17 Amazing Low-Calorie Side Dishes

17 Amazing Low-Calorie Side Dishes

Indulge in our tasty low-calorie side dishes perfect for any meal. Stay healthy without sacrificing flavor with these easy-to-make recipes.

No, we are not talking about boiled asparagus.

From fitness beginners to experienced experts, the concept of tracking calories is likely not new.

If you have ever skipped some side dishes just because they are calorie dense then you, like others, have overlooked the world of low-calorie side dishes for way too long. Not all healthy side dishes have to stop at sauteed or roasted vegetables.

Healthy eating is intricately linked to consuming low-calorie foods, which provide essential nutrients without an excess of energy.

“Low-cal foods” are all the rage in the fitness and culinary industry these days, thanks to various social media trends and challenges.

But is it more than a social media stunt?

Are there benefits of including low-calorie foods in your diet?

Is eating low-calorie foods sustainable in the long run?

Are they weekday-cooking-friendly?

Will low-calorie foods break your budget?

In this article, we will answer as many of your queries as we can while providing you with a list of 18 healthy dishes in this category that you can make and enjoy! 

How are “Low-Calorie foods” linked to Healthy eating?

Low-calorie doesn't mean tasteless. It's about smart choices. Think juicy berries instead of sugary pies, roasted chickpeas instead of fried snacks, and grilled fish instead of creamy sauces.

These foods, often abundant in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, contribute to overall well-being while maintaining weight control.

By prioritizing low-calorie options, individuals can create balanced meals that support metabolism and digestive health.

Additionally, incorporating nutrient-dense foods into one's diet fosters mindful eating habits, encouraging individuals to savor flavors and textures while being mindful of portion sizes. Overall, the integration of low-calorie foods into daily nutrition serves as a cornerstone for fostering long-term health and vitality. 

Benefits of Low-Calorie Foods

1. Building a Balanced Diet & Healthy Eating Habits

While focusing solely on low-calorie foods isn't necessarily the best approach for a balanced diet or healthy eating habits incorporating low-calorie options alongside others will definitely be helpful.

Low-calorie foods can help manage portion sizes without sacrificing nutrient intake.

Choosing low-calorie foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber ensures you are getting essential nutrients without exceeding your limits.

This promotes overall health and prevents deficiencies. This can be a stepping stone to forming healthy habits by encouraging mindful eating. 

2. Sustainable Weight Loss & Management

If weight management is a goal consuming fewer calories than you burn can lead to healthy weight loss.

Low-calorie options can be helpful tools in achieving this calorie deficit. But remember, it is crucial to do so in a balanced and sustainable way.

It is important to avoid demonizing specific foods and creating restrictive rules around calories.

Also, remember Water is your best friend! Stay hydrated throughout the day to curb cravings and boost overall well-being. 

3. Improving Overall Well-Being

Low-calorie dishes often prioritize nutrient-dense ingredients that ensure that you receive essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants without excess calories.

By consuming low-calorie foods you can effectively manage your weight or even promote weight loss if needed.

These dishes can also increase satiety and keep hunger at bay preventing overeating and unhealthy snacking. 

Also Read: Transform Your Eating Habits with High Protein Low-Calorie Meals

A list of best “Low-Calorie” side dishes

It is a busy-busy world out there and we need to optimize everything from our work to our workouts to our food. So we scoured the internet to find you the best side dishes (which you could totally make a meal out of) so that you won’t have to.

We even categorized them for you (thank us later) 

When on a “Budget”

A bag of potatoes, dried whole grains, lentils, beans, chickpeas, in-season fruits, and veggies are some groceries that you can depend upon when on a budget.

Pack your pantry with flavor by adding a few spice packets and not spice mixes, because they are more expensive. And use these groceries to try these “On a budget, Low-Calorie Dishes”. 

1. Black Bean and Quinoa Casserole

Unsurprisingly tasty and a super protein-dense, meat-free side dish. With a well-balanced combination of boiled black beans, corn, quinoa, and cheese, topped with fresh chopped herbs, this casserole can be enjoyed as both a side and a meal.

