57 Best Healthy Side Dishes for a Cookout or Summer BBQ

by Shelley · May contain affiliate links

~ These ingeniously healthier recipes are ideal for summer’s warm temperatures and lighter appetites! Whether you’d like a side dish to cook on the grill, or a make-ahead picnic salad, we’ve got irresistibly delicious, healthy side dishes for all your summer cookouts, BBQ parties … and even weeknight family dinners! ~

Collage of four recipe photos with text overlay "57 Healthy Summer Cookout Side Dishes".

Summer recipes are all about light, fresh, sun-drenched flavors. Healthy flavors.

We all crave lighter recipes when the temperatures rise.

And of course, if you’re like me (and most everyone else I know), when summer rolls around, you’re on the lookout for healthier, lightened-up options more than ever. I mean … as I pull on shorts and tank tops and swimsuits … it does kind of make me a leeeeettle more conscious of how a high-calorie, high-fat meal is going to feel hanging out at my waistline later.

Summer cookouts and BBQs are such easy opportunities to roll out favorite healthy side dishes!

Nutritious fruits and vegetables are at their flavorful best, so it’s simple to showcase them in salads and grilled side dishes. Pull them together with refreshingly light dressings or sauces, maybe a handful of crunchy nuts or a savory sprinkling of cheese … and you can easily elevate even the most humble produce to something truly special.

Delicious and 100% worthy of cozying up next to some grilled chicken, or juicy burgers, or kabobs.

Whether you’re simply grilling a weeknight family meal, or planning a blockbuster holiday cookout party … I’ve got lots of terrific side dish ideas for you!

To make things easier, I’ve divided the recipes into two sections:

  • #1 Favorite summer side dishes that AREN’T grilled – which includes classics like pasta salad, broccoli salad, potato salad and all those healthy side dish ideas that don’t require you to fire up the BBQ … and …
  • #2 GRILLED side dishes you can cook up, right alongside your main course (without heating up the kitchen!).

No matter what you choose, these delicious recipes promise great flavor with a lighter, healthy twist that’s just perfect for sunny-day summer cookouts!

Healthy Side Dishes for a Cookout

NON-Grilled Side Dishes (aka Picnic Classics)

From pasta salad to coleslaw, all the classics are here! But rest assured, they're all a little lighter, a little leaner. Fabulous for warm-weather summer parties!

GRILLED Side Dishes

If you're firing up your grill, anyway, then why not grill some delectable sides, right along with your main course? You'll get wonderful flavor ... and you don't have to heat up the kitchen by using the stove or oven. So smart, and so delicious!

Enjoy your cookout, friends!

And enjoy how great you feel sharing healthier side dishes that still win raves … but don’t weigh you down!

Oh – and if you’d like some help cobbling together a complete cookout menu, with everything from appetizers to desserts, head over to our Mix-and-Match Easy BBQ Menu for more yummy (nutritious!) ideas, or check out our collection of family-favorite Grill Recipes.

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Updated on June 21, 2022