A vegetable side dish is part of a typical meal. A typical meal may also consist of a main dish, a starch side dish, a drink, and a dessert. The term vegetable is a culinary term for a food that comes from an edible plant and does not include the sweet fruit or the seed of the plant. A side dish is any food dish that accompanies the main dish and compliments the meals color, texture, and flavor and is usually served beside or "on the side" of the main entrée. Vegetable side dishes are side dishes that contain vegetables in one form or another and are usually dressed with herbs, spices, or sauces to add flavor.
Side dishes are intended to bring a balance to a meal and help make a meal healthier for the individual. Vegetables add vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and fiber. Some vegetables can also provide protein in the case of legumes or beans. Typical side dishes are vegetables and salads, but fruits, and starches such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta are also common. Common vegetable side dishes include salads, beans, carrots, peas, coleslaw, and corn. Sauces, herbs and spices are added to for flavor and to encourage children to eat their vegetables.
A salad can be the main entrée, however, a "side salad" is a smaller portion served alongside the main dish as an accompaniment. Many restaurants include a selection of side dishes as part of the cost of the meal. However, when ordering a la carte each side is purchased separately and some restaurants only serve off of a la carte menus.
Side dishes vary from culture to culture. The vegetables that are used in side dishes varies in each region based on what plants will grow in that climate. However, with modern markets the ability to try foods from different regions is greater than at any time in history. Variations of side dishes are numerous. A side dish can make or break a meal; and a great side dish can make for a very memorable meal.