INGREDIENTS (2 servings):

  1. White quinoa dry - 1 ½ cup
  2. Oil - 2 tbsp
  3. Garlic - as much as you like (start with two cloves)
  4. Corn (canned/frozen/boiled) - 1 ½ cups
  5. Bell peppers (chopped) - 3 large
  6. Chilli or Jalapeno - as much as you like
  7. Cumin - 1 tbsp
  8. Black beans (if out of a can, rinsed and drained) (or boiled) - 1 ½ cups
  9. Cilantro (freshly chopped) - as much as you like
  10. Green onions (chopped and divided into two batches) - ½ cup
  11. Cheese (shredded) - 2 cups
  12. Coconut milk or Broth - ¾ cup
  13. Salt - accordingly


  • Prep Quinoa: Follow the instructions on the quinoa package, or cook 1.5 cups dry quinoa with 3 cups water for 12 minutes on low heat (don't forget to fluff it afterward!).
  • Sauté Veggies: Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add corn, peppers, jalapenos, and cumin. Cook undisturbed for 3 minutes, then stir and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Mix & Bake: Combine cooked quinoa, veggies, black beans, cilantro, green onions, cheese, coconut milk, and salt in a bowl. Spread the mixture in an 8x11 baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Garnish with more cilantro and green onions before serving warm. 

2. Oven Roasted Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes

It is as simple as it sounds. Wash and cut your veg in your desired size, or better yet make fries out of it. Drizzle/spray with a little oil, add Italian seasonings, and roast. Just like that, your melt-in-mouth roasted potatoes are ready, the best thing is they can be paired with a million main dishes.

INGREDIENTS(2 Servings):

  1. Olive oil - ⅛ cup
  2. Garlic (minced) - 1 tbsp
  3. Dried basil - ½ tsp
  4. Dried dill weed - ½ tsp
  5. Dried thyme - ½ tsp
  6. Dried oregano - ½ tsp
  7. Fresh parsley - 1 tsp
  8. Crushed red pepper flakes - ½ tsp
  9. Salt - accordingly
  10. Potatoes/ Sweet Potatoes (peeled and cubed) - 4 large


  • Get your oven toasty: Crank it up to 475°F (245°C).
  • Mix your flavor magic: Combine oil, garlic, and a bunch of herbs (basil, marjoram, dill, thyme, oregano, parsley) in a big bowl. Add some pepper flakes and salt for good measure.
  • Coat your potato pals: Toss the potato chunks in the herb mix until they're all dressed up nicely. Spread them out evenly on a baking sheet.
  • Roast and enjoy: Pop them in the hot oven and turn them every now and then for about 20-30 minutes, until they're nice and tender. Serve hot and savor the deliciousness! 

3. Pasta Salads packed with veggies

This dish doubles as a main and a side. Boil your favorite pasta, mix it with your favorite veggies, be it tomatoes, zucchini, or crushed cucumbers, and toss with garlic basil, and parmesan dressing.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Dried curly pasta (or your choice) - 400g
  2. Parsley chopped (or chives) - ¼ cup
  3. Crumbled feta cheese Or Mozerella - ½ cup
  4. Bell peppers (chopped) - 2 large
  5. Red onion (chopped) - 1 large
  6. Zucchini (chopped) - 2 medium
  7. Olive oil - ¼ cup
  8. Salt and pepper - accordingly
  9. Garlic (minced) - 3 cloves
  10. Lemon juice - ⅓ cup
  11. Dried basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, and chili flakes - ½ tbsp each


  • Boil your pasta in heavily salted water and drain it.
  • Run it under cold water to avoid sticking and keep it aside.
  • Chop all your veggies and shred the cheese.
  • Now in a mixing bowl, add olive oil, dry seasonings, garlic, and lemon juice.
  • Give the dressing a taste and alter it accordingly.
  • Add the pasta, toss, and enjoy! 

4. Tomato and Zucchini Bake

Mix your chopped zucchini and tomatoes, dried herbs, garlic, cheese and bake. That’s it, Serve with Meat or Rice or as a warm salad.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Zucchini (chopped) - 2 large
  2. Tomatoes (chopped) - 2 large
  3. Garlic (minced) - 5 cloves
  4. Cheese (shredded) - ½ cup
  5. Dried herbs - 1 tbsp
  6. Salt and pepper - accordingly
  7. Fresh parsley or basil (chopped) - 2 tbsp
  8. Olive oil/Spray - accordingly


  • In a bowl, add all the ingredients and stir properly to combine.
  • Transfer to a sprayed or oiled baking dish.
  • Bake uncovered in a preheated oven, at 350 degrees F, for 25 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, garnish with parsley or basil, and serve warm. 

