13 Light & Healthy Side Dishes for Chicken to Include in Your Diet

Chicken is one of the most popular proteins worldwide, but what are some ways you can spice up this meal with side dishes?

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Published:
June 11, 2024
August 16, 2023
— Updated:

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Eating a healthy diet is an important part of your health and well-being. To give your body the energy and nutrients it needs to thrive, it’s important to eat a balanced and nutritious breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Chicken is among the most popular main dishes worldwide due to its high nutritional value. It is also one of the leanest animal protein options and is often eaten as part of a healthy diet. 

Eating a healthy diet does not mean eating boring, bland, or uninteresting food. There are plenty of options when it comes to eating nutritiously to support your health and well-being. This article showcases 13 of the best side dishes to accompany your main chicken dish. 

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13 Best Healthy and Light Side Dishes for Chicken

There are many healthy ways to prepare chicken, including my favorite, sheet pan chicken dinners. Sheet pan dinners require minimal preparation and easy clean-up, plus you can often cook your side dishes on the same cookie sheet as the chicken. 

So, what exactly makes a side dish healthy? The perfect side dish is nutrient-rich, adds balance to the meal, and has limited added sugars and saturated fat. 

A balanced meal has protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, and healthy fats. Chicken breasts or thighs provide protein, so your accompanying side dishes should add vegetables, carbohydrates, grains, and fat.

Check out these ideas to find your new favorite chicken side dish recipe:

  1. Enchanting Edamame Succotash

Succotash is traditionally a dish with lima beans and corn, but this unique recipe adds a twist by using high-protein edamame, interesting flavors, lime, tomato, and creamy avocado. 

Edamame is an excellent source of protein, while avocados provide healthy fats. Tomatoes contain vitamin C, potassium, and disease-fighting antioxidants like lycopene. 

With just nine ingredients, you can whip up this easy edamame, corn, and tomato salad in 20 minutes. Use canned corn or fresh corn off the cob. It goes great with BBQ chicken and is also a potluck favorite. 

  1. Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

As a dietitian, quinoa salad is one of my favorite ways to use quinoa for a few reasons:

  • It’s so easy to make
  • It increases my protein and micronutrient intake (folate, magnesium, zinc, and iron)
  • The quinoa soaks up the flavor of the dressing

I know that plain quinoa can be a little boring, but this salad is full of flavor while still being light and healthy. It’s the perfect summer dish because it’s served cold and pairs great with grilled, roasted, or BBQ chicken. 

  1. Elegant Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts

These balsamic glazed Brussels sprouts are so versatile. They are ideal for a special family gathering or a weeknight dinner. They look fancy and will impress your guests, but they are easy to make and can be ready in 10 minutes. 

What makes this side dish healthy is the star of the recipe: Brussels sprouts. They’re rich in fiber and antioxidants, high in vitamins K and C, and they’ve been shown to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. 

You probably already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen (salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, olive oil, and garlic), so all you need to pick up is the Brussels! These sweet and crispy vegetables make the perfect addition to any chicken entree. 

  1. Sesame Ginger Noodles

These 15-Minute Sesame Ginger Noodles are bursting with bold ginger flavor and fresh crunchy vegetables. They come together in less than 15 minutes and are completely vegan and gluten-free!

Preparation for this recipe is minimal. If you can boil water and chop veggies, you’ve got this one in the bag.

The bok choy in this dish gives you that serving of vegetables, while the noodles provide your grains. Add some delicious grilled or baked chicken, and you have a well-balanced meal that will delight your tastebuds and body. 

  1. Grilled Vegetable Salad with Avocado, Cilantro Lime Dressing

Step outside the box with this low-carb grilled vegetable salad. Grilling red bell peppers enhances their sweetness, and grilled summer squash adds bulk and beauty to the dish. 

Sprinkle the warm summer salad with pumpkin seeds and drizzle with homemade Avocado Cilantro Lime Dressing made with glycemic-friendly allulose, avocado oil for buttery flavor, and ripe avocado for creaminess. 

Pumpkin seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals like manganese and vitamin K, which are important in helping wounds heal. They also contain zinc, a mineral that helps the immune system fight bacteria and viruses, not to mention the healthy fats they provide. 

  1. Charmingly Citrusy Couscous

This versatile pasta salad (yes – couscous is pasta, not a grain!) balances sweet, spicy, and citrus notes and will easily become your favorite make-ahead staple in your recipe arsenal. It can be enjoyed hot, cold, or at room temperature, seamlessly partnering with any delicious chicken recipe. 

The succulent orange slices add a fresh pop of flavor to this dish. Meanwhile, cumin adds a comforting earthiness and warmth to the dressing.

The broccoli and oranges pack this salad with nutrients and antioxidants, while the pistachios add healthy fats that support your brain and heart health. 

Enjoying this dish alongside garlic-roasted chicken is amazing. Plus, you can snag a rotisserie chicken from the store for ease on weeknights. The best part is that you can make this salad ahead of time. 

  1. Lemony Sautéed Spinach with Toasted Almonds

Spinach is a light and clean food, so adding some toasted almonds, parmesan cheese (or feta), and olive oil adds more bulk and nutrients. The lemon takes this sauteed spinach from boring to tangy. 

