On a hectic weeknight, it can be easy for even the most experienced home cook to think of vegetables last — an afterthought to a roasted chicken or pan-fried salmon. But whether you’re spending extra time mastering an entrée or simply zapping leftovers in the microwave (pizza included!), a fresh side dish can transform a quick dinner into something seriously memorable. And not all healthy sides need to stop at roasted vegetables. There are plenty of grains that can make a better-for-you bowl feel so much more special, legumes and beans that can make dinner taste quite hearty, and elevated salad ideas that make greens seem like a revelation.
The best side dishes that are satisfying and healthy lean heavily on nutritional powerhouses that are full of fiber, helping you to feel even more satisfied, all while keeping you running until your next meal (or away from a dreaded midnight snack urge). Versatile staples like broccoli and zucchini are perfect options to soak in plenty of pan drippings and sauces, marrying the flavors of your plate du jour while packing in a punch of fiber. And delicate staples, including tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, transform a bowl of greens into a culinary work of art that comes together in just a few minutes (perfectly dressed, of course).
If you’re looking to make a bowl of rice or pasta that you can feel good about, try focusing in on some of the grains featured in these recipes. You’ll want to double down on quinoa, bulgur, or farro; even whole wheat pasta and gluten-free noodles can be smart options. These hearty bases can also play host to a myriad of vegetables that we simply can’t get enough of. Follow along as we share our absolute favorite healthy side dishes that’ll soon become your new weeknight hero.