Easy, light and healthy dishes to make for dinner in the New Year

New Year’s resolutions are easy to make but hard to keep. The trick is to set realistic goals and make manageable tweaks to your diet and lifestyle. Small adjustments are a lot easier to integrate into your daily routine, which is ultimately more sustainable.

Whether you’re trying to shed a few pounds, get heart healthier, lower your blood sugar or just start making smarter choices, you’ll find it easier if you take baby steps—and enjoy the process along the way.

This month, we’re introducing a few recipes to help you. They’re all delicious and simple to prepare. None of them requires you to radically change the way you cook. But they all contain small adjustments to meals that will make the finished product lighter and healthier. More importantly, they will help you feel better.

On the menu

• Garlic and White Wine Shrimp over Quinoa and Wilted Spinach
• Grilled Chicken over Creamy Butternut Squash Risotto
• Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Italian Turkey Sausage, Peppers and Onions
• DIY Detox Tea

Recipes by Tracey Koch

Garlic and White Wine Shrimp over Quinoa and Wilted Spinach

Louisiana wild-caught shrimp are a delicious lean protein source. They are available in most grocery stores. Many times they can even be found peeled and deveined in the freezer section, making them a quick and easy go-to dinner option. This recipe can be put together in less than an hour. It is packed full of flavor from the fresh garlic, white wine, lemon zest and herbs that the shrimp are sautéed in. The quinoa and wilted spinach make for the perfect accompaniment and help soak up the delicious sauce. This dish is a guilt-free version of shrimp and grits that will leave you satisfied but not weighed down.

Servings: 6


2 pounds large, wild-caught Louisiana shrimp (peeled and deveined)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon dried Italian herb blend
13 cup white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest

1. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the red pepper flakes, garlic, salt and dried herbs. Cook for about 12-20 seconds.

3. Add the shrimp and sauté, stirring constantly to make sure they are cooking evenly for 2 minutes.

4. Add the white wine and lemon zest. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the shrimp are no longer translucent and are just firm. Serve the shrimp over quinoa and wilted spinach.


1½ cups quinoa
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bag baby spinach
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1. Cook the quinoa according to the package directions. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté 10-15 seconds.

3. Add the spinach a little at a time, and stir constantly to keep from wilting too much as it cooks.

4. Once the spinach is wilted, sprinkle with salt and fold in the cooked quinoa. Stir to make sure all is incorporated. Serve with the shrimp on top.

Grilled Chicken over Creamy Butternut Squash Risotto

It’s true that it is better for our bodies and digestion to eat a bigger meal in the middle of the day and a lighter one at night. This is because we are more active during the day and have more time to metabolize what we consume. With busy schedules, however, we seldom have time for lunch at all, much less a large, midday meal. So what we tried to do is make a satisfying and healthy dinner packed with lean proteins and vegetables—and also low in carbs. This recipe meets those requirements.

The chicken is lean and low in fat and calories but very high in flavor. The marinade gets its flavorful punch by using Dijon mustard and lemon zest. The butternut squash in place of rice is also a great carb substitute. Once it is cooked down, it has all the flavor and texture of a traditional risotto but without the extra carbs.

Servings: 6


2 pounds thin-cut chicken breasts
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon Herbes de Provence
13 cup olive oil

1. Trim any excess fat from the chicken breasts. Rinse and pat dry.

2. Place the chicken in a large plastic freezer bag and set it aside.

3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients to make the marinade for the chicken. Pour the marinade into the bag with the chicken and seal it shut.

4. Gently shake the chicken to evenly coat. Refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours.

5. To grill, heat the grill to 350 degrees.

6. Place the chicken on the preheated grill, leaving a little space between each piece to help cook evenly.

7. Close the grill and set the timer for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken breasts over and close the lid again. Grill the chicken for another 4-5 minutes or until the juices run clear but the chicken is still juicy.

8. Remove the chicken onto a platter and cover it with foil. Allow the chicken to sit for about 5 minutes to allow the juices to run back through the chicken before serving.


8 cups water
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
6 cups butternut squash, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons coconut oil
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup Parmesan cheese

1. In a large pot, bring the 8 cups of water to a rolling boil and add in 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt.

2. Add the butternut squash and blanch for 3-4 minutes, or just until the squash is beginning to soften a bit.

3. Drain the squash and pat dry.

4. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the coconut oil and add the chopped onions. Sauté for 2 minutes.

5. Add the minced garlic, thyme, remaining ½ teaspoon kosher salt and the pepper. Continue to cook another 2 minutes.

6. Add the blanched butternut squash and stir to combine. Pour in the chicken broth and allow the mixture to come to a simmer.

7. Continue simmering and stirring the squash until it is very tender and most of the liquid is cooked out. Sprinkle in the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Italian Turkey Sausage, Peppers and Onions

Sausage and peppers over pasta is a family favorite for us. It’s a very hearty meal on a January night. We have made this healthier version for years, using spicy Italian turkey sausage in place of pork, and spaghetti squash instead of pasta. We first roast the spaghetti squash in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Once it’s ready, we use a fork to peel the spaghetti-like strands out of the squash. If spaghetti squash is out of season, you can try this same dish using zucchini noodles or whole wheat pasta. This dish is high in flavor but a much healthier version of the traditional pasta dish.

Servings: 6


1 whole spaghetti squash
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Carefully cut the spaghetti squash down the middle and scoop out the seeds. Use a fork to prick a few holes in the skin of the squash to help it cook evenly.

3. Lightly drizzle the inside of the squash with a little olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.

4. Place the squash, cut side down, on the lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the squash is firm but tender. You do not want it to be too soft, or it will only mash and not produce firm spaghetti-like strands.

5. Once the squash is cooled, use a fork to scrape the inside of the squash to form the spaghetti strands. Season with a bit more salt and pepper if needed. Serve in place of pasta.


2 pounds (about 5 or 6 links) spicy Italian turkey sausage
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in strips
1 orange bell pepper, cut in strips
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1. Line a baking sheet with foil and heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place the sausages on the lined baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes, turning halfway through.

3. Remove and allow the sausages to cool.

4. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté for a couple of seconds.

5. Add the onion and bell peppers, and continue to sauté until the onions begin to caramelize.

6. Cut the sausages into 2-inch slices and add them to the peppers and onions. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

7. Serve the sausage, peppers and onions over the roasted spaghetti squash.

DIY Detox Tea

Detox tea certainly doesn’t sound particularly delicious, and many recipes require obscure ingredients. That’s why we tweaked a recipe from DIY that’s easy and pretty tasty. It’s made with ingredients you likely already have in your pantry. Raw apple cider vinegar has been known to naturally aid in weight loss and digestion, reduce cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels and improve symptoms in Type 2 diabetes. Raw honey is full of antioxidants and prebiotics, aiding in a healthier digestion and protecting against cell damage This tea can be served hot or cold. NOTE: Be sure to bring the water up to just a simmer. If the water is too hot, it will kill the good bacteria in the cider and honey, and you will lose some of the health benefits. Recipe adapted from DIY. 

Servings: Yields 4 cups

3 cups cold water
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup raw honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon (a pinch) cayenne pepper
¼ cup raw apple cider vinegar

1. Using a tea kettle or sauce pot, heat the water until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and pour into a heat-proof pitcher or large measuring cup.

2. Pour in the lemon juice, honey, cinnamon and cayenne. Stir well until the honey has dissolved.

3. Stir in the raw apple cider vinegar.

4. Serve this tea warm or cold in 6-ounce servings. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. To rewarm, pour into a microwave-safe mug and heat 35-45 seconds or until just warm. Do not overheat (see note above).

This article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.