There are tons of ways to amp up the nutrition of a meal, simply by utilizing the item that's all too often an afterthought—the side dish! And we're not just talking your steamed green beans. It's easy to get a hearty dose of nutrients when you use a variety of different grains and veggies for the side dishes that accompany your entree.
But we know that having a side dish that's full of flavor and kicking with color is half the battle. We've curated a little of ideas that will jazz up your meal, help you feel fuller so you don't go back for seconds, and—most importantly—are nutritious. Find your new favorites below and then see which proteins you should be pairing with these sides with The 20 Best Proteins For a Flat Belly!
CILANTRO LIME GRILLED CORN SALAD
Nutrition: 112 calories, 1.5 g fat (.9 g saturated), 172 mg sodium, 24.3 g carbs, 1.6 g fiber, 4.4 g sugar, 3.5 g protein
Organic corn is a great source of fiber, magnesium, and B vitamins. This recipe is super simple and easy to compose for your next plate. Corn is not only the staple to many gluten-free foods but also provides the body with antioxidant phytonutrients like beta-carotene. If there's any left over, you can even save for using in a salad, burger, or quinoa bowl for the next day.
Get the recipe from Nutritionish in The Kitch.
Nutrition: 109 calories, 3.7 g fat (.5 g saturated), 298 mg sodium, 20.5 g carbs, 3.5 g fiber, 3.99 g sugar, 1.8 g protein (calculated with 1 tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp salt)
It takes just three ingredients to make these sweet and savory squash fries that are bold in flavor and bright in color. After you get one taste of these crunchy sticks, you'll understand the addiction! Fortunately, since squash is low in fat and delivers a great amount of nutrients, you can indulge in several more than those belly-bloating restaurant fries.
Get the recipe from Elana's Pantry .
ROASTED GARLIC CAULIFLOWER
Nutrition: 123 calories, 10.1 g fat (8.5 g saturated), 74 mg sodium, 6.9 g carbs, 2.9 g fiber, 2.8 g sugar, 3.8 g protein
Not only is the smell of roasting garlic amazing but the taste is utterly irresistible as well. This cauliflower is baked in coconut oil and garlic before being lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and topped with fresh Parmesan. The side dish comes together with strong flavors that won't overpower your main meal. Let the cauliflower brown nicely before taking it out of the oven to get even more of that well-loved flavor!
Get the recipe from Damn Delicious.
MEDITERRANEAN QUINOA SALAD
Nutrition: 217 calories, 14.7 g fat (1.9 g saturated), 13 mg sodium, 19.8 g carbs, 6.3 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 4.9 g protein
This recipe is made with the same vegetables that go into a ratatouille: eggplant, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. It's also mixed with quinoa, which gives you an extra dose of complete protein and a real Mediterranean feel. With the flavors so fresh and the bite so bold, it's something you'll definitely want reoccurring on your plate.
Get the recipe from Cookie and Kate.
ROASTED SWEET POTATO AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Nutrition: 120 calories, 8.7 g fat (1.3 g saturated), 314 mg sodium, 10.3 carbs, 2.9 g fiber, 2.7 g sugar, 2.5 g protein
This super-satisfying side dish is baked to perfection and bursting with flavor—not to mention the unbelievable amounts of vitamins that sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts both have. The health benefits of brussels sprouts having long been studied in connection with preventing cancer and providing detox support. A side dish that tastes this great and is good for you? Sign us up!
Get the recipe from The Food Charlatan.
GINGER MISO SOUP
Nutrition: 123 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 922 mg sodium, 19.7 g carbs, 6.9 g fiber, 8.1 g sugar, 11 g protein (calculated with water and 4 tbsp miso paste)
We all see this Japanese staple on just about every sushi menu. But why not try it at home for yourself? Getting a side of soup is a great way to aid weight loss by filling you up without filling you out. Studies show that broth and vegetable based soups have extra health benefits because they curb your appetite, which results in you consuming fewer calories and slows down your eating.
Get the recipe from Vegu Kate.
ASIAN GREEN BEANS
Nutrition: 219 calories, 14 g fat (2 g saturated), 30 mg sodium, 22.1 g carbs, 6.3 g fiber, 5.4 g sugar, 3.8 g protein
We often identify green beans as a boring veggie that's lacking in flavor, but here's a creative Asian twist that makes it a not-so-basic veg. Give this recipe a try; the nutritional benefits of green beans are sure to pay off! They're low in calories and rich in dietary fiber to help with digestion, and these little beans taste oh-so-good when they're stir-fried with some amazing additions.
