Clean Eating Recipes
Eating clean may sound like an “out there” buzz term, but the basic principles behind this movement are founded on sound nutrition. Once you get used to it, cooking and eating clean recipes is a snap, even during busy weeknights. To make life easier, plan your menu ahead of time and keep your pantry stocked with healthy “clean” foods. All of these “clean” dishes come together in less than an hour and all of them use simple ingredients most people have on hand or can be quickly picked up at the grocery store. For those strictly following a clean-eating diet, these Cooking Light recipes fit the bill. For those who are just interested in what “clean eating” is all about, see how easy (and delicious) it can be.
Broiled Flat Iron Steak with Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes
This one-pan meal is a crowd-pleaser and testament to how 4 ingredients can come together to form a supremely satisfying dish, ready in a flash. We broil the steak over the veggies so the meat juices baste them as they cook. Choose multifaceted flat iron steak. Butchered from the shoulder (chuck), it gives you the best of both beefy worlds: One end of the cut is tender and mild, while the opposite end has sirloin-like chew and deep, mineral flavor.
Seared Tuna with Shaved Vegetable Salad
Shaving raw root veggies into a side-dish salad is a fantastic approach. They're ready in just a few minutes, their earthy flavors stay vibrant, and a simple vinaigrette tenderizes them while retaining some crunch. Toss the salad with ample vinaigrette, which does double duty: It lightly softens and "cooks" the raw veggies, and its tangy, zesty flavor complements the meaty tuna so that the fish doesn't need a sauce of its own.
Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms and Onions
Use a stainless steel pan instead of a nonstick here, if possible. A stainless surface will better collect fond (also known as browned bits) from the pork, which is then deglazed to lend rich flavor to the mushrooms and onions as they cook. Cook pork tenderloin on the stovetop instead of oven-roasting it; this gives it a delicious brown crust. Medium heat is key: It browns the pork without burning or toughening the surface before the middle reaches the right temp.
Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Dates and Orange
Whole grains are standard fare on the clean diet, and quinoa is the best of the bunch. Not only is it high in fiber, 1 cup cooked gives you 5 grams of fiber, it’s an excellent source of protein, providing all nine essential amino acids and making it a complete protein. It’s slightly crunchy, nutty taste goes well with many nuts, fruits and vegetables plus it cooks up quick in just 20 minutes or less. Our readers loved this recipe's leftovers, suggesting you double or triple the recipe so you have enough for extra dinners or easy lunches.
Fennel and Spinach Salad with Shrimp and Balsamic Vinaigrette
Mild and healthy, spinach is the perfect base to many meals and allows bold flavors to seep in and soak the leaves. Red grape tomatoes add a pop of color to this fresh spinach salad with shrimp. The shrimp wilts the spinach slightly, adding a comfort food element to this robust weeknight dinner recipe. Shrimp is an often-neglected protein, but it need not be. It cooks quickly, is versatile, and doesn't require ample prep or marinating time. Readers praised this "skinny salad" recipe, adding that it's kid friendly and easily dressed up for guests on a busy weeknight.
Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce
A zesty mustard sauce dresses chicken breasts and sautéed Brussels sprouts for a healthy finish to this easy weeknight recipe. This easy chicken recipe cooks from start to finish in the same pan, moving from stove top to oven to finish the brilliant pan sauce. We love this one-dish dinner for an easy weeknight meal or an evening when comfort food is a must. Some readers suggest doubling the pan sauce recipe so that you have extra for other veggies later in the week. If you have a wary Brussels sprouts diner in your crowd, this is the recipe to make so they'll give the underrated veggies a second chance.
Arugula, Grape, and Sunflower Seed Salad
Super clean salads highlight all kinds of fresh, wholesome, unprocessed foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and more. This one features spicy arugula, sweet red grapes, and another clean eating staple, sunflower seeds. Seeds and nuts are a common ingredient in “clean” cooking because they fill you up, provide hard-to-get nutrients like magnesium, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E, and are chock full of good fats.
When it comes to salad dressings, “clean” dressings are low in fat but still pop with flavor from fresh herbs, zesty spices, or a splash of fruit juice. In this recipe, maple syrup and honey blend with spicy mustard and a dash of vinegar to pack a sassy punch.