Spinach is packed with many nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, iron, folate, and potassium, while almonds and olive oil contain healthy fats that support your heart health. 

This is a delicious, low-carb, healthy weeknight side dish. I love to serve grilled chicken breast on top for a quick meal.

  1. Coconut-Lime Jasmine Rice

With five ingredients and 20 minutes, you’ll have a light, healthy side dish to pair with a Mexican-inspired chicken dish. Some of my favorite dishes to serve alongside this recipe include ground chicken enchiladas and chipotle chicken tacos

All you’ll need for this recipe is: 

  • Jasmine rice: This long-grain rice is perfect for this side dish.  Basmati rice works great, too.
  • Coconut milk: Canned coconut milk adds a subtle coconut flavor. 
  • Lime zest: Fresh lime zest is added right in before serving. 
  • Lime juice: Bright lime juice kicks up the flavor of this rice.  
  • Cilantro: Chopped fresh cilantro gives this rice flavor and a beautiful green color.
  1. Honey-Mustard Glazed Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Swap french fries or mashed potatoes for these roasted sweet potatoes for a healthier side option.

Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite carbohydrate sources to eat with chicken; these honey mustard-glazed roasted sweet potatoes are no exception.

Sweet potatoes are full of fiber, which helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. They’re also rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese. They also have anti-cancer properties and may promote immune function and other health benefits.

These honey-mustard glazed sweet potatoes go great with BBQ chicken or rotisserie chicken. They’re also great for meal prep and using it with other proteins or tossing with a salad throughout the week. Too hot to turn the oven on? These babies can be cooked in the air fryer, too! 

Tip: If you want to add more bulk to your meal, add cubed butternut squash to the sweet potatoes. 

  1. Saucy Stovetop Thai Green Beans

These Thai Green Beans will be your new favorite way to eat green beans! They are amazing when paired with stir-fried chicken. 

Green beans are one of the healthiest side dishes. The vegetable helps fight inflammation and is a good source of folate and potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure. Green beans are also a good source of fiber, which increases satiety and helps manage blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

  1. Artisanal Broccoli and Pomegranate Salad

This Broccoli, Chickpea, and Pomegranate Salad is a vibrant and nutritious side dish that brings together the goodness of these three powerhouse ingredients. 

Broccoli, a cruciferous gem, offers a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, promoting digestion and bolstering immune health. Chickpeas are packed with plant-based protein and dietary fiber and contribute to satiety and steady energy levels. The burst of pomegranate seeds introduces antioxidants, vitamins, and a touch of natural sweetness, enhancing flavor and visual appeal. 

This delectable salad not only tantalizes the taste buds but also fuels the body with diverse nutrients, making it a delightful and healthful addition to any chicken dish.

  1. Italian Chicken Mason Jar Salad

This one is for the meal preppers. This mason jar salad is easy to prepare ahead of time and stores well. Add Italian chicken, and you have a well-balanced meal full of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 

Mason jar salads are quick, convenient, nutritious make-ahead lunches or dinners that you can tote to work, pack for a picnic in a park, or carry from your refrigerator to your backyard to eat mindfully outside.

To make mason jar salads a part of your weekly meal prep, these tips can make assembly fast and easy:

  • Pick two to three mason jar salad recipes to make for the week; try to find recipes that have some similar ingredients to make shopping easier and more economical
  • Wash and dry all salad ingredients beforehand
  • Cook and cool any meat or plant-based proteins
  • Toast any nuts or seeds and allow to cool
  • Chop your lettuce or greens into thin strips or tear them into small pieces
  • Cut all raw vegetables and protein into bite-sized pieces
  1. Spiced Chickpea Salad

This chickpea salad is full of fiber, protein, and micronutrients. Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant-based protein and are high in fiber. Tomatoes are packed with antioxidants that fight disease and support your health, while red onions also contain quercetin, a compound that has been shown to protect against heart damage.

It’s easy to prepare (throw everything in a bowl!), and you can tone down the spice based on your preferences. 

This delicious side dish goes great with Mediterranean or Greek chicken. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the best way to eat chicken healthily?

The best way to eat chicken is to opt for lean cuts, such as skinless chicken breasts, and choose cooking methods that minimize the addition of unhealthy fats. Grilling, baking, broiling, or poaching chicken are excellent choices. Eat chicken with nutrient-rich vegetables and whole grains for a well-rounded and wholesome meal.

What are the healthiest vegetables to eat with chicken?

A variety of vegetables can be enjoyed with chicken. The best ones to eat are the ones you enjoy. Some examples include leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, asparagus, carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes.

Is eating chicken every day OK?

Eating chicken every day can be okay if you prioritize variety and balance. Opt for lean cuts and diverse preparation methods to prevent monotony and ensure a balanced nutrient intake. It's important to incorporate a range of protein sources, including plant-based options like beans, lentils, and tofu, to increase the variety of nutrients your body receives. 

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About the author

Victoria Whittington earned her Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition from the University of Alabama and has over 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

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