to a summer BBQ. The sauce looks creamy, but low-fat versions of everything keep the healthiness in check. The leftovers are perfect for a quick lunch the next day too.
Another awesome side dish to take to a potluck event, and a bonus is that it’s super simple to make. Greek salads are bursting with flavor but tend to have minimal ingredients. Usually, if you have olives, feta, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes, you’re good to go!
25. Big Mac Salad
What happens when you take a fast-food burger and turn it into a salad? This Big Mac salad happens! It takes the basic salad components, the dressing from the burger, and cooked ground beef. Voila, you now have a much healthier version of a Big Mac.
This salsa is delicious on the side of plenty of meals, as well as a big bowl of chips or veggie sticks. For fans of Weight Watchers, it’s zero points because it’s so darn healthy. It’s a fantastic way to add flavor to your meals without adding a bunch of calories.
Apple Yogurt Salad uses apples as the base, a small change from your usual side salad. It’s perfect for the summer months because it’s so refreshing. It doesn’t require any cooking either, so you won’t overheat yourself in the kitchen in the hot weather! The chia seeds and pumpkin seeds are great sources of protein and overall goodness in this recipe.
Derby City Chicken Salad is a lightened-up version of the chicken salad you’d find at your deli counter. It can be served on the side of many sides, like baked potatoes and at BBQs but also works with crackers and flatbreads.
A dip is so good that it can be used as a side dish. Yup, this is it. This recipe is a copycat of the recipe you can buy at Trader Joe’s but uses much healthier ingredients. It can be served with burgers or with tortilla chips or pitas.
Do you know how devasting it is when you spend hours cooking a huge Christmas dinner, and your kids only eat the bread? Well, this recipe is a super fun way of giving the kids what they want and healthy enough for the adults to have a piece or two on the side!
Instead of eating fats from Red Lobster, whipping up a batch of these biscuits at home will ensure you don’t break your healthy eating mantra! The flavor is so good, and the ingredients are so much better. Using light butter, low-fat cheese, and reduced-fat buttermilk will make a huge difference, and you can enjoy delicious food without guilt.
31 Healthy Side Dishes
- Chick-Fil-A Mac and Cheese (Copycat)
- Three Bean Salad
- Broccoli Salad
- Zesty Corn Pasta Salad
- Sweet & Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash
- Jalapeno Loaded Baked Potato
- Sweet Corn Salad
- Herb & Garlic Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
- Creamy Cucumber Salad
- Watermelon Berry Salad
- Spinach & Artichoke Pasta
- Deviled Egg Pasta Salad
- Cheesy Cauliflower Bake
- Parmesan Bacon Ranch Potato Salad
- Roasted Vegetables
- Roasted Garlic Parmesan Potatoes
- Sausage Stuffing Bites
- Turkey Taco Pasta Salad
- Spinach & Artichoke Loaded Potato
- Cornbread Stuffing
- Parmesan Garlic Bacon Potato Patties
- Creamy Cheese Corn Casserole
- Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Salad
- Greek Chicken Salad Bowls
- Big Mac Salad
- Roasted Poblano Salsa
- Apple Yogurt Salad
- Derby City Chicken Salad
- Hot Buffalo Chicken Dip
- Pull Apart Christmas Tree Cheesy Bread
- Garlic Cheddar Biscuits
- Choose your favorite recipe.
- Click the link of your favorite recipe.
- Follow the instructions of the linked recipe.