Lately I have been getting lots of emails about how to mix up side dishes when meal planning. As we continue to focus on healthy eating in the new year, coming up with side dishes can get tricky. We can all only eat plain brown rice and broccoli so many times. So here are some of my favorite ways to mix up your side dishes. What are yours?
- Roasted vegetables: Next time you head to the grocery store, reach for a new veggie and try roasting it. I find that almost all vegetables taste good roasted and it's easy to mix up the flavors by adding different spice blends. In terms of how to roast vegetables, they are surprisingly forgiving and can be roasted at a variety of temperatures ranging from 350-450. The key to roasting vegetables is choosing vegetables that have similar cooking times if you are using more than one. As you might expect, vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, asparagus, or tomatoes roast rather quickly while things like potatoes, turnips, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or hearty squashes take longer. To flavor your veggies, toss with 1 tbsp. oil, salt, pepper, and any spices you like. Store bought spice blends are great for this. Consider trying bok choy, rutabaga, turnips, eggplant, or squash this week for something new and different.
- Whole Grains: It's really easy to always make the same grains each week for sides but today there are so many different options out there, it's easy to mix things up in terms of the actual grain and flavor profile. Consider trying any of these whole grains - brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, farro, or barley that you can buy in the bulk bins. These can be made ahead of time on Sunday to speed up prep midweek. Then flavor them in different ways by adding garlic to the cooking liquid, adding a squeeze of lemon or lime after cooking, and tossing in fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, or basil. Three of my favorite combinations are adding fresh lime juice and cilantro, fresh lemon juice and basil, or orange juice and soy sauce.
- Steamed vegetables: Much like roasted vegetables, steamed vegetables are a quick and easy option, and all it takes is mixing up the veggies you choose. You can take the ultimate shortcut and buy steam ready fresh or frozen veggies. If you want to prepare them at home, use this easy cheat sheet formicrowave steam cooking. Once they are cooked, add dried or fresh herbs to kick up the flavor. Soy sauce or balsamic vinegar also add great flavor.
- Potatoes: Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes make quick and easy sides. You can served them mashed, roasted, baked, or cut into fries. Season them up with your favorite store bought seasoning blends to match the flavors in your meal. I like to mix up potatoes with other starchy vegetable to keep things interesting. Consider roasting your potatoes with butternut squash, mashing them with celery root or cauliflower, or adding onions and peppers to the mix.
- Salads: Green salads are a healthy, low calorie side option that can be made in minutes. Build your salad around whatever fresh vegetables you have and think about including fruit, crumbled cheeses, nuts, or seeds to keep it exciting. Then make a quick homemade vinegar based dressing or use a low sugar store bought dressing.
- What are your favorite sides?
Looking for more side dishes? We have lots of yummy side dish recipes on Slender Kitchen. Meal plan members! Consider saving them to your favorites or recipe queue for quicker meal planning.
Love the idea of meal planning but don’t want to do all the work?
Since I know that many people simply don’t have the time to create their own healthy meal plans, we provide delicious and healthy meal plans at Slender Kitchen that you can customize to meet your needs.
Here are some highlights from this week’s healthy meal plans:
- Slow Cooker Tuscan Turkey Sloppy Joes (with lentils for vegetarian plan)
- Baked Penne with Tomatoes and Spinach
- Creamy Mushroom Spaghetti Squash with Beef (low carb plan)
- Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples
- Chicken and Broccoli Stir-fry
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Quinoa and Cranberries (vegetarian plan)
- Brown Sugar Garlic Chicken Breast
- Tilapia Burgers with Butternut Squash Fries
- Crispy Beef and Cheddar Tacos
- Poblano and Black Bean Tacos (vegetarian plan)
- & more
Each healthy weekly meal plan comes full of delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The meal plans come in regular, vegetarian, and low carb options. All feature complete nutritional information, Weight Watchers SmartPoints, and categorized shopping lists! There are also two bonus fallback recipes weekly and the option for either a complete meal plan or a Dinner Only plan. This includes our interactive meal planning option where you can customize the number of servings for each meal, swap in new recipes if you don't like something, or build your own meal plan from scratch. All that for less the cost of one cup of coffee per month with the yearly plan.