7 Healthy Sides for Summer Meals

Caprese Panzanella 1

In summer, you often want to eat lighter meals. This translates into lighter sides, as well. Here are seven suggestions for light side dishes to serve with the main event at your dinner table or barbecue this summer.


Five Bean Salad

This classic side dish uses canned beans and vinaigrette to create a healthy and filling salad. Garbanzo beans, green beans, yellow wax beans, kidney beans, lima beans, and onion are tossed with oil and vinegar, some sugar, and a few spices that vary according to each family recipe. This dish is loaded with protein and fiber, is light yet filling and will keep you feeling satisfied for a long time. Also, since it is dairy-free, it will keep well unrefrigerated for an afternoon party.

Pasta Salad with Pesto Dressing

Pasta salad is another tradition, usually made with steamed, chopped vegetables, olives, and a mayonnaise-based dressing. To lighten it up a bit, replace that heavy dressing with some bright, fresh basil pesto. Pesto is best-prepared fresh before using. Start with two cups of basil leaves, one-quarter cup of pine nuts, one-quarter cup of parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil. Grind it up in your food processor, adding more oil until you have made a saucy consistency then toss it with your noodles and vegetables.

Beet and Avocado Salad

For a beautiful, mild-tasting salad, try pairing beets and avocados. This salad is best in early spring when your local beets are young and at their sweetest. Beets, either the usual red variety or lovely golden beets, are root veggies with a firm texture and a lovely, sweet taste. Avocado is creamy and mild, the richest vegetable out there. Dress with a tangy, sweet sauce like champagne vinaigrette. If using red beets, be careful what they touch as their bright red juices will stain everything.


Caprese Salad

This Italian salad is simple and delicious, and can be served as a side or a main hot weather meal. It consists of sliced ripe plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil arranged in alternating layers and dressed with high-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season well with salt and pepper, and add dried Italian seasoning if you want a little more Mediterranean flavor. This salad is fresh and filling, especially when served with a crusty peasant loaf for soaking up the leftover oil and vinegar.

Zucchini and Onion with Parmesan

As gardeners know, your zucchini crop can easily take over your table in the summertime, so it’s a good idea to have a few go-to zucchini dishes in your repertoire. This dish pairs fried onions, seared zucchini, and parmesan cheese for a side that adds up to far more than the sum of its components. Comforting and silky with delicious salt and nuttiness from the parmesan and depth from the browned onions, this dish is amazing served on its own or on top of pasta to make a main dish out of it.

Grilled Veggie Skewers

We’ve all had bad experiences with bland grilled veggies. Some are well suited to grilling with a little olive oil and nothing else, like asparagus. With other veggies, the trick to a tasty veggie kebab is in the marinade. Vegetables like zucchini, yellow summer squash, new potatoes, and mushrooms benefit enormously from a soak in something tasty before skewering them and tossing them on the grill. For the marinade, think salad dressing. You can actually use your favorite bottled dressing, or whip something up yourself for a unique flavor. Vinaigrettes and mustard-based dressings are particularly good.

Corn on the Cob

So simple, yet there are so many variations. Corn on the cob can be boiled, steamed, grilled, or microwaved. It can then be treated with a number of different toppings depending on your mood. You can keep it simple with butter and salt. You can add parmesan cheese for some funky goodness. You can use vegan mayonnaise from HamptonCreek Foods, or heat things up with chili powder. There are as many different ways to eat corn on the cob as there are people on Earth, but one thing is true across the board – how much fun it is to eat.

Keeping your side dishes light and healthy will leave you with plenty of energy for the rest of the day. Try one of these sides with dinner tonight, and maybe you will find a new favorite to add to your meal rotation.


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3 Responses

  1. suituapui says:

    Longing for summer, eh? I hear it is very very cold this winter. Brrrrr!!!!!

  2. GiGi Eats says:

    Grilled veggie skewers are certainly MY go – to! 🙂

  3. mjskitchen says:

    These are some great sides! We’re starting to pick tomatoes, so a caprese is already scheduled for tomorrow night. The grilled vegetables is a great idea and something I haven’t done in a very long time. Thanks!

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