25 Lightened Up Dinner Recipes

This is the time of year when many are trying to get back on track after one too many Christmas cookies, extra helpings of that fabulous warm brie dip at holiday parties, or had one too many cocktails and mugs of eggnog filled with empty calories. But they tasted so good going down.

Here are 25 ideas for lightening things up in January:

Everything is vegan, or vegetarian where noted, and most are gluten-free.

Most are ready in less than 30 minutes and all are easy enough for busy weeknights.

Many make just enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

There’s not one traditional lettuce salad on the list. Who said lightened up and healthy had to involve lettuce anyway.

1. Peanut Noodles with Mixed Vegetables and Peanut Sauce (vegan, GF)

2.Spicy Baked Black Beans with Mixed Vegetables (vegan, GF)

3. Vegetable Lasagna Casserole (vegan, GF)

4. Peanut Sauce Baked Tofu (vegan, GF)

5. Spinach Artichoke and Roasted Red Pepper Cheesy Squares (vegetarian, with vegan & GF options)


6. Raw Pasta Salad with Creamy Lemon & Herb Dressing (vegan, GF)

7. Cheezy Vegetable Bake (vegan, GF)

8. Roasted Carrot and Red Pepper Peanut Soup (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)


9. Apple Glazed Vegetable & Edamame Stir Fry (vegan, GF)

10. Orange Ginger Tempeh and Brown Rice Salad with Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette (vegan, gluten free if GF tempeh is used)

11. Chipotle Avocado Cucumber Flatbreads (vegetarian, vegan if vegan flatbread is used)

12. Pumpkin Spiced Brown Rice Tempeh and Cranberry Salad (vegan, gluten free if GF tempeh is used)

13. Salsa Verde Pepperjack Tofu (microwave, vegan, GF)

14. Baked Parsnip Fries with Creamy Balsamic Reduction Dip

15. Fresh Vegan Spring Rolls and 2-Minute Peanut Sauce (vegan, GF)

16. Mango Basil Personal-Sized Tortilla Pizzas (vegetarian or vegan if vegan cheese and tortillas are used)

17. Creamy Tomato Soup (vegan, GF)

18. Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato and Zucchini Fritters (vegan, GF)

19. Barbeque Tofu with Pineapple and Mango (vegan, GF)

20. Roasted Cinnamon-Ginger Delicata Squash (vegan, GF)

21.Pumpkin and Cheesy Baked Potato Casserole (vegan, GF)

22. Caribbean Coconut Rice with Garbanzos & Veggies (vegan, GF)

23.Vegetable Fried Rice Frittata (vegetarian, GF)

24. Avocado, Cream Cheese, and Salsa-Stuffed Puff Pastries (use vegan puff pastry and vegan cream cheese to keep vegan)

25. Sweet Potato Red Pepper and Coconut Milk Soup (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, microwave-friendly)

Are you eating any differently in January? Making any changes with things in 2013?

If you have favorite recipes that are your go-to weeknight options, I’d love to hear about them. Links welcome.

Thanks for the Glass Dharma Glass Straw $25 Giveaway Entries


  1. These are brilliant!!! And definitely good timing. I still have way too much left over Xmas candy.

  2. I’m definitely one of the people who need to eat “lighter.” I’ve gained more weight in the first week of January 2013 than I did all year in 2012!

  3. I love this round-up of recipes!! Baked tofu is such a versatile, easy protein to serve, and anytime there are roasted veggies involves, I’m in. I clicked on the beans and roasted veggies recipe–I’m pinning that to try soon. And also, the cheezy veggie bake. I love finding ways to use nooch. :)

  4. All these recipes with tofu make me want to give it a try! Usually I am intimidated by Tofu but you have inspired me. :) Thank you for the nudge!

  5. This is a great collection of healthier recipe ideas Averie! I really need some good ideas right now, and these are perfect. I love the sound of that raw pasta. :)

  6. What a great list of healthier dinner choices! I’m a sucker for soup this time of year and a big tofu fan, I’m going to have to try some of your recipes for both those categories!

