Here are all the best healthy side dishes to make a complete meal! These easy recipes are colorful, nutritious, and most of all…delicious.
Looking for nutritious side dishes to go with your meal? It’s easy enough to make a main dish: but finding easy sides to accessorize with it can be tricky! In fact, we spent years going the iceberg lettuce plus ranch route. But guess what? There are hundreds of ideas of colorful, wholesome and unique side dish recipes to add nutrients to your plate.
Here are all the best healthy side dishes to add nutrients to your plate! These recipes use colorful vegetables, whole grains and legumes to add good-for-you ingredients: all while being 100% irresistibly tasty. Let’s get to it!
First up in our best healthy side dishes: the ultimate mix of sautéed vegetables! These sauteed vegetables are beautifully colored, bursting with flavor and crisp tender in texture. Bell peppers, onions, carrots and broccoli all contribute nutrients and fiber to the mix. The perfect side dish you’ve never had!
These Brussels sprouts really are next level, and here’s why. They’re impossibly crispy, baked until they’re caramelized and the outside layers flake off into darkened crunchy chips. Then they’re draped in a tangy maple balsamic glaze that heightens the flavors to their peak. Brussels sprouts are a relatively low calorie food packed with fiber and Vitamins K and C.
The ultimate in healthy side dishes? Broccoli! Roasting broccoli makes it come out tender and charred, with a mild , almost sweet flavor. Combine that with garlic and a few spritzes of fresh lemon juice, and wow! The flavor pops in a way you’d never imagine possible with this humble vegetable. Load on the Vitamin C and fiber with this healthy veggie.
Fluffy fiber and protein-packed quinoa is great for healthy side dishes. Here’s our number 1 way of how to season quinoa: just a few simple ingredients transform it from bland to bursting with flavor! Even quinoa haters will will want to take another bite…promise.
Here's one at the top of our healthy side dishes that makes enough for a crowd. The BEST best roasted vegetables! This master recipe for how to roast vegetables results in the most colorful sheet pans that will please even the most veggie-wary eaters. Make it for a crowd as a side, or roast up a few pans and eat off of them all week long. They’re healthy, plant based, vegetarian and gluten-free, and even better: beautiful and delicious!
These vegetables taste like they’ve been roasting under a chicken all day long. While they’re plant based and healthy, they’re bursting with flavor that takes cozy to the next level. These braised veggies are the perfect side dish to any main, with the jewel toned purple onion and orange carrot. Ready to get braising?
Here’s a surprisingly delicious healthy side dish that deserves a spot on your plate: celery salad! This unique salad is so refreshing, you’ll become a convert from the first bite. Crunchy celery pairs perfectly with sweet apple, Parmesan shavings and a tangy vinaigrette. It’s bright, it’s crunchy, it’s hydrating: it works for summer, and it’s perfect in the winter too.
Here’s an easy healthy side dish that all cooks should know: 5 minute cannellini beans! It’s a lifesaver for weeknight cooking, or the perfect solution for adding plant-based protein and fiber into a meal. You’ll be amazed at the flavor you can coax out of one can of beans in just a few minutes.
All hail the sweet potato, king of the healthy side dishes! This tender orange vegetable is super versatile, perfect as crispy fries or quick baked whole. But one of our favorite ways to eat it is simply diced and roasted until caramelized and tender. You'll want to eat the whole pan! Sweet potatoes have lots of vitamin A and are a relatively good source of fiber.
Carrot salad might sound humble, but it’s anything but. Serve this carrot salad to your friends and family, and they’ll be singing your praises! It’s simple and refreshing, featuring strings of carrots doused in a a tangy Mediterranean-style vinaigrette. Just a handful of ingredients and you have a healthy side dish you won’t want to stop eating.
This recipe truly makes the best sauteed mushrooms. They’re tender, juicy, and meaty with a brightness at the finish. Fresh thyme and oregano give an herby punch. Take one bite and you’ll exclaim “Wow!” (Yep, we promise. We did.) This recipe is plant based with not a lick of meat or dairy, but it has the feel of taking a satisfying bite of meat. It also takes only 10 minutes to make. Your healthy side dishes game will reach new heights!
Some foods are classic for a reason. Like frosty vanilla bean ice cream or hot crispy French fries, this classic salad is basic but truly irresistible. Meet the perfect Caesar salad! Yes, you can buy a packaged storebought version with sub-par dressing and soggy croutons. But make all the components at home and it’s a knock out stunner.
There’s no such thing as too many healthy side dish ideas, right? Often we get stuck in the same old salad rut. So here’s a non-standard idea that’s colorful and packed with nutrients: roasted peppers and onions! It’s not rocket science, but it’s something we don’t always think of. The sweetness of the roasted peppers with tender and charred onion is so irresistible, you won’t want each bite to end.
Cabbage might not be the sexiest of all vegetables, but we’re pretty smitten with it over here. Case in point: this perfect sauteed cabbage! It takes just 10 minutes to saute into a tender, savory mess of flavor. Lemon, garlic and black pepper take it to rockstar veggie status. You’ll love this tasty way to prepare cabbage: it makes a healthy side dish for any meal.
This Parmesan roasted cauliflower is so irresistible, you’ll find yourself inhaling bites off the baking sheet before you even sit down to serve it. This roasted cauliflower is baked at high heat the vegetable breaks down into a sweet, caramelized version of itself. If you like, add crunchy Parmesan cheese for a sophisticated, restaurant-style side dish. Cauliflower is a relatively low calorie food that's high in Vitamin C and fiber.
Here’s a salad to impress. It’s everything a classy spinach salad should be, full of texture and flavor contrasts. You’ll barely notice you’re eating this healthy leafy green when it’s covered tangy balsamic vinaigrette. There’s crunchy smoky pecans, almost bacon-like glazed with maple syrup and soy sauce. Add hard boiled eggs or a crisp-tart apple to finish it off.
One of the ultimate healthy side dishes? Greens! Once you start cooking with Tuscan kale, you’ll never go back! This Italian variety of kale has a sweeter, mild flavor and is easier to prepare. Here’s a way to make it taste irresistibly good: saute it with olive oil and smashed garlic cloves for just a few minutes in a hot pan. Kale is full of nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber.
Here's a sophisticated salad that doubles as a healthy side dish: fennel orange salad! It features beautiful juicy oranges, with their vibrant color and citrusy flavor. Add to that a famous pairing: sliced raw fennel, which adds a subtle licorice essence. Throw it over greens with a few garnishes, top with a zingy homemade citrus vinaigrette, and wow! It’s one of the most unexpectedly delicious salads you'll have.
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and chard are some of the best vegetables you can eat. But Swiss chard is an underrated player in the game, right? Here it is done up Italian style as a healthy side dish that will impress! The toasted pine nuts add a nutty essence, and a hint of Parmesan cheese give just the right savory note.
Last up in our healthy side dishes: peas! But not like you've ever had them before. You can transform a bag of these frozen green spheres into an easy side dish that everyone around the table will love. The secret? A little olive oil, butter, garlic and lemon. That’s it! The Italian-style flavors transform a boring bag of peas into something beautifully delicious and fresh. In fact: they’re hard to stop eating!
Looking for more sides?
We’ve got lots more ideas for wholesome sides to complete your meals! Here are a few more collections of ideas:
35 Easy Side Dishes Some of our easiest side dishes! While each of these recipes are simple to prepare, some are faster than others.
Toss the vegetables in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the oregano, kosher salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper.
In large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes until tender and lightly charred, stirring occasionally. Taste and add a few pinches of additional salt to taste. Serve immediately.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.