Healthy summer side dishes inspired by the festive season

Organic fresh vegetables and chilli flakes

It’s the season of family gatherings, eating leftovers and braaing all the time.

Main dishes accompanied by splashes of flavourful dishes prepared the right way, can help set you up for an entrance into the new year feeling satiated, healthy, refreshed and energetic.

If you’re feeling like you can’t look at another regular potato salad, here are some side dishes to inspire you.

On the go snacky side-boards

To make snack time choice easy, ensure that a stock of snacking vegetables like peppers, cucumbers, celery and carrots are always on hand. Wash, rinse and chop two to three options of these up when guests arrive and pair them with a quick homemade dip of blitzed mint and plain yoghurt. Any extras can be added to snack boards including sliced meats, pretzels, tofu squares, biltong or olives.

Avoid adding calorie-rich snacks like crisps, saucy wings or meat and full-fat cheeses for snack times, but rather include these items on meal time boards.

Place all of these ingredients onto a wooden board along with some napkins and enjoy them as finger foods.

Brussels sprouts

Do away with the steamed and over-sauced traditional side in favour of Brussels sprouts cooked in other ways. Slice and flash fry spouts together with kale in addition to a crunchy salad mixed with nuts, chopped radish, apples and a sprinkling of olive oil, lemon juice and fresh black pepper.

Grilled vegetables

“South Africans love an excuse to braai and with load shedding having reared its head again, the trend is to have starters, desserts, breakfasts, lunches and supper made on the braai,” notes Chef Norman Heath, head chef at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront.

Charcoaled or blackened fruits and vegetables are cooked from the outside by wrapping them in foil or cooking them naked before immersing them underneath hot charcoal until caramelised, blackened and cooked. Favourites to try this with include whole pumpkin, watermelon or vegetables from the gourd family.

A twist on cranberry stuffing

Poultry served with flavoured stuffing is a festive season favourite. However, due to its high carbohydrate content, the dish can be unnecessarily calorie dense and heavy. Alternative ideas to traditional stuffing include switching flour and pre-made stuffing mix with less calorie-heavy options like red and white quinoa, sweet potato or even proteins like lentils.

Recipe: Cranberry sweet potatoes

Cranberry sweet potatoes The Fig Tree

This dish can be used as both a festive side dish or stuffing

1 cup – sliced red onions

1 cup – chopped celery

2 cups – sweet potatoes cut into small cubes

1 cup – chicken broth

1 cup – cooked red quinoa

1 cup – dried cranberries

3 tbsp – chopped rosemary

½ cup – chopped roasted pecans

Salt and pepper to taste


Saute onion and celery in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sweet potato, quinoa, 1/2 cup chicken broth, and dried cranberries. Cover and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, about 7 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the sweet potato mixture with rosemary, and pecans. Stir in 1/2 cup chicken broth.

Fill an 8×8-inch baking dish with the stuffing mixture and bake at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve as a side.