4. Vegetable Stir-fry

Add your veggies be it broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, peas, or zucchini, with toasted nuts and hearty brown rice.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Brown Rice/ White Rice (cooked) - 1 cup
  2. Onion (finely chopped) - 1 small
  3. Mushroom (chopped) - 1 ½ cups
  4. Broccoli (chopped) - 1 ½ cups
  5. Walnuts (crushed) - 1 cup
  6. Soy sauce - 3 tbsp
  7. Coconut Oil - 3 tbsp
  8. Peas (frozen/fresh) - 1 cup
  9. Sesame oil - optional - 2 tbsp
  10. Green onion (chopped) - 4 tbsp


  • Preheat a non-stick pan or wok on medium heat, dry roast your walnuts, and set aside.
  • Add coconut oil to the hot wok and cook the mushrooms till golden brown, add soy sauce in the last 30 seconds and set aside.
  • Repeat the process with broccoli.
  • Transfer all the ingredients to the wok. Fluff the rice and add that to the wok too. Add peas and remaining seasonings. Stir and saute at high heat for 1-2 minutes.
  • Garnish with green onions, and serve hot. 

5. Chickpea, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad

This is the best, juiciest, tangiest, and most fulfilling salad you’ll ever come across.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Chickpeas (if canned, rinsed, and drained) (Or boiled) - 2 cups
  2. Lemon/Lime - 1 large
  3. Tomatoes (chopped) - 1 ½ cups
  4. Cucumbers (chopped or crushed) - 1 ½ cups
  5. Red onions (sliced) - 1 cup
  6. Salt and pepper - accordingly
  7. Cayenne powder - accordingly
  8. Sugar/Honey - 1 tsp
  9. Fresh parsley (chopped) - 5 tbsp


  • Add your boiled and drained chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions in a bowl.
  • Squeeze the juice of a lemon/lime, and add a bit of salt, pepper, cayenne, and a pinch of sugar or 1 tsp honey.
  • Garnish with parsley and toss, and enjoy! 

“Weeknight” Friendly

Although the above-mentioned dishes are weeknight-friendly, meaning they take less prep time and less cooking time; we won’t cheat you out of a few other recipes. So here are some side dishes to make under a time crunch. 

6. Baked Fritters

Use shredded zucchini or carrots to prepare these wonderfully crispy and still tender appetizers/snacks. Salt, then squeeze the veggie, and combine eggs, flour, herbs, and seasonings. Shape the patties and bake.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Zucchini (shredded) - 6 cups
  2. Garlic (minced) - 2 cloves
  3. Egg - 1 large
  4. Any flour - ⅓ cup
  5. Fresh herbs (finely chopped) - 5 tbsp
  6. Salt and pepper - accordingly
  7. Greek yogurt for the side
  8. Oil - 2 tbsp


  • In a large bowl, salt the zucchini and let it sit.
  • After 15 minutes use a muslin cloth to squeeze out all the water.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, line a baking sheet, and set aside.
  • In another bowl whisk the egg with flour, garlic, and all the seasonings. Mix in the zucchini.
  • Using a scoop, place your batter on the lined baking sheet and flatten it gently.
  • Bake for 15 minutes. Flip and do the same for the other side.
  • Serve warm with yogurt. 

7. Cauliflower and Bell peppers stir fry

Asian-inspired, sweet, and savory stir-fried veggies to add with your favorite noodles or rice or quinoa or grilled chicken/Tofu/Paneer.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Cauliflower (coarsely chopped) - 1 Medium head
  2. Bell pepper (coarsely chopped) - 1 large
  3. Sesame seed oil - 1 tsp
  4. Green onions (finely chopped) - 1 ½ tbsp
  5. Sesame seeds - 1 tbsp
  6. Soy sauce - 1 tbsp
  7. Water - ½ tbsp
  8. Maple syrup/honey - ½ tbsp
  9. Cornstarch - 1tsp


  • Preheat a large skillet and coat with sesame oil. Add your veggies and cover with a lid for 5-8 minutes. Stir every few minutes.
  • In a small bowl mix soy sauce, water, honey/maple syrup, and cornstarch, whisk well, and pour into the skillet.
  • Stir well to coat the veggies.
  • Stir again and sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions.
  • Serve hot. 

