Healthy Summer Sides to Bring to a Cookout

When going to a cookout, it’s tempting to bring chips and dip. But the truth is, fruit- and veggie-based side dishes are always welcome at a summer cookout to balance out meat overload. Here are some easy, crowd-friendly recipe ideas.

  • Fruit for the grill: You can make fruit skewers of any sturdy fruit — like peaches, watermelon, pineapple, nectarines and bananas. Or just put wedges of watermelon or rings of fresh pineapple directly on the grill. Baste with olive oil first.
  • Bean salad: Bean salad is a great thing to bring to a cookout. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike will appreciate this kind of protein- and fiber-rich side dish. Try this tangy Red Bean Beach Salad.
  • Coleslaw: To make this a healthy side dish, bring a coleslaw with a vinaigrette dressing, rather than a mayo one. This Tangy Coleslaw With Smoked Corn and Lime Dressing fits the bill.
  • Bean dip: For a healthy alternative to chips and dip, try pita chips with a bean dip (you can make super-healthy chips by slicing whole-wheat pitas into wedges, basting with olive oil and toasting until crunchy). Giada’s Spinach and Cannellini Bean Dip is healthy and delicious.
  • Broccoli salad: Although green salads are nice, veggies like broccoli hold up well when marinated for a while — perfect for when you want to make the salad ahead or just enjoy it a couple hours into a cookout. Try Chuck Hughes’ Broccoli Salad.
  • Fruit salad: Brownies are great, but everyone appreciates fruit salad. Hungry Girl’s Ginormous Fruit Salad Surprise is a crowd-pleaser.
  • Quick pickles: Pickles are just gussied-up cucumbers (and as a vegetable derivative, they're semi-healthy). Try Tyler Florence’s Quick Pickles.
  • Veggies for the grill: If you’re feeling really lazy, you can just pick up some veggies en route to your friend’s cookout, cut them there, baste with olive oil and toss on the grill. Whole bell peppers, thickly sliced zucchini, as well as and summer squash and eggplant are all good grill options. Need a recipe? Try this one by Giada: Grilled Vegetables.

Kerri-Ann is a registered dietitian and nutrition coach who writes on food and health trends. Find more of her work at or follow her on Twitter @kerriannrd or Facebook.

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