How to Make a Cold Side Dish for a Hot Summer Day

Try the new watermelon, feta recipe for your next cold summer side dish

Whether you’re looking for a great new, side dish for the next cookout or you’d like to find a few tips for improving the recipes you already love, you’ve come to the right place. Dietitian Emma Rueth, UnityPoint Health, has six ways to make a recipe healthier, two recipes for cold summer side dishes, plus advice on how to safely serve those chilled recipes on hot days.

Healthy Summer Side Dishes

We all like the idea of making recipes healthier without changing the great flavors. Rueth says there are six ways you can make your favorite dishes healthier.

  • Increase the portion of vegetables or fruit in the recipe
  • Replace all or part of mayonnaise in recipes with avocado or yogurt (low- or non-fat Greek or regular)
  • Choose low-fat cheese or other dairy ingredients over high-fat dairy whenever possible
  • Use whole grains whenever possible, like whole grain crackers/breads with dips, cheese, etc.
  • With a 1:1 ratio, replace butter and oil in baking with foods like applesauce, low-fat yogurt or mashed bananas
  • Decrease sweetener in recipe by at least one-fourth

“In most baking or mixing (salads, dressings etc.) recipes, you will not impact the quality of the product by decreasing the amount of sweetener (sugar, etc.) by one-fourth,” Rueth says. “If the recipe calls for honey, maple syrup or agave, the texture of the product may change as you decrease the sweetener because you will also be decreasing the moisture. You can counter this by adding a tablespoon or two of applesauce or milk.”

Cold Summer Side Dishes

If you’re tired of your recipe list and want to try something new, Rueth has two easy, cold summer side dishes you can whip up for your next gathering. The first is a spin on the traditional potato salad and the second gives a taste of summer with the addition of watermelon. Enjoy!

Non-Potato Potato Salad

Yields 10 servings

  • 1 lg. head cauliflower, chopped 
  •  ¼ t. salt
  • 1 ½ c. mayonnaise made w/ olive oil 
  • 6 hard-boiled egg whites
  • ½ c. light sour cream                 
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 T. Hellman’s Dijonnaise                                           
  • ¼ c. chopped chives
  • ½ envelope Ranch packet                                           
  • 3 T. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 T. chopped dill                                                             
  • 2 T. parsley for garnish

Instructions: Place cauliflower in a large microwave-safe bowl with 1/3 cup water. Cover and microwave until soft, 6 - 8 minutes. Once the bowl is cool enough to handle, drain any excess water. 

Put 2 cups of the cauliflower in a blender or food processor. (Set aside the bowl of remaining cauliflower.) To the blender, add all ingredients save the celery and egg. Puree or pulse until blended. It won’t be completely smooth. Set aside. To the bowl with the remaining chopped cauliflower, add all remaining ingredients. Add pureed mixture from the blender and lightly stir to coat. Cool in the refrigerator before serving.

Per serving: 155 calories, 5g Protein, 8.5g Fat, 14g Carbohydrates, 2.5g Fiber, 620mg Sodium

(inspired by Hungry Girl)

Cucumber Watermelon Delight

Yields 8 servings

  • 1 seedless personal watermelon cubed  
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 English cucumber peeled and cubed            
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small red onion chopped finely
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 oz crumbled feta

Instructions: Mix all ingredients; serve and enjoy!

Per serving: 136 calories, 3g Protein, 8g Fat, 14g Carbohydrates, 1g Fiber, 278mg Sodium

Chilled Side Dish Serving Guidelines

It can be tricky to keep chilled summer side dishes cool on a hot summer day. But, it’s a must if you want to avoid getting any friends or family members sick. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says you should never leave foods out of refrigeration for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees F outside, you should drop that timeline to one hour. Also, avoid setting cold dishes in direct sunlight and try keeping food cool by placing food in containers on ice.

“Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees F or below. If food is hot, it’s to be kept at 140 degrees F or above. That middle temperature zone of 41-139 degrees F is called the ‘danger zone.’ It’s where food is the most susceptible to bacterial growth which can cause foodborne illness,” Rueth says.


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