Get the recipe from Wicked Spatula.
ZUCCHINI AND BALSAMIC REDUCTION
Nutrition: 98 calories, 7.3 g fat (1.1 g saturated), 308 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 1.6 g fiber, 3.3 g sugar, 1.8 g protein (calculated with 1/2 tsp salt)
Balsamic reduction is an easy way to add some sweetness to any veggie without all the excess sugar. When balsamic vinegar is reduced, the consistency becomes more syrup-like and brings out all the natural sugars creating a whole new level of taste. This recipe calls for half a teaspoon of sugar but feel free to leave that out. There's enough sweet flavor that will come straight from the balsamic vinegar itself!
Get the recipe from The Mediterranean Dish.
ROASTED LEMON PARMESAN GARLIC ASPARAGUS
Nutrition: 99 calories, 7.9 g fat (1.6 g saturated), 35 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 2.5 g fiber, 2.4 g sugar, 3.8 g protein
Asparagus is a nutritional powerhouse because it's packed with anti-inflammatory benefits, antioxidants and filled with a nutrient called inulin. Inulin is a "prebiotic" that gets passed undigested into our large intestine and becomes the ideal food source for bacteria that's associated with better nutrient absorption. When asparagus is roasted in tangy lemon, bitey garlic, and savory parmesan, it becomes the ideal side dish to dig into.
Get the recipe from The Recipe Critic.
APPLE CRANBERRY ALMOND COLESLAW
Nutrition: 173 calories, 7.1 g fat (.8 g saturated), 90 mg sodium, 24.9 g carbs, 4.4 g fiber, 18.0 g sugar, 4.2 g protein
Looking for something sweet to pair with your lamb chop or vegan burger? Look no further! This perfectly sweet coleslaw is made with a combination of mayo and Greek yogurt to cut back on the fat and then a touch of honey to give it that added sweetness.
Get the recipe from Cooking Classy.
SWEET POTATO CAULIFLOWER MASH
Nutrition: 174 calories, 1.1 g fat (.5 g saturated), 91 mg sodium, 38 g carbs, 6.9 g fiber, 13.4 g sugar, 4.8 g protein (calculated using unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
There's no denying a side of mashed potatoes—especially when it's a healthy version of it! Instead of using white potatoes, this recipe calls for sweet potato and cauliflower. You'll get that same great texture you're looking for but cut back on the calories and still leave you just as satiated. For more ways to get the all mighty cauliflower into your day, check out 17 Genius Ideas For Cooking With Cauliflower!
Get the recipe from The Fit Fork.
Nutrition: 154 calories, 6.3 g fat (.9 g saturated), 373 mg sodium, 21.2 g carbs, 4.7 g fiber, 1.8 g sugar, 4.5 g protein
This healthy salsa is loaded with vibrant colors and perfectly-balanced flavors. This dish is refreshing and easy to make as the ideal pairing to your meal because the combo of chickpeas and Mediterranean vegetables are a mouthwatering mix. If you love chickpeas, don't miss these 20 Amazing, Surprising Ways to Eat Chickpeas!
Get the recipe from Chef Savvy.
BALSAMIC GLAZED ROASTED BEETS
Nutrition: 142 calories, 7.3 g fat (1 g saturated), 408 mg sodium, 18.5 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 15 g sugar, 2.5 g protein
Beets are best known for their deep color but also have a rich flavor and a natural sweetness when they're cooked. The addition of balsamic enhances the tastes and helps make this one delicious side dish because the beets are tender but hearty.
Get the recipe from Once Upon a Chef.
ASIAN BROCCOLI SALAD WITH PEANUT SAUCE
Nutrition: 177 calories, 12.1 g fat (1.8 g fat), 167 mg sodium, 10.9g carbs, 3.4 g fiber, 4.9 g sugar, 8.7 g protein
In my opinion, you can top anything with peanut butter and instantly get a dish to die for— but this Asian broccoli salad is on a whole 'nother level. The ingredients are simple and fresh without requiring a ton of prepping. Broccoli has anti-inflammatory properties because one of its main compounds, isothiocyanates, which suppresses the signals that "rev up" our inflammatory response. So, we're suggesting you listen the next time you hear someone say, "Eat your broccoli!"
Get the recipe from Gimme Some Oven.
