Meatloaf makes a hearty dinner, even by itself, because a combination of meat, vegetables and grains are baked right into the meal. However, the serving of vegetables contained within the meatloaf may not meet your family's dietary needs, so veggies are a great place to start your side dishes. Grains or starches also contribute to giving your family a balanced meal.
Dark green or orange vegetables, such as green beans, carrots or winter squash, make healthy, hearty side dishes for meatloaf. If your kids balk at cooked veggies, chop up fresh, raw green beans or grate raw carrots and toss them with a small amount of your kids' favorite dressing. Green peas are another option.
Grain and Starch Sides
Potatoes are a traditional side dish for meatloaf, whether baked, roasted or mashed. However, potatoes have a high glycemic index, meaning they elevate the blood sugar quickly. For longer-lasting energy and a healthier meal, use whole grains for your side dishes to complement your meatloaf. Brown rice is a simple whole grain to prepare; quinoa or bulgur wheat are also good alternatives. Add chopped parsley, tomatoes, cucumber and lemon juice to bulgur wheat to form tabouleh, a traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern side dish that works well with Italian seasonings found in traditional meatloaf. Whole-wheat pasta tossed with a small amount of butter or olive oil also provides a satisfying balance to meatloaf.
Many fruits work well with meats to enhance or balance the flavor. Meatloaf is a heavily flavored dish, so pick fruit with equally strong flavors as a side dish or dessert for your meatloaf meal. Apricots, blueberries, strawberries and oranges all present a refreshing, sweet and powerful taste alongside meatloaf. Serve the berries with low-fat yogurt for dessert or slice up oranges or apricots and place them as edible decorations on the dinner plate.
Unless your family is very large, you'll most likely have leftover meatloaf after dinner. By choosing your sides carefully, you can get two dinners out of one. For example, if you use raw carrots and whole-grain pasta as your sides, chop up the meatloaf leftovers and mix them with tomato sauce served over the pasta the next day. The carrots can get tossed into a salad to go with the second-day meal. Alternatively, mix cooked veggies, crumbled meatloaf and rice together for a "rice bowl" meal, or tuck them all into a crust and bake lightly for a filling pot pie.
Anne Hirsh has been writing and editing for over 10 years. She has hands-on experience in cooking, visual arts and theater as well as writing experience covering wellness and animal-related topics. She also has extensive research experience in marketing, small business, Web development and SEO. Hirsh has a bachelor's degree in technical theater and English and post-baccalaureate training in writing and computer software.