Summer Sides That Shine

It seems to me that main dishes and desserts get all the glory. Lots of times side dishes are an afterthought, and coming up with something to put “on the side” ends up being a hunt through the fridge or pantry for anything that can fill in the empty space on the plate. When we do that, we shortchange both our plates and our palates.

I think it’s time we gave humble side dishes their due. Not only do most side dishes prop up the entrée in terms of providing contrasting textures and flavors, they also fill out the plate with produce (which usually means more nutrients and fiber). Making summer sides that shine should not be time-consuming (who wants to spend these glorious days in the kitchen while everyone else is outside having fun?). Sides also shouldn’t be boring: a ho-hum veggie platter or handful of potato chips won’t excite anybody. Our selections are familiar, yet have enough twists to keep things interesting.

Here are some ideas for side dishes that will perk up your plate and won’t be out-shined by any entrée this season.

Get Kicky With Coleslaw

Coleslaw is a summer staple, and there are many variations, so there truly is a coleslaw for everyone. If you haven’t met your favorite yet, keep looking! Slaws vary in veggie components and dressing typically. If you’re not a creamy slaw person, there are plenty of other dressing options; and if you’re not a cabbage person, consider a slaw that relies on other veggies such as broccoli, beets, or even sugar-snap peas (the key is just to cut the veggies uniformly in thin matchsticks).

Sesame Ginger Coleslaw

Sesame Ginger Coleslaw

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. This slaw features a vinegar-and-sesame oil dressing, fresh ginger, and a slew of veggies. It’s great with fish, grilled pork, or as a topping on a burger.

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California Coleslaw

California Coleslaw

One Guiding Stars iconOne Guiding Stars indicate good nutritional value. This is closer to traditional slaw, but uses plain yogurt in place of the mayo, and gets a hint of sweetness from a few raisins. Make it a day ahead (yay for early prep) and the flavor will develop nicely.

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Colorful Veggie Slaw

Colorful Veggie Slaw

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. This aptly named slaw uses regular coleslaw mix cabbage, as well as carrots and broccoli, along with crunchy chia seeds, sunflower seeds and a little bit of cheddar cheese—it’s a delicious mix of textures, flavors and colors.

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Tip: Don’t forget that leftover coleslaw is great the next day because it holds its crunch better than regular salad.

Go Ahead, Be Corny

If you’re like me, fresh sweet corn is one of the best things about summer. However, one can only eat plain boiled or steamed corn so many times before it gets a bit dull. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered with plenty of ideas to keep corn interesting! One of my favorite ways to use a few ears of leftover cooked corn is in a salad. Sometimes if I have just one ear of corn leftover, I simply sprinkle it over a green salad the next day.

Succotash Salad

Succotash Salad

Three Guiding Stars iconThree Guiding Stars indicate the best nutritional value. For a more corn forward salad that uses several ears, try this recipe. It’s super easy to prepare and features a mélange of fiber-packed summer produce (sweet peppers, green onions, and corn) along with black beans and lima beans, all combined with a light dressing.

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Tomato Corn Salad

Tomato Corn Salad

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Use prime summer tomatoes with that sweet corn for the tastiest version of this easy salad.

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Radish Corn Salad

Radish Corn Salad

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Use your freshest radishes (maybe from your own garden?!) for a spicier corn salad.

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Tip: You could also switch up your corn game and grill those ears.

Grilled Corn with Lime Butter

Grilled Corn with Lime Butter

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Try this grilled corn recipe and make extra for salads.

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Grilled Corn Salad with Black Beans & Rice

Grilled Corn Salad with Black Beans & Rice

Three Guiding Stars iconThree Guiding Stars indicate the best nutritional value. Use your extra ears of grilled corn the next day for this salad.

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Spicy Corn Pancakes

Spicy Corn Pancakes

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. If you really want to wow your fellow diners, consider making these—they are special and work well with a simple grilled entree.

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Toss a Show-Stopping Salad

Take your salad game up a notch by skipping the deli counter and making a stellar summer side salad at home using fresh ingredients with bright color, crunch, and plenty of flavor. Most people enjoy classic summer salads like potato salad and pasta salad, and in many cases, these traditional salads can be made more nutritious with just a few switches. Sometimes all that’s needed is a dressing switch, or the addition of a few more veggies.

Italian Potato Salad

Italian Potato Salad

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. This is an unusual mix of red potatoes and summer veggies (zucchini, summer squash, carrots, snap beans, and scallions) with a light garlic dressing. Beans and whole grains make summer side salads more substantial and also contribute healthy fiber and added nutrients.

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Quinoa, Mango & Black Bean Salad

Quinoa, Mango & Black Bean Salad

Three Guiding Stars iconThree Guiding Stars indicate the best nutritional value. This salad is an impressive option to tote to a cookout.

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Greek Pasta Salad

Greek Pasta Salad

One Guiding Stars iconOne Guiding Stars indicate good nutritional value. This is a fresher take on typical macaroni salad.

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For a few more ideas and tips, check out our slideshow, 10 Tips for Sensational Summer Salads.