10 Tips for Sensational Summer Sides

Nutrition Advice from Your Pawling Hannaford Dietitian

A barbecue is all about perfectly prepared meals right off the grill and an al fresco setting that screams warm weather. Of course, no summer meal is complete without sensational sides. Since sides can sometimes become repetitive or let’s just say less than healthy, we need ideas and tips that keep our plate balanced.

Hold the Cream

Traditional barbecue sides are all about mayonnaise and cream. Pass on these sides and use olive oil, avocado, and low-fat dairy (including Greek yogurt) to make fresh sides that are lower in saturated fat and calories, while being rich in heart-healthy fats.

Add a Veggie

Ensure veggies are part of the plate by including them (or making them!) in the side dish. Regardless of the side, find a way to add fresh diced, grilled, or marinated veggies to add color, fiber, and antioxidants.

Try Fruit

Yup, fruit can be a side dish, especially when it comes off the grill and is given a savory twist. For example, season sliced peaches or watermelon with fresh herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil then grill to enjoy “as is” or as an ingredient in a bean or grain salad. Or use finely diced fresh fruits and add olive oil, salt, pepper, lime juice, and zest to make a fruit salsa for fish, seafood, or chicken.

Make Ahead Slaws

The best thing about serving slaw as a side dish is that it’s better if you let it sit for a bit in the fridge. The perfect make ahead side dish for company, slaws can be made in a variety of ways to satisfy a broad range of tastes.

Cold Grain Salads

Right up there with slaws for convenience are cold grain salads. Use last night’s leftover rice or pasta to make today’s grain side dish. Add diced veggies, meat, or beans, as well as oils and spices to match your meal.


Add additional protein to your meal with bean side dishes. Add beans to diced veggies, grains, or have them on their own. If using canned, choose low sodium and rinse thoroughly before seasoning with olive oil and spices to reduce the amount of sodium in your dish. For a quick salad that makes use of last night’s grilled corn, mix black beans, corn, olive oil, salt and pepper, diced avocado, and lime juice.

Right off the Grill

Your sides can come straight from the grill right along side your main meal. Thick sliced cauliflower, portabella mushrooms, asparagus, corn, eggplant and potatoes are just some of the vegetables that are “grill friendly.” Or try sliced avocado (slice in half and brush olive oil on flesh before grilling face down), artichokes, or bok choy. Consider thick-sliced grilled bread or grilled polenta rather than soft bread to bring more texture to the plate.

Spices and Flavors

You can grill vegetables, potatoes and corn in their delicious “natural” state, or you can take the same versatile vegetables and add chili or curry powder, a spicy cheese, or other pop of flavor. Just keep in mind that with strong spices, a little goes a long way.

Unexpected Ingredients

Most barbecues feature the same old slaws, macaroni and potato salads. Give these traditional sides a terrific twist by using unexpected flavors. Turn simple slaw into an Asian slaw with rice vinegar, tamari, and other similar flavors, switch up potato salad with purple and red potatoes, or add nuts and seeds for texture.

Oodles of Zoodles

Before long we’ll be blessed with plenty of zucchini. It’s the perfect time of year to go ahead and turn this versatile veggie into fresh spiralized “zoodles,” with a peeler or spiralizer, for the perfect summer side. Simply add olive oil and a bit of shaved parmesan, fresh pesto (the perfect use the abundance of basil you may also have) or other sauce of your choice.

As your local Hannaford Dietitian, I’m pleased to be sharing my advice and simple tips. Please visit www.hannaford.com/dietitians for my in-store schedule of classes, demonstrations, and store tours or call (845) 855-0553 for more information.


It’s worth visiting www.guidingstars.com just to see the perfect picture of this delicious alternative to traditional bacon. You’ll also find more recipes and information about the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program.

Tempeh Bacon (1 Guiding Star)


1 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 dash cayenne pepper

1 tsp. liquid smoke

1 tsp. soy sauce

½ t. black pepper

8 oz. tempeh, thinly sliced

Cooking spray


Whisk together all ingredients, except tempeh and cooking spray, in a shallow dish.

Layer tempeh in marinade, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Spritz with cooking spray and lay the tempeh flat on the skillet in single layers, taking care not to add more marinade to the pan than needed. Cook until tempeh is crisp on both sides, flipping half way through. Should not need more than 1 – 2 minutes per side.