  7. Great ideas! I am a huge fan of peanut noodles. And I had forgotten how much I loved your vegetable bake until just now- must make again! Happy sunday

  8. Love the collection! So many things to pin…so little time.

  9. It all DID look and taste so very good going down. Wouldn’t have changed a thing. Gosh, I think I ate my weight in Christmas candies as I was constructing our gingerbread house. I went a whole day on JUST candy instead of any other food. I felt like garbage the next day but it was a super fun activity! Christmas is my major mindfully indulging type holiday. Back to the zucchini pastas, large salad bowls and steamed chicken breasts. Still great food, just a biiiiit more balance ;)

  10. Love this round-up, Averie! I want to try all 25! :)

  11. I’ve tried several of these–delicious memories!!!! Thanks for the link back to your cheesy kale chips the other day. I made them…and they’re gone. So insanely, crazy good–I can’t even begin to tell you! I have made them before with lacinato kale, olive oil, and seasoning, and while they tasted good, they dehydrated into very thin crumbly sheets. With your recipe, I used the curly kale which really held onto the coating better and the kale didn’t get paper thin, so I had “heartier” chips. I am patiently waiting for a batch of the coconut chocolate kale chips to finish drying out and I’m equally impressed with those too!

    • Glad it was a trip down memory lane for you!

      Cheezy kale chips – yes those things are amazing if I do say so. There is no way kale can ever stay thick and lovely with just EVOO and seasoning (it just burns!) which is why I love that coating mixture as it prevents disintegrating leaves & the flavor! And the choc kale chips..oh those are a good memory too. I have vivid memories of posting BOTH of those original recipes and what I was doing in life, Skylar’s age, etc. Keep me posted on the choc version!

  12. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!! Totally wish I was making the Caribbean Coconut Rice tonight for dinner…on the menu for next week for sure!

  13. What a great roundup of healthy meals. I need to make a few of these! Thanks Averie!

  14. I always eat light healthy dinners to compensate for my intake of sweets. It is great to have a few new ideas to give a try.

  15. I am so making those parsnip fries!!!!

  16. Love this post, everything looks fabulous!!! So perfect for this time of year!! Gorgeous photos!

  17. I know this type of post isn’t your favorite, but everything on here looks so good. I’m not even hungry, and I am hungry!

  18. I am all drooling over this post, my food it is! :) You know what I’ve noticed, or better say what I didn’t notice, are beets. Do you cook with it? I just had a salad with roasted beets and my hands are still slightly colored as I am typing this. We are eating mostly roots in January, cleaning off all that December’s calories. :)

    • Beets are nature’s candy and I love them!!! I haven’t made anything with beets for my blog in ages…I need to change that! You’re so right. I adore them. I mean, once, I actually made myself sick I ate so many. This was maybe 10 years ago and I didn’t know they have strong detoxing properties but I digress. Yes, I love them!

  19. Girl, I thought bakers and cooks were totally different breeds. I am SO excited to try ALL of these recipes. As much as I would love to bake all of your treats, I just can’t be trusted with measuring cups. These recipes however, I can do this!!!! YUM!

    • The funny thing is I don’t always use measuring cups. People say baking is exact and it’s not forgiving. Well, sometimes that’s the case but sometimes at 2am when I just start dumping things into a bowl and melting stuff when I have crazy ideas come into my head, those are my best recipes sometimes! I remake them again and measure so I can blog about it :)

  20. I will be making the peanut noodles for dinner tomorrow! They look incredible. I will also pass this link along, I know so many who will appreciate the easy and light recipes :)

  21. Thank you for your treasure trove of recipes, Averie. My husband is on a veggie kick at the moment.So they will come in very handy.

    Here’s a link for a Japanese-style à la vegetarian (fried cutlet) tonkatsu how-to.
    Seitan (wheat protein) and Portobello mushrooms works wonders as substitute for pork =)

  22. Quite a handy roundup to have right now!

  23. These all look awesome! I want to try them all!! :)

  24. Awesome collection here Avery!

  25. This is exactly what I was looking for as I try to shed my holiday gut- and oh my god I am now dying for spring rolls! I must have these, like, now.

  26. Hi Averie,

    I was searching for recipes to use up ripened bananas when I stumbled upon your wonderful website (I am going to make the Blueberry Banana Oat Cakes :) As a college student, I have recently been looking for easy vegetarian lunch ideas other than the usual sandwich as I don’t do well with bread due to past issues of an eating disorder. I just read your 25 Lightened up Entrees and I think I found my answer. Your site is very well layed out and more importantly your recipes seem simple, healthy, tasty and quick. Thank you for sharing your creativity keep it up!

  27. What great lighten up dishes for the new year, they all look fabulous!!

  28. Averie,
    These cheerful and beautiful photographs are so refreshing for my poor last-day-of-January soul. I am so glad to have found this line-up of healthy light meals. And they are easy. Wow! We will be having the delicata with cinnamon tonight. Sounds delish! Thanks so much for sharing.

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