The Importance of Side Dishes to Balanced Eating

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Mmm, zucchiniSide dishes are awesome. Most people don't appreciate these nutrient workhorses of healthful meals, but the right side dish actually involves very little extra prep work for a serious health reward. Of course, choosing the right side dish makes all the difference. For example...

  • Adding a side or two of fruits or vegetables is a great way to ease more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
  • More fruits and vegetables means more nutrients and fiber with fewer empty calories.
  • Throwing a salad together can take only minutes and will help you use up produce before it goes bad.
  • Roasting vegetables doesn't require much hands-on time after you've chopped them, so you can prepare your other dishes while the vegetables cook.

The possibilities are endless and the benefits are huge. By adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, you can seriously improve your health. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,

Delicious, delicious squash"Three reasons support the recommendation for Americans to eat more vegetables and fruits. First, most vegetables and fruits are major contributors of a number of nutrients that are underconsumed in the United States, including folate, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamins A, C, and K. [...] Second, consumption of vegetables and fruits is associated with reduced risk of many chronic diseases.[...] Third, most vegetables and fruits, when prepared without added fats or sugars, are relatively low in calories. Eating them instead of higher calorie foods can help adults and children achieve and maintain a healthy weight."

MyPlate also supports the addition of more fruits and vegetables to the diet, asserting, "Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke [... and] may protect against certain types of cancers.” Plus, fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, which, according to MyPlate, “may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.” Sides are the perfect vehicle for these foods. What could be easier than a plate of sliced veggies and dip, or a tasty side salad?

Potato salad (free of mayonnaise) can be a great side too!If you're looking for fresh new ways to incorporate healthful side dishes into your meals, consider these options...

  • Pack a salad to go with your sandwich at lunch.
  • Pick up (or make) some fresh roasted vegetables.
  • Heat up some vegetable soups. Put them in a travel mug for a quick side dish on the go!
  • Sauté a few vegetables in a bit of broth for a quick and easy side.
  • Steam some broccoli to serve with dinner.
  • Grab an apple or banana and add it to your sack lunch.
  • Roast some apples with your pork for a side dish that requires no extra steps or equipment.

Of course, you can also stay tuned to this blog -- we'll be featuring a quick and tasty side dish tomorrow, and the recipe database is stocked with tons of other options. There's even tons of resources available in the Nutrition Education Store...

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