GRILLED EGGPLANT TOMATO FETA SALAD
Nutrition: 194 calories, 6.5 g fat (1.4 g saturated), 125 g sodium, 33.8 g carbs, 19.8 g fiber, 17.3 g sugar, 6.5 g protein
Prepare yourself for a rewarding flavor with this recipe! The main ingredients are tomatoes, which are loaded with alpha-tomatine, a phytonutrient that's shown to alter metabolic activity and has a direct correlation to fighting prostate cancer. When combined with the meaty eggplant and smooth feta, you wind up with this healthy side dish—and some very happy taste buds!
Get the recipe from Kalyns Kitchen.
BAKED ZUCCHINI FRIES
Nutrition: 125 calories, 1.7 g fat (0 g saturated), 238 mg sodium, 22.2 g carbs, 5.6 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 6.6 g protein (calculated with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and 3 slices of Ezekiel bread)
Why eat those deep fried, oil-filled fries from the fast-food joint when you can make a healthy version that tastes even better? These zucchini fries are coated in Ezekiel bread, a bread that is made of organic, sprouted whole grains and (unlike most breads sold at the supermarket) contains absolutely no sugar.
Get the recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie.
CAULIFLOWER FRIED RICE
Nutrition: 213 calories, 11.5 g fat (1.7 g saturated), 545 mg sodium, 17.7 g carbs, 6.7 g fiber, 5.3 g sugar, 12.6 g protein
Cauliflower is one of the best things since sliced bread. With the abundant amount of healthy food personalities that this little veg can take on, there's no shortage of sides that can be made with it. This cauliflower fried rice is just like the local takeout spots, minus all the extra sodium and MSG. If you're looking to lower your sodium intake even more, just cut back on the salt and use less soy sauce. It still takes just as great and won't leave you overstuffed!
Get the recipe from Pinch of Yum.
Nutrition: 153 calories, 6.9 g fat (1.1 g saturated), 306 mg sodium, 21.2 g carbs, 2.4 g fiber, 1.9 g sugar, 3.9 g protein
Tabbouleh is a traditional Arabian vegetarian dish that is perfect for pairing with your entree and is made with bulgur wheat, a whole grain that's rich in fiber but low in fat and calories. This fresh side is one that's sure to please dinner companions while complimenting your main dish's protein.
Get the recipe from Averie Cooks.
SUN DRIED TOMATO BASIL ARANCINI
Nutrition: 186 calories, 10.8 g fat, 1.8 g saturated, 280 mg sodium, 18 g carbs, 1.7 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 3 g protein (calculated without marinara sauce)
Arancini is traditionally a dish of stuffed, rich balls that are coated with breadcrumbs and then fried. But you can skip that nasty excess grease and belly bloating starch by replacing it with cauliflower rice. These balls are tender-yet-crispy and have the perfect crunch. Dip them in your favorite marinara sauce or even a yogurt-based dip!
Get the recipe from Minimalist Baker.
SMASHED RED POTATO AND LEEKS
Nutrition: 187 calories, 4.2 g fat (.6 g saturated), 30 mg sodium, 34.6 g carbs, 3.8 g fiber, 4.2 g sugar, 4.5 protein
Not your average potatoes here! This hearty and simple side dish is sure to be a perfect side dish to accompany your protein. No butter is used and you can opt to use your choice of milk. It packs in a ton of flavor and will bring back some of those childhood memories without leaving you ready for naptime.
Get the recipe from Oh My Veggies.
White Bean Caprese Salad
Nutrition: 142 calories, 4.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 127 mg sodium, 18 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 8 g protein
Second to raw oats in terms of highest resistant starch contents, white beans (also known as cannellini beans) are the star in this chilled Caprese salad. It's the perfect dish for the Italian bean, combining cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and a decadent balsamic glaze. This small serving will have you wondering how your stomach is so full on only 142 calories.
Get the recipe from Skinny Taste.
HONEY MAPLE ROASTED CARROTS
Nutrition: 117 calories, 4.1 g fat (0.6 g saturated), 79 mg sodium, 20.3 g carbs, 3.2 g fiber, 12.7 g sugar, 1.3 g protein
Not a big carrot person? Dress them up with this honey maple recipe and don't miss out on all the wholesome benefits.
Get the recipe from The Café Sucré Farine.
GUACAMOLE WITH PISTACHIO
Nutrition: 169 calories, 15 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 94 mg sodium, 9 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 5 g protein
Pistachios are the perfect wholesome ingredient to add to guac. They are an abundant source of protein, fats, and minerals that provide us with energy and antioxidants. Research has shown that diets consisting of pistachios may help lower bad cholesterol and increase the good. It's a simple trick to increase those nutrients in your dip! Love guac? Then don't miss these 20 Guacamole Recipes for the Avocado-Obsessed!
