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August 05, 2021 / Amy Height

Light Summer Meals: Easy Recipes for Summer

Woman in an orange shirt holding vegetable skewers next to a grill outside.

It’s summer: the days are longer, the temperatures higher, and the foods you’re craving are a little different than the ones you want in the dead of winter. Summer’s uptick in heat might come with a quick downshift in your motivation to spend time in the kitchen and a preference for light summer meals; after all, you have some quality hours of sunshine to take advantage of!

The perfect summer meal has three key components: a combination of satisfying and refreshing ingredients; a recipe that is easy to make (and doesn’t require you to turn on the oven); and a dish that is portable and shareable for an outdoor gathering with friends and family.

If you are looking for light eats to make for yourself or an event, here are some of our favorite summer recipes to fuel your warm-weather adventures.

Summer Starters and Salads

The best way to kick off light summer meals is with simple starters that are light and flavorful. Chilled salads and finger foods are always a hit and by using fresh vegetables and herbs, you enjoy the bountiful offerings of the summer season.

Salads are a classic summertime meal, and they are the perfect starter in warm weather. With a mix of raw and cooked ingredients, these clean eating staples are great for lunch or dinner. We’ve selected a range of recipes that contain nutrient-rich ingredients to support your healthy lifestyle.

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Caprese pasta salad

Caprese salad is a great vegetarian-friendly option that has just a few simple ingredients: sliced tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil, salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic. If you’re catering for a crowd, this caprese pasta salad takes only 15 minutes to prepare and packs well for a picnic.

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Grilled thai beef salad

You’ll feel like a true professional chef (and impress your dinner companions) with this grilled Thai beef salad. The fresh herbs in this summer recipe make all the difference.

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Buckwheat soba noodle and red cabbage salad

This inventive soba noodle salad provides a filling (but not overwhelming) appetizer for any meal. Adjust the amount of sauce and amp up the nutrients by adding your favorite shredded veggies.

Quick Bites

Looking for summer recipes you can make in fifteen minutes or less? These recipes let you spend less time in the kitchen and more time appreciating your chef skills. Despite being quick to prepare, these tasty bites look impressive and taste even better.

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Spicy salmon and cucumber sandwiches

Ready in just 10 minutes, these spicy salmon and cucumber sandwiches are refreshing and light. Enjoy beneficial omegas with a kick! Is your mouth watering yet?

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Spring roll lettuce wraps with chicken and sunflower butter sauce

Perfect for a quick bite on the go, spring roll lettuce wraps with chicken and sunflower butter sauce are packed with flavor and protein. Finger foods are fun for adults and children alike and everyone loves a good dipping sauce!

Summer Entrees

Summer entrees are anything but boring when you can grill or prepare light summer meals composed of fresh meats and fish, in-season veggies and fruits, and flavorful herbs and spices. Choose from any of these easy summer meals that are light on time in the kitchen and heavy on flavor.

Grilled Entrees

Fire up the grill and cook up some of your favorite ingredients in a way you can’t always have in the winter. We love that grilling is friendly to plant-based eaters and omnivores alike; so, put on an apron and head outdoors to cook up these favorite summer recipes.

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Portobello burger with pesto, provolone, and peppers

Instead of heavy beef burgers, make these juicy portobello and pesto burgers. They’re a little lighter and packed with flavor. Mushrooms have also been found to improve your intake of several micronutrients, helping you reach important dietary goals. The toasted whole-grain roll and pesto spread make this a memorable summer meal.

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Grilled swordfish with parsley potatoes and side salad

Light and filling, swordfish is packed with protein and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Whether you’re on a fish diet plan or just trying to eat healthier, this grilled swordfish with parsley potatoes and side salad fits the bill. Parsley, green onions, olive oil, and lemon juice blend together and create a delicious sauce to complement the swordfish.

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Salmon with apple-walnut crust and roasted broccolini

Recreate the feeling of being on a beach vacation by grilling this delicious salmon with a smokey spice rub. Salmon is known for its high omega-3 fatty acids, and it also contains ample potassium. Enjoy this easy summer dinner knowing your body stands to benefit.

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Grilled buttermilk chicken kebabs and broccoli salad

Line up some lean meat and veggie cubes on a wooden skewer and your dinner just got exponentially more fun! Try these paleo-friendly chicken kebabs made from scratch with buttermilk, allspice, paprika, and a broccoli salad on the side.

Light Entrees

If you’re looking for inspiration for entertaining a larger group of people, consider these light and nourishing easy summer dinners that are sure to impress. Easy doesn’t have to mean basic and these recipes illustrate just how extraordinary even simple recipes can be. Just look at our summer pizza for a great example of how delicious a light entrée can be!

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Tacos for all!

Outdoor dining begs for tacos, so try these grilled shrimp and caesar tacos or shredded pork and pineapple tacos. These easy summer meals require no cutlery and always hit the mark on flavor.

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Lobster two ways

Recreate your favorite childhood trips to the ocean with these healthier light lobster rolls for your next summertime gathering. Looking for lobster sans bread? This gluten-free lobster quinoa salad with corn is the perfect substitution.

Summer Desserts

Even light summer meals can end with a crowd-pleasing dessert. We recommend you make extra to be able to send some home with guests at the end of the summer soiree. And if you have any leftovers, chill them and look forward to enjoying them again the next day.

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Strawberry coconut blondie balls

Fuel your warm-weather adventures with these easy, not-too-sweet strawberry coconut blondie balls. Put them on the menu for your next summer picnic and be prepared when guests ask for seconds.

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Not all cookies have to be baked, and these gluten-free cookie dough bars are proof that no-bake cookies can be just as delicious as their cooked cousins. Although these may feel indulgent, they are low in sugar, contain heart-healthy oats, and we can assure you they are the perfect finish to light summer meals.

The Takeaway

When it comes to clean eating plans, summertime might just be the best season for it. A plethora of in-season ingredients can help the warmest months turn into some of the most delicious. PlateJoy can help you plan your easy summer meals with a wide variety of custom meal plans that are perfect for every preference – and tons of ideas that involve little or no cooking. Check out some clean eating tips for summer and get inspired by more of our favorite shareable recipes.

Amy Height
Holistic Nutritionist @ From the Ground Up Wellness

Amy Height is the founder of From the Ground Up Wellness, a holistic nutrition practice where she specializes in plant-based nutrition and helping her clients combat food addiction. She completed her training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she received her certification in the Health Coach Training Program. She is a triathlete and CrossFitter with a passion for all things outdoors. By night, Amy stage manages Broadway musicals and she frequently travels North America seeking out the best vegan restaurants and the best run courses. Follow her on Instagram or check out her blog for recipe and wellness ideas.

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