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20+ Healthy Side Dishes for Summer Potlucks

Don’t you just love summer parties! Most of us do, but so many of my clients fret about their diets. What will they eat? What will they bring?

No fear! Here’s a fabulous collection of healthy side dishes that are a perfect fit for any summer meal, potluck, or cookout.
Healthy Side Dishes Collage with Text
I asked some top registered dietitian nutritionists for their favorite heart-healthy and diabetes-friendly recipes. Since some of you count calories or carbs for blood sugar management, I’m made a few notes when appropriate. Enjoy this collection of healthy side dishes!

 

Wholesome Grain-based Sides:

quinoa salad in a wooden bowl

This red quinoa salad is as delicious as it is nutritious.

Healthy Red Quinoa Tabouli, Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, Food and Nutrition Solutions by Jill (shown above)
Lots of veggies and whole grain goodness. 
Better Pasta Salad, Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD
This recipe combines cottage cheese, feta cheese, legumes, and veggies with whole wheat pasta for a heart-healthy dish.
If you’re a carb counter for diabetes management, trim the serving size back a bit if this recipe has more carbohydrate than your target.
Bean and Barley Salad, Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, Food and Nutrition Solutions by Jill
Both beans and barley help with cholesterol and blood sugar management.
Kale Quinoa Salad with Lemon Ginger Dressing, Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Fiber and phytochemicals make this tasty salad wholesome and diabetes friendly.
Farro Waldorf Salad, Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, Food and Nutrition Solutions by Jill
This modern take on the Waldorf salad packs magnesium, potassium, fiber, fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
Full of veggies & fiber.
Be sure to eat the portion size appropriate for your health goals.
Greek-Inspired Macaroni & Cheese, Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, Food and Nutrition Solutions by Jill
Here’s a healthy take on comfort food. And it’s easy to carry and reheat at any gathering.
Roasted Veggie Quinoa, Judes Scharman, MS, RDN
A heart-healthy option full of color.

Mediterranean Hummus Pasta Salad, Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RD
An array of veggies and a hummus dressing! If you’re managing your weight or diabetes, you may want to trim back the serving size.

 

Get Your Legumes On:

healthy lentil salad with citrus

Think lentils next time you need a healthy side dish recipe.

Triple Orange Lentil Salad, (shown above) Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, Food and Nutrition Solutions by Jill for Food & Nutrition magazine
Lentils rock when it comes to heart health and blood sugar sugar management! And there’s a whopping 12 grams of fiber in this heart-healthy, diabetes-friendly salad. If the total amount of carbohydrate is too high for you, enjoy a 1/2-cup serving.
Black Bean and Corn Salsa, Nicole Stevens, MScFN, RD
Add chopped avocado just before serving for a boost of healthy fats and fiber.
3 Bean Avocado Salad with Lime Dressing, Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN
A protein and fiber-filled, plant-based dish that pairs well with nearly everything. Make it in advance to let the flavors develop. This recipe is moderate in sodium and has a hefty 7 grams of disease-fighting fiber per serving.
Mediterranean Chickpea Salad, Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, Food and Nutrition Solutions by Jill
A Mediterranean diet is a health booster. And these flavors make it an easy diet plan to stick with.
Chickpea Tomato Salad, Rebecca Bitzer, MS, RD, LD
This recipe uses fresh herbs instead of added salt to boost flavor, while keeping sodium levels in check.
Italian Lupini Bean Salad Healthy Side Dishes Recipe
The combination is unexpected, and the pistachios add heart-healthy fats. The sodium in this recipe is a little high, but draining and rinsing the beans will wash away a good bit of the sodium.

 

Love for Veggies & Salads:

Potato Salad with Resistant Starch

Veggie-Packed Potato Salad, Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, Food and Nutrition Solutions by Jill
Cold potatoes contain resistant starch, which doesn’t contribute to blood sugar and is food for your gut bacteria. Plus, you get a larger portion because this potato salad is veggie heavy.
A fun and summer-friendly way to enjoy fresh fruits and veggies.
Hydrating cucumber and crisp apple make for a refreshing summertime side that’s packed with flavor and low in calories. The pumpkin seed oil dressing adds healthy fats and balances out the dish! Make 2-4 servings out of this recipe.
Watermelon Blueberry Feta Salad, Alexandra Marie, RDN
This is a savory take on the usual fruit salad. The lycopene in the watermelon is a heart-healthy carotenoid. Olive oil offers heart-healthy fats and improves lycopene absorption.
Chunky Gazpacho Recipe, Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, Food and Nutrition Solutions by Jill
Few calories, tons of taste and oodles of health-shielding nutrition.
Kale Italia Summer Salad, Jenna Braddock, RDN
This salad gets a fiber boost from the fresh kale, cannellini beans, and sunflower seeds.
Easy Cucumber Salad, Laurel Deininger, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE
This easy cucumber salad uses vinegar and dill to make a refreshing side dish for your summer BBQs. The flavor is reminiscent of dill pickles but without all of the sodium and the overpowering punch. A 1/2-cup serving has only a about 12 calories and a couple grams of carbohydrate.

 

Cauliflower Potato Salad Healthy Side Dishes
The addition of cauliflower lowers the carbohydrate content of the typical potato salad.
Citrus Asian Coleslaw, Jennifer Hunt, RDN
Raw sunflower seeds and slivered almonds add heart-healthy fats & a satisfying crunch.
This recipe is both carb smart and heart healthy! The olive oil adds a hearty dose of heart-healthy fats, and the tomatoes are packed with lycopene. These make a great snack or a beautiful, tasty side!
A great way to use a favorite summer vegetable.
Use a little less pesto if you’re watching fat or calories.

What are some of your favorite healthy side dishes?

Jill-Weisenberger_about-image-2
Jill Weisenberger

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a Nutrition, Culinary & Diabetes Expert, Wellcoach®-certified health and wellness coach, Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's also the author of four books, including a best-seller. She's a nationally-recognized media expert in high demand for print and online interviews, as well as corporate and one-on-one nutritional counseling. Jill's philosophy is that nutrition science should be understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.

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Like most of my patients and clients, I lead a busy life. You probably do too. Fortunately, you don’t need weeks, days or even hours to start living better and healthier. This blog offers timesaving strategies and bite-sized nutrition and health information. Come by often for tips and inspiration to healthy living – no matter how busy you are. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist offering credible, practical nutrition advice to keep busy people healthy. Yes indeed, we can be both busy and healthy.

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