Get the recipe from Healthy Green Kitchen.
Shrimp Summer Rolls
Raw, vitamin-dense veggies pair perfectly with a creamy and spicy peanut-lime dipping sauce. That's because the healthy, monounsaturated fats in the peanut butter which you already know can help protect your heart also help extract fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A, E, and K, which are otherwise trapped in the red peppers, avocado, purple cabbage, mint, and shrimp! Knowing how to pair your food to extract the most nutrients is key to rapid weight loss.
Get the recipe from A Beautiful Plate.
Kale and Squash Salad
Nutrition: 265 calories, 14.7 g fat (2.3 g saturated fat), 57 mg sodium, 30.5 carbs, 3.9 g fiber, 10.1 g sugar, 7.2 g protein
What an array of colors for this hearty side dish! Delicata squash and pomegranate seeds give this dish a bright, sunset-like hue, and this dish is another wonderful way to get your fix of beta-carotene. Meanwhile, the pomegranate has some powerful properties worth mentioning, too. Not only does it have plentiful antioxidants, it also helps fight against Alzheimer's disease. A polyphenol called punicalagin is the anti-inflammatory agent in the fruit that vanquishes traces of plaque that accumulates in the brain cells. For more great salad ideas, check out our list of 30 Salad Recipes for Weight Loss.
Get the recipe from Oh My Veggies.
GRAPEFRUIT AVOCADO AND SHRIMP SALAD
Nutrition: 393 calories, 17.9 g fat (3.4 g saturated), 109 mg sodium, 44.7 g carbs. 4.4 g fiber, 2.5 g sugar, 14.2 g protein
Take avocados and grapefruits waist-whittling effects go one step further with the almighty shrimp.When it comes to protein-dense foods, shrimp is the alpha: each gram of meat packs a whopping 25 percent protein. Not to mention it's also an excellent source of antioxidant-rich selenium, which is key to a healthy metabolism and radiant skin. And that's not all. The tiny fish also boasts 80 percent of your daily vitamin B12 quota, which plays a key role in nervous system function and helps your body metabolize proteins and fats.
Get the recipe from The Kitchen Paper.
CRISPY BAKED GREEN BEAN FRIES WITH CREAMY SRIRACHA SAUCE
Nutrition: 93 calories, 2 g fat (1.1 g saturated), 150 mg sodium, 15 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 4 g protein
There's a reason Bey carries around hot sauce in her bag and it probably has something to do with the killer body she is rockin'. It's one of those things that's painfully rewarding (for both your taste buds and body), and ironically, nutrition experts claim reduces overeating. Plus, capsaicin, the compound that gives the fiery sauce it's signature kick, increases body temperature, caloric burn, and reduces appetite. In fact, scientists are currently looking at turning capsaicin into an all-natural anti-obesity supplement for its ability to activate our "good," calorie-burning brown fat stores.
Get the recipe from Joyful Healthy Eats.
COCONUT PINEAPPLE CASHEW RICE
Nutrition: 231 calories, 10.3 g fat (8.7 g saturated), 86 mg sodium, 32.7 g carbs, 2.2 g fiber, 7.1 g sugar, 3.3 g protein
Aside from being a taste bud pleaser, this recipe just might shrink your waist thanks to the slimming benefits of coconut oil. In a short-term study, varying amounts of medium and long chain triglycerides were fed to 6 healthy men. The men eating the most MCTs ate 256 fewer calories per day, on average. After a month that's 7,680 fewer calories—talk about effortless weight loss!
Get the recipe from The Chunky Chef.
GRILLED MEXICAN SWEET CORN
Nutrition: 178 calories, 12.5 g fat (7.8 g saturated), 166 mg sodium, 10.5 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 2.3 g sugars, 7.7 g protein
Bored with the same old corn on the cob? This Mexican version is a waist-whittling, flab blasting belly pleaser.
Get the recipe from The Recipe Critic.
Nutrition: 95 calories, 7.2 g fat (1 g saturated), 7.5 g carbs, 1.9 g fiber, 3.8 g sugar, 2 g protein
Whittle your waist, boost your health and even protect you tatas with these veggie kabobs. In fact, a study printed in the International Journal of Cancer found that participants who consumed 10 grams or more of fresh mushrooms every day were about two-thirds less likely to develop breast cancer than non-mushroom eaters. And women who also consumed with green tea showed an even lower risk!
Get the recipe from Damn Delicious.