Sides Can Serve Up Good Taste Plus Nutrition

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Sides Can Serve Up Good Taste Plus Nutrition

When planning a meal, people usually focus on the main dish. But sides can shine, too, especially from a nutrition standpoint.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identify several foods that many Americans fall short on, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Side dishes serve up the perfect opportunity to add more of these foods to one’s diet.

“Sides dishes can be an excellent way to get in not only more food groups, but also more nutrients,” says Emily Parent, registered dietitian for Minnesota-based Coborn’s and CobornsDelivers, the grocer’s online delivery service. “Oftentimes, we see the center of our meals consisting of a protein source. If we add side dishes, whether they be a single item such as brown rice or steamed broccoli, or a combination of items such as a quinoa salad with dried fruit, chickpeas, spinach and balsamic vinaigrette, we are creating a well-rounded meal and adding flavor.”

Meal-Kit Sides a Major Opportunity

Many retailers are jumping into the burgeoning meal-kit market with offerings that include creative and nutritious side dishes.

Coborn’s To the Table Fresh Meal Kits, available through CobornsDelivers, offer several Dietitian’s Choice meals that make the most of sides in terms of nutrition, ease of preparation and taste appeal.

“When creating our To the Table Fresh Meal Kits, our ultimate goal was to create a balanced plate. Most of our items contain a source of protein, along with whole grains, veggies, legumes and/or fruit for added fiber,” says Parent, who helped develop the kits. “We know that protein and fiber help provide staying power, which means that these meals contain reasonable portion sizes, but will also provide satiety.”

Coborn’s fall line of meal kits features healthier, on-trend versions of Midwest comfort food favorites, including side dishes. According to Parent, popular offerings are Apple Cinnamon Pork Chops with a brown rice, quinoa and vegetable medley, and Pesto Crusted Salmon with a fall-inspired salad containing butternut squash veggie spaghetti, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, quinoa and balsamic dressing. “We’re are always looking for creative, trendy and practical ways to help incorporate more food groups into our meal kits,” she notes.

Side Shopping Made Simple

Beyond meal kits, shoppers can stock up on side dishes that are convenient, nutritious and delicious. Parent recommends fast options like microwavable pouches and cups of whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa, and frozen vegetables. Also, canned beans are an easy way to add texture and protein to salads.

Good bets from the deli are steamed or sautéed vegetables, and salads made with vegetables and/or whole grains. Parent suggests choosing salads with oil-based dressings over creamy versions, which may be high in saturated fat, sodium or added sugar.

Finally, don’t overlook the salad bar. It’s not only a go-to spot to customize a nutrient-packed salad, but also an excellent source of recipe-ready chopped and sliced fruits and vegetables to speed up side-dish prep.

About the Author

Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN

Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN, specializes in nutrition communications for consumer and health professional audiences. Read More