Vegetable Hash with Poached Eggs
If pizza, salad, or pasta is your go-to solution for meatless dinners, switch it up and try a vegetable hash instead. Traditional hashes are often tossed together from various leftovers found languishing in the fridge, but we're bringing them back as stars of the dinner table, and for great reason. Here, a beautiful poached egg tops a bowl of hearty, fibrous vegetables to create a balanced vegetarian meal in a flash. Feeling the need for extra protein? Add an extra egg to your serving. Meatless meals have never been easier, or more colorful!
Lemony Chicken Kebabs with Tomato-Parsley Salad
Sticking to low-ingredient meals helps keep your dish in check when following a clean-eating diet. This six-ingredient dish delivers big taste with minimal fuss. Start marinating the chicken in the morning to make prep time quick and easy in the afternoon. Serve the salad on a bed of bulgur for a twist on tabbouleh and a fiber boost. If parsley salad isn't your thing, try a spinach salad instead. This is the perfect clean-eating dish for summer.
Oven-Fried Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are loaded with beta carotene (pre-Vitamin A), Vitamin C, and potassium, not to mention fiber and complex carbohydrates, making them a better choice than white potatoes in most cases. They regularly appear on clean menus alongside lean proteins like chicken, pork, and fish. Oven-frying cuts the fat and calories from these potatoes while still giving you a crisp, tender product. And making them yourself (as opposed to out of a frozen food bag) ensures you’re using unprocessed ingredients. This salty-sweet side cooks in 30 minutes in the oven, just enough time to let that hint of orange rind really shine.
Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Used sparingly, naturally high-fat foods like sharp cheeses and salty condiments can boost flavor without going overboard. Here lean low-fat chicken breasts are stuffed with a combination of roasted red pepper, feta, and kalamata olives. The small amount of filling kicks the chicken up a notch, but still keeps calories, fat, and sodium in check. If you don’t want to grill, sauté the chicken instead. Serve with quinoa or whole wheat couscous and steamed green beans. This super easy dish drew raves from our users, calling it a great solution to busy weeknights without sacrificing flavor.
Carrot Soup with Yogurt
Nutritious, delicious, and comforting, soups are a clean eating mainstay when prepared from fresh ingredients. Vegetable purees in particular are a great way to enjoy fresh-tasting creamy soups without relying on heavy cream and butter for flavor. In this recipe, the addition of a dollop of tart yogurt at the end makes a good contrast to the sweetness of the carrots and gives a smooth velvety richness to the soup. While we suggest serving this soup warm, as written in the recipe, readers suggested enjoying the leftovers chilled. Pair with a green salad for a filling dinner.
Tenderloin Steaks with Red Onion Marmalade
Simple, high quality ingredients are the key to putting nutritious, “clean” meals on the table fast. In this recipe, lean steaks are quickly broiled, then topped with sweet and sour onions. Beef tenderloin is naturally high in protein and is a good source of iron, B12, B6, and niacin. Small amounts of protein eaten throughout the day build lean muscle mass, promote satiety, and keep blood glucose levels stable so you don’t feel sluggish. Pair with steamed green beans and smashed potatoes for a family-pleased meal you can feel good about.
Crab Salad-Stuffed Eggs
Eggs offer high-quality protein at a low price. To keep calories at bay, make omelets, frittatas, and baked dishes with egg whites rather than yolks (a good ratio is two whites for every one yolk), but when it comes to quick meals or snacks a plain, a hard-cooked egg is hard to beat. This recipe takes it one step further by combining the yolk with crabmeat, yogurt, and mustard. A chilled raw radish salad completes the dish. This is a great clean-eating appetizer for your next party, and the leftovers make delicious additions to your morning-after brunch.
Nutty Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad
Sometimes all it takes to “clean up” a recipe are a few simple changes such as substituting olive oil for butter or using fresh fruits or vegetables instead of canned. In this case, the regular “white” breadcrumbs can easily be replaced by whole wheat or whole grain breadcrumbs. For this easy salad, you can either separate the leaves of the sprouts, quartering the cores, or thinly slice the entire sprout until you've made a Brussels sprout slaw. To make it a meal, top with a lean protein, such as salmon.
Peppercorn-Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Gremolata
It doesn’t take processed ingredients to season a perfectly cooked steak. In fact, it ruins it. This steak gets its bright natural flavor from fresh herbs and lemon juice. The gremolata adds a depth of flavor to this steak dinner. Pair it with roasted vegetables or a salad; the tenderloin is the star of this dinner. We suggest breaking this recipe out for a special night in or when you're serving guests at home. The steaks cook quickly in the pan, so have your sides almost ready before you begin.
Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli
Busy night? No problem! This quick, lean dinner whips up in just 15 minutes, so you can keep the boxed and frozen dinners on the shelf and off your plate. This easy baked shrimp recipe pairs perfectly with the broccoli, but would also be perfect paired with a simple veggie toss, a crisp salad, or loaded into a lettuce wrap. Once you have a few clean-eating staples down, creating a week's worth of menus is a breeze. Shrimp are an often forgotten protein, but they're budget friendly and quick cooking, making them high on our go-to weeknight meal rotation list.
Nutty Almond-Sesame Red Quinoa
Clean eating doesn't mean boring, plain salads. You can master clean eating while also enjoying bold, flavorful meals, like this red quinoa bowl. Instead of adding croutons, add nuts to salads for a punch of protein and a wonderful crunch. This salad is delicious served warm for dinner and makes the perfect leftovers for lunch the next day. Add grilled chicken or roasted shrimp to make a hearty meal, or serve this as a light lunch. We prefer using red quinoa for this recipe, but you can swap out what's in your pantry if you have other quinoa on hand.
Arctic Char with Orange-Caper Relish
Dive into a gorgeous one-bowl dinner that's loaded with fresh clean-eating flavor. This delicious dish gets its natural flavor hit from both the salty essence of capers and the sweet touch of freshly squeezed orange juice. It's that delicate citrus note that give the fish its bold flavor. Arctic Char cooks quickly, making this colorful meal perfect for a busy weeknight. It goes from fridge to table in about 15 minutes. If you can't locate Arctic Char, substitute salmon instead.
Chicken Kebabs and Nectarine Salsa
While this recipe is almost completely clean, the marinade calls for brown sugar. For an easy sugar substitution, replace 1½ teaspoons of maple syrup for the 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. If you enjoy heat, consider adding an additional jalapeno or two to the salsa, as a few of our heat-loving readers suggested; they also suggested trying a different variety of fruits in the salsa to mix up the flavor. This versatile clean eating marinade works well on salmon, too. If you're limited on time, skip the skewering and grill the chicken breasts whole. Serve this clean-eating chicken main dish with a green salad.
Seared Tuna Niçoise
Get a dose of your omega-3s with fresh tuna. In season from late spring to early fall, fresh tuna is delicious grilled or lightly seared. When shopping for fresh tuna, look for pieces that look glossy and smell ocean-fresh. Make sure to cook it the day you buy it. This fresh clean-eating take on the classic Salad Nicoise is a welcome addition to any dinner rotation. We love this easy dinner idea for steamy summer nights or evenings when you just don't want a heavy meal.
Grilled Pork Chops with Two-Melon Salsa
Drench grilled meats in salsa to get a natural, low-calorie topping. Here, an array of fresh melons, cilantro, and jalapeño peppers top garlicky grilled pork chops for a delicious meal that's ready in less than 30 minutes. The flavor of the fresh melon balances the heat of the peppers, plus the salsa serves as a hearty side, making this an easy one-dish dinner for a light dining night. Try it once as written, then dress up the salsa to your liking, swapping in pineapple for the melon and see how you like it. Our readers claim this is their go-to pork chop recipe, now, one they'll make again and again.
Tuna Scaloppine with Onion, Mint, and Almond Topping
Health experts recommend two or three servings of a variety of seafood a week, but many “clean” eaters eat even more than that. Oily fish like tuna have the extra benefit of supplying good fats like the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. These healthy fats reduce your risk of heart disease, enhance your immune system, and lower blood pressure. In this recipe thin tuna steaks are topped with a mixture of onions, mint, and heart-healthy almonds. The fish cooks for about one minute per side, so choose this recipe for a night when time is tight and bold flavor is a must.
3 More Clean-Cooking Tips
When you're cooking simple dishes with just a few ingredients, there's no place for inferior products to hide. This is where high-caliber components make all the difference: Flavorful extra-virgin olive oil, pristine produce, and spanking-fresh proteins will shine in these meals.
Faster Feels Fresher
Quick sautés, broiled dishes, flash-sears, and raw salads seem cleaner than long-simmered stews and braises, partly because the flavors of slow-cooked ingredients tend to meld together, while quick-cooked items maintain their distinct tastes, textures, and colors.
Veggie Variety Helps
A simple meal shouldn't be boring, and one of the easiest ways to make the plate pop is to include two or more produce items. This gives the dish more color, broadens the flavor spectrum, and helps you take in more vitamins and minerals. Keep it seasonal by remembering the principle "If it grows together, it goes together."