8. Baked parmesan zucchini sticks

Cut in half so they can lay flat, and place on a baking sheet. Make a cheese herb of your choice and sprinkle atop. Bake and broil to ensure a crunch.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Zucchini (cut in half) - 2 small
  2. Parmesan cheese (shredded) - ⅓ cup
  3. Dried oregano - 1 tsp
  4. Dried basil - 1 tsp
  5. Dried thyme - 1 tsp
  6. Salt and pepper - accordingly


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet and set aside.
  • Trim the ends of zucchini then cut in halves.
  • Arrange on the baking sheet.
  • In a small bowl mix the cheese with all the seasonings to create a cheese herb mix.
  • Top each zucchini with the mix and bake them for 15 minutes. Then broil for 5 minutes.
  • Serve warm. 

9. Healthy Mac-and-Cheese

Use this lighter take on a usually “unhealthy” classic, by substituting in some low-calorie options and enjoy. You can also make a cauliflower-based sauce.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Whole wheat macaroni (uncooked) - 1 cup
  2. Low sodium Veg or Chicken broth - 1 cup
  3. Milk - ⅓ cup
  4. Salted butter - ½ tbsp
  5. Garlic powder - ½ tsp
  6. Mustard condiment - ½ tsp
  7. Salt and pepper - accordingly
  8. Cheese (shredded) - ½ cup


  • In a pot, add broth, milk, butter, mustard, and all the seasonings and bring it to a boil.
  • Add your pasta and cook it to your desired level of al-dente.
  • Turn off the heat, stir in your cheese, and fold gently.
  • Serve immediately. 

10. Zucchini and Potato Bake

Another dish that can double as a main, just add a protein to the mix. A simple one-pot recipe, prepared in under 30 minutes. Top with cheese and herbs to enhance the flavors.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Potatoes (chopped) - 1 cup
  2. Zucchini (chopped) - 1 cup
  3. Olive oil or cooking spray
  4. Sour cream - ¼ cup
  5. Garlic (grated) - 4 cloves
  6. Fresh herbs (finely chopped) - 5 tbsp
  7. Salt and pepper - accordingly
  8. Cheese blend - ⅓ cup


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and spray a baking dish, add potatoes and zucchini. Set aside.
  • In a bowl, combine sour cream, cheese, and all the seasonings and stir until properly combined.
  • Pour on the vegetables and use the spoon to coat completely.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
  • Poke the veggies to see if they are ready.
  • Serve hot or warm. 

11. Healthy Potato Salad

Switch out your mayo with low-calorie Greek yogurt as the base for the creamy dressing with just enough mayo to taste rich without being too heavy.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Potatoes - 3 large
  2. Egg - 1 large
  3. Fresh cucumber / pickled cucumber (diced) - ¼ cup
  4. Onion (finely chopped) - 2 tbsp
  5. Freshly chopped herbs - 2 tbsp
  6. Yellow mustard - 1 tbsp
  7. Rice vinegar - ½ tbsp
  8. Low fat / Greek yogurt - ¼ cup
  9. Mayo - 1 ½ tbsp
  10. Salt and pepper - accordingly


  • Boil the potatoes and egg. Peel them and keep them aside.
  • To a large bowl add all the other ingredients and stir well to make the dressing.
  • Cut potatoes and egg into desired-size pieces and toss them in the dressing.
  • Serve cold. 

Versatile ones, that go with everything

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12. Crunchy Kale and Apple Slaw

Combining regular slaw veggies with scallions, cilantro, and a creamy peanut sauce. This is a light and easy side dish.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. PEANUT SAUCE - Peanut butter - ½ cup, Soy sauce - 4 tbsp, Rice vinegar - 1 tbsp, honey/ maple syrup - 1 tbsp, minced garlic - 1 clove, hot water - ⅓ cup; shake all these ingredients together in an airtight jar and add hot water to adjust the consistency to your liking.
  2. Shredded Kale - 2 cups
  3. Shredded apples - 1 cup
  4. Shredded cabbage - 1 cup
  5. Shredded carrots - ½ cup
  6. Chopped cilantro and scallions - 2 tbsp


  • In a large mixing bowl, add your shredded veggies, pour the peanut sauce, and stir gently. Eat it as is or chill in the refrigerator. 

13. Grilled Beetroot Salad with Goat Cheese

Add your grilled beets to a whisked dressing made from olive oil, vinegar, honey, and mustard.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Beetroots - 4 large
  2. Feta or Goat Cheese - ½ cup
  3. Olive oil - 4 tbsp
  4. Rice Vinegar - 1 tbsp
  5. Honey - 1 tbsp
  6. Mustard sauce - 1 tbsp
  7. Salt and pepper - accordingly
  8. Parsley (chopped) - 2 tbsp


  • Roast the beets in the oven at 325 degrees F till tender.
  • Chop them into cubes.
  • Prepare the dressing and mix in the beets.
  • Top with fresh parsley and cheese.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Marinated and Roasted Carrots/Potatoes or even Brussels sprouts or Cauliflower can be the perfect accompaniment to a hearty steak or a fish. 

