Summer is a time when friends and family gather outside to enjoy good food and good company. But no one ever wants to show up to a barbeque empty-handed! If you’re not in charge of the grill, it can be tough to know what food to bring to share. Keep reading for some ideas about how to make some delicious summer sides that will be the star of your next cookout!
Focus on Fruits and Veggies
Summertime brings lots of yummy fruits and vegetables—and it’s a great time to eat them raw, since it’s already hot outside! MyPlate dietary guidelines recommend that half our plate be made up of fruits and vegetables at each meal. Fruits and vegetables contain lots of fiber, which helps keep our digestive system healthy—and improves our health overall. It also helps us feel fuller for a longer period of time.
Fruits and vegetables are also especially great to eat in the summer because they contain lots of water. Hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables help our bodies function properly, since we need lots of water to stay healthy.
Side dishes are a great opportunity to get more fruits and veggies on our plates. Dishes with lots of fruits and vegetables are typically very simple to make. And try mixing and matching your fruits and veggies in one dish! Fruits and vegetables have different flavor profiles, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be eaten together. Adding both fruits and vegetables to the same dish often adds depth of flavor and texture.
Keep reading for some recipes heavy on the fruit and veg that would be perfect for your next barbeque!
Go For the Rainbow
So you’ve got half your plate full with fruits and vegetables. Great! Now take a look at what colors are on your plate. Do you have broccoli, spinach, and asparagus? Those are all delicious vegetables, but they’re all green! It’s important not only to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, but also to eat a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables. In our plant-based foods, each color indicates that that food contains certain phytochemicals—plant compounds (or chemicals) that are beneficial to our health. That means that each color is associated with different health benefits. So if we have a variety of colors on our plate, we know that we are receiving a variety of health benefits from our fruits and vegetables. When you’re making summer side dishes, challenge yourself to see how many colors you can get in your dish! Doing so will add both flavor and nutritional value.
It’s All About the Seasonings
Herbs and spices are a great way to “dress up” your fruits and vegetables without adding calories or fat. Two dishes can have essentially the same fruits or vegetables in them but taste completely different if they’re seasoned differently! Try different spice combinations to see what you like. Buying spices in bulk is very cost effective. You can also buy spice blends—such as taco seasoning, Italian seasoning, or curry powder—that already contain multiple spices to save money and add flavor.
Spices are also a key ingredient in homemade salad dressings. Many store-bought salad dressings are high in sodium and fat, and we often use much more salad dressing than is recommended as the serving size. Making your own salad dressings is an easy way to avoid this extra fat and sodium in your diet. You can use low-fat ingredients to keep fat content low, as well as herbs and spices to add flavor without adding extra salt. For some dressing inspiration, check out our recipes for avocado ranch dressing, balsamic dressing, Caesar dressing, Italian dressing, Ranch dressing, and a basic vinaigrette on our website!
Check out these recipes from the Kitchen that would make perfect dishes to bring to your next cookout!