01 JUL 2023

Healthy Sides for Summer Meals

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad on the left and Grilled Cauliflower Steaks on the right.
Meat doesn't need to always be the main stage with these dietitian-approved recipes.

Warm summer evenings just beg for an outdoor meal, and that means firing up the barbecue. While steaks and hamburgers may be on the menu, side dishes are always a welcome addition. Healthy choices for side dishes are plentiful this time of year, too, because there are so many fresh fruits and vegetables available, according to Laura O’Mary, Registered Dietitian for NorthBay Health.

“One of my favorite healthy summer side dishes is a quinoa salad,” she noted. “It’s nice because it is something that you can prepare ahead of time.” (See recipe, below.) The salad uses cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, among other ingredients.

Grilled vegetables or veggie kabobs are a great addition to any barbeque, she added. “For kabobs I like using bell pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, onion and cherry tomatoes. For a hint of sweet, add some pineapple cubes!”

For a vegetarian option, Laura suggests preparing cauliflower “steaks,” because they’re easy to make and deliciously healthy! (See recipe below, from the Well Plated website.)

Meats needn’t always be the main stage, either. “Fish done on the grill is always best done simple: place the fish in a foil packet and season with lemon juice and olive oil.”

One last healthy reminder?

“Always keep in mind that condiments and sauces can have quite a lot of added salt and sugar, so keep your portion small (1-2 Tablespoons) and use herbs, spices, olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice to add great flavor to your summer dishes.”

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

SERVINGS: 8 servings


  • ½ cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 3 artichoke hearts canned in water, drained
  • ½ container cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup red onion, sliced
  • ½ cup cucumber, sliced
  • ¼ cup Kalamata olives, sliced
  • ½ cup feta cheese
  • Dressing:
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
    • ½ Tbsp Dijon mustard
    • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
    • salt and pepper


  1. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh colander under cold water.
  2. Add quinoa and 1 cup of water to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir once, reduce heat to low and cover with a lid.
  3. Let simmer for 15 minutes then take off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes transfer quinoa to a separate container and put into the refrigerator to cool.
  4. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans and drain the artichoke hearts.
  5. Wash and slice the tomatoes, red onion and cucumber.
  6. Once the quinoa has cooled, combine all ingredients in a large bowl with dressing and toss until evenly coated.

Grilled Cauliflower Steaks

SERVINGS: 4–6 servings
SOURCE: Well Plated website


  • 2 large heads cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lemons zested and juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon honey (use agave to make Vegan)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • Lemon wedges for serving


  1. Remove the outer leaves from each cauliflower head. Cut off the bottom stem end so that you create a flat base and can stand the cauliflower up on a cutting board. Resting the cauliflower on the stem, use a large, sharp knife to trim away the sides, then cut the remaining head into 2 very thick or 3 more moderate "steaks." Reserve the sides for another use.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice, garlic, and honey.
  3. Heat a grill to medium (about 350 degrees F).
  4. Brush one side of each cauliflower steak with the lemon–olive oil mixture and then sprinkle the brush sides with half of the salt.
  5. Place the salted side down on the hot grill, then brush the tops of the steaks with the olive oil mixture and season with the remaining salt.
  6. Cover the grill and let cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the bottom is beginning to char.
  7. Flip the cauliflower, then re-cover the grill and cook 5 additional minutes, until the cauliflower is tender.
  8. Remove from the grill. Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes, parsley, and walnuts.
  9. Serve hot with lemon wedges.

If you'd like more guidance on incorporating nutritious recipes and other healthy choices into your life, you can schedule an appointment with NorthBay Health dietitian, Laura O’Mary at (707) 624-7900.

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