Four Side Dishes You Didn’t Know You Loved

Let’s admit a sad truth: we Americans are obsessed with french fries. Available at nearly every restaurant and socially acceptable to eat any time of day or night, they are impossibly hard to avoid. The average American consumes close to 30 pounds, or 88 large servings of french fries per year!

This obsession comes with a price! Fries have a high glycemic index, which causes spikes and rapid declines in our blood sugar levels. This translates into a food craving cycle in the best-case scenarios, and in the worst-case scenario can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Factor into this calculation the whopping 25 grams of fat and 350 mg of sodium per medium serving, and you start wondering how you can enjoy a side dish that is just so bad for you.

There are many tasty alternatives out there that can add wholesome nutrients to your meal without causing spikes in your blood sugar or packing on the fat. Scroll down to see the 4 delicious side dishes – all tested and tasted by us:


Quinoa Salad

Source: Mehan's Kitchen

Quinoa sustained the Incas for over 5,000 years and was recently named a “super grain.” With its endless list of benefits – a complete protein, high in fiber, contains iron, lysine, magnesium, Riboflaven (B2) and manganese – you begin to see why it has a nomenclature filled with praise. Sizing in at just 4 grams of fat per cup (prepared) and 8 grams of protein, and with a preparation as simple as cooking rice, it’s easy to see why this side dish knocks the french fry out of the water.

Here’s an easy recipe for Quinoa and Green Bean Salad.


Bulgur Chilli

Source: Naturally Ella

Bulgur is a delicious side dish that can be mistaken for rice. It is actually a derivative of wheat. Since it undergoes minimal processing, most of the nutritional value is retained and the benefit for you the eater is that it leaves you feeling fuller. 1 cup of bulgur contains just 151 calories but packs in close to 6 grams of protein. Health benefits include lots of insoluble fiber (8 grams per serving), iron, manganese, magnesium and B vitamins – and all this while measuring in low on the glycemic index when compared to fries. Even  compared to brown rice, bulgur has fewer calories, less fat and more than twice the fiber!

Here is a delicious vegan recipe for bulgur chili.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato Fries

Source: A Brown Table

Sweet potatoes have a reputation for being one of the most nutritionally dense foods out there. It’s funny how a vegetable that practically shares its name with the potato has so much more nutritional value than its namesake! One cup has 180 calories and 4 grams of protein. It packs in more than seven times the daily requirement of vitamin A, responsible for maintaining proper eye health. The benefit to getting all of this extra vitamin A is that it can be stored by our body and used later since it is a fat-soluble vitamin. Other nutrients and minerals found in sweet potatoes include (notepads and pens, please) vitamins C, E, K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, the B vitamins, folate, pantothenic acid (breath for air), calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and finally rounding out this list but not completing it, is manganese. Talk about bang for your buck nutrition wise! Let’s not forget that like every side dish recommended in this article, the sweet potato carries a low glycemic load making it a good choice for people with diabetes! These mega vegetables clock in amazing figures for every health measure possible!

French fry lovers will surely enjoy this recipe for Baked Curried Sweet Potato Frites.


Buckwheat Salad

Source: Food and Wine

Buckwheat is one of the more interesting side dishes out there. Also referred to as kasha, this side dish is technically not a grain, but rather a fruit seed. For those of you who have never tried buckwheat before, it has a nutty, earthy flavor. If up until now the side dishes mentioned clocked in between 5 to 8 grams of protein per cup, buckwheat blows this figure out of the water containing a whopping 23 grams! This practically rivals animal based proteins such as chicken breast. But there are some drawbacks – buckwheat contains 583 calories per serving and 6 grams of fat, so this makes for a hefty side dish. Ending however on a good note just one cup of this stuff contains more than half of the amount of the daily recommended intake of fiber, and is also a good source of niacin, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese.  Readers with celiac or gluten sensitivities will be delighted to know that this side dish contains no gluten.

Try this recipe for Buckwheat Salad with Mushrooms and Parsley Oil

So there you have it, four wonderful side dish alternatives to the french fry. Eat up and enjoy in good health!

What are your favorite healthy sides?

  • Danielle

    Quinoa effecting the environment and diets in the countries it is grown: not for the better.

    • YourVirtualWizard/JanineGregor

      Hi Danielle,

      Please elaborate.

      Thank you!


      • carol

        As mentioned in the article she provides a link to, quinoa has become
        such a valuable crop that many natives/locals can no longer afford to
        buy it for themselves (traditionally very important to their
        nutrition/livelihood), plus the agronomy has changed to one where the environment has become secondary to quick sales.

        • YourVirtualWizard/JanineGregor

          Thank you. I must have missed that about the quinoa.

          I’d be interested to learn more about the agronomy you speak of where the environment has become secondary to quick sales. Is growing quinoa bad for the environment overall?


  • “Disqusted” Carol H

    French fries actually have the same GI as boiled sweet potatoes (and popcorn). It’s because of the fat, which slows down digestion/absorption, just like fiber and protein do. GI is not a good “litmus test” for food — it’s too simplistic. All you need to do to make something lower in GI is eat it with a little fat (e.g., oil), fiber or protein, which a “meal” almost always includes. While sweet potatoes are high in carotenoids (which we convert to vitamin A, somewhat inefficiently, in the intestine), there are many varieties of other potatoes that provide anthocyanins (and other antioxidants) as well — blue potatoes from Peru, etc. Even regular “white” potatoes are a good source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium (huge amount). All vegetables provide something… can’t live off one food, so we might as well eat a variety of things rather than trying to promote each variety for just a couple nutrients. That’s why variety and moderation truly are the keys to eating right… always have been… always will be.

  • Sam Bacile

    Piki! Very interesting. I like them all, except for sweet potatoes, go figure.