14. Marinade for Grilled/Roasted Veggies

Add extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, garlic salt, balsamic vinegar, and fresh herbs to your grilled or roasted veggies and toss.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Dressing: Olive Oil - 2 tbsp, Balsamic Vinegar - 2 tbsp, Garlic (grated) - 2 cloves, salt, and pepper - accordingly.
  2. Veggies (of your choice, we used zucchini, onion, and bell peppers) (cubed and grilled or roasted) - 2 cups
  3. Parsley or Basil (finely chopped) - 4 tbsp


  • Whisk together the ingredients of the dressing and set aside.
  • Roast your veggies with minimal oil in an air-fryer or Oven for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  • Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and toss in the dressing. Serve hot, warm, or cold. 

15. Rainbow Veggie Kebabs

Take your veggies, toss them in your favorite spices, and grill them on a skewer. Squeeze a lime on the top and enjoy.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Broccoli (florets) - 1 ½ cups
  2. Tomatoes (halved) - 1 ½ cups
  3. Onion (cut in quarters) - 1 ½ cups
  4. Baby Corn - 1 ½ cups
  5. Bell peppers (1-inch squares) - 1 ½ cups
  6. Lemon/Lime - 1 large
  7. Olive oil - 2 tbsp
  8. Salt and pepper - accordingly
  9. Cumin powder - 1 tbsp
  10. Cayenne powder - ½ tbsp
  11. Garlic powder - ½ tbsp
  12. Fresh parsley (finely chopped) - 4 tbsp


  • Prepare a marinade using olive oil and all the seasonings.
  • Put the veggies on skewers and apply the marinade using a brush.
  • Grill the veggies at medium-high heat, till charred.
  • Do not let them get soggy, apply the remaining marinade, garnish with parsley, and serve warm.

A light quinoa salad or Stuffed veggies complement Grilled chicken or fish beautifully. 

16. Stuffed bell peppers:

Stuff your halves of bell peppers with either cooked tofu or a cooked grain like barley and drizzle a creamy sauce on top.

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings):

  1. Large bell pepper - 2
  2. Olive Oil - 1 Tbsp
  3. For filling - slightly firm tofu (crumbled) - 1 ½ cups, finely chopped red onion - ½ cup, finely chopped tomato - ½ cup, salt, and pepper - accordingly, olive oil - 1 tbsp, chili flakes - accordingly, minced garlic - 3 cloves, soy sauce - 1 tbsp, vinegar - ½ tbsp.


  • Cut your bell pepper in halves and empty out the core.
  • Saute the Tofu with some onions, and tomatoes and season well. Add the soy sauce and vinegar and stir well.
  • Once cool down, add the filling in the bell peppers and bake for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 325 degrees F.
  • Drizzle with Greek yogurt and garlic sauce. 

17. Quinoa salad

Combine your cooked quinoa with shredded broccoli and toasted nuts and toss in a lemon-based vinaigrette.  

INGREDIENTS (2 Servings): 

  1. Quinoa (uncooked) - 1 cup 
  2. Almonds (chopped or crushed) - 1 cup 
  3. Brocolli ( shredded) - 1 ½ cup 
  4. Fresh herbs (chopped) - 1 cup 
  5. Olive oil - 3 tbsp 
  6. Lemon zest - of ½ lemon 
  7. Lemon juice - 1 tbsp 
  8. Salt and pepper - accordingly 


  • Cook the quinoa according to package instructions. 
  • Fluff it with a fork. 
  • Preheat a small skillet or pan, and toast the almonds on low heat. 
  • Add all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and gently stir until mixed properly.
  • Chill in the fridge and serve cold. 

Making yourself a plate of food that looks like a rainbow-riot, topped with fruits and veggies will not only make your diet balanced, but it will also provide you with essential nutrients and fiber and won’t destroy your calorie counter.

A diet rich in low-calorie dishes promotes better nutrition, weight management, and overall well-being, contributing to a healthier and more balanced lifestyle.

Hope this helps you in your “Healthier Me” endeavor! 

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