3 Clean & Fresh Recipes for Hot Summer Days

Article By: Maria Tucker, MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES

Maria Tucker is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 20 years of experience assisting patients with diabetes, obesity, and nutrition-related conditions. Maria is also the Founder of MyBiyaya.com, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and kitchen shortcuts.

When summer heats up, it’s good to have dishes that are clean, fresh, and easy to prepare. Salads, quick bakes, and one-pan dishes come to mind. Here are three fresh summer dishes that are easy, refreshing, packed with protein, and delicious to boot!

Recipe #1 - Quinoa Chinese Cabbage Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes


  • 2 1⁄4 cups quinoa, cooked
  • 1⁄2 cup shredded raw carrots
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 2 1⁄4 cups shredded Napa cabbage
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed


  • Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Whisk together salad dressing ingredients.
  • Pour salad dressing onto salad, and toss together until fully combined.
  • Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:

Calories 254, 13 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 27 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar, 8 grams protein

Recipe #2 - Cilantro Lime Marinated Chicken Thighs

The combination of cilantro and lime juice infuse this chicken dish with delicious flavor and aroma. The addition of fish sauce provides umami and intensifies the depth of flavors while agave nectar provides caramelization and browning.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15-20 minutes


  • 1.5 pounds skinless chicken thighs, ~4 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons dark agave nectar
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce


  • Combine all marinade ingredients in a zipper lock bag, add chicken thighs into the bag, close the bag, and massage the chicken and marinade to ensure all chicken pieces are coated with marinade evenly. Let sit in refrigerator for 15 minutes. You can also keep this in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
  • When ready to cook, remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade.
  • Cook on a pre-heated grill set to medium for 5-8 minutes on each side, or air fry until chicken is cooked to an internal temperature is 165°F.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:

213 calories, 13 grams fat, 3.5 gram saturated fat, 5 grams carbohydrate, 0.2 gram fiber, 4.4 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar, 21 grams protein

Recipe #3 - Instant Pot Turkey Lettuce Bowls

The instant pot has become an essential kitchen gadget to make cooking quicker for the on-the-go family. These lettuce bowls are quick and easy to make, light and refreshing but full of spicy flavor, and perfect for a weeknight summer meal.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes


  • 16-18 bibb or butter lettuce leaves
  • 3 pounds turkey tenderloin
  • 1 cup red onion, sliced into strips
  • 1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon chili sauce
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric


  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped English cucumbers
  • 4 sweet or hot banana peppers, sliced into rings (optional)
  • 1⁄2 cup Tzatziki sauce


  • Place garlic and all of the spices in a large bowl with a lid. Whisk in olive oil and lemon juice until well combined. Add turkey tenderloins and red onion strips to the spice mixture in the bowl and coat them with the spice mixture. Cover bowl with lid and set aside.
  • Place turkey tenderloins in the inner vessel of the instant pot, close and lock the lid. Set to manual setting and cook for 10 minutes on high pressure. Once the cooking cycle is finished, release pressure following manufacturer’s instructions for quick release.
  • Unlock the instant pot lid and carefully remove tenderloins from the pot and transfer them to a deep bowl including any sauce left in the pot. Let tenderloins cool down until safe to handle. Shred the turkey tenderloins in the bowl using 2 forks until they resemble pulled pork. Toss the shredded turkey around in the sauce to coat. Let shredded turkey sit in the bowl for 5 minutes to soak in the sauce.
  • Scoop shredded turkey into lettuce bowls. Top with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers (if using), and Tzatziki sauce. Serve immediately. Shredded turkey filling can be made ahead and frozen, then warmed up when ready to use.

Note: Substitute chicken, beef, or pork tenderloin for the turkey or use tofu cubes as a meatless alternative. If using tofu, just lightly sauté the tofu in olive oil and add in the spices.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:

221 calories, 11 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 6 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar, 24 grams protein

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BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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