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Clean Eating Recipe Conversion

How to Make Any Recipe Clean
In this final post, we are posting some sample recipes to provides ideas and help you explore meal preparation within the Eating Clean style. We hope you have enjoyed this series. While we do advocate for any specific diet, the concepts clean eating can improve anyone’s diet. We hope you will integrate some of them for your health.

Recipe Conversion

Let’s say you have a favorite family recipe for mac and cheese. Is it off limits now? No. I believe most recipes can be converted to a clean eating plan. It may take some experimentation and some time. Want to try it? Here are some basic guidelines for making clean substitutions.

Substitute the white stuff. Sugar can be substituted as long as you have a kitchen scale. Weigh the amount of sugar called for and then use the same weight in a natural liquid sweetener like honey. Brown sugar isn’t a clean option. It’s simply white sugar with molasses.

To substitute unhealthy oil for cooking, use a small amount of olive oil, say 1 Tablespoon, and replace the rest with chicken broth. Replace oil in baking with no sugar added applesauce and fruit puree like pumpkin. Add extra spices and extracts to taste.

White flour can be replaced in both baking and thickening sauces. Use whole wheat pastry flour in baking or use whole grain flours.

For pasta dishes, use whole grain pasta instead of those made with white flour.

As with any recipe, exchanges and substitutions may change the texture and flavor. Have fun and experiment until you get one that you love.

7 Clean Eating Dinner Recipes To Spark Ideas

Not sure where to start in preparing a clean eating meal? Here are 7 clean eating dinner recipes to get you started.

Chicken-Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Dates, and Orange

This salad combines dates and oranges, pecans and quinoa, a high-protein grain from South America along with simple chicken breast chunks for a savory weeknight dinner.

Serves 8   Total time: 45 Minutes



  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 c finely diced white onion
  • 1 c quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 c water
  • 1/2 tsp salt, kosher
  • 1 large orange, sectioned
  • 1/4 c pecans, loosely chopped and toasted
  • 2 T red onion, finely minced
  • 5 dates, pitted and finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb. asparagus cut into 2-inch pieces, steamed and chilled
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 4 chicken breast tenders, cut into chunks


  • 2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt, kosher
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 T fresh mint, finely chopped
  • Mint sprigs 


In a large non-stick skillet, cook chicken breast chunks in 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Turn to brown evenly. Cook about 15 minutes or until done. Remove from skillet to cool.

In the same skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion in oil about 2 minutes. Add quinoa to pan and sauté another 5 minutes. Add the 2 cups of water, 1/ 2 teaspoon of salt, bringing to a boil. Cover, reducing heat, and simmer about 15 minutes. Immediately remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes until water is absorbed. Put quinoa mixture into a bowl. Add cooked chicken, oranges, pecans, red onion, dates, asparagus, and jalapeño pepper. Toss to combine.

Prepare the dressing by combining the juice and extra virgin olive oil, sal1, black pepper, and garlic in a small bowl. Mix together with a whisk. Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss together. Top with chopped mint. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

Serve at room temperature.

*Recipe adapted from http://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/cooking-with-asparagus/quinoa…

Mustard Chicken with Brussels Sprouts  

Your family is sure to love this dinner. The refreshing mustard sauce covers the chicken breasts and the simple sautéed Brussels sprouts.

Yield: Serves 4   Total time: 40 Minutes


  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 4 chicken breast halves, skinless and boneless
  • 3/8 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 3/4 C chicken broth, divided. It should be fat-free and lower-sodium
  • ¼ C unfiltered apple cider
  • 2 T mustard, whole-grain Dijon
  • 2 T butter, divided
  • 1 T fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely cut 
  • 12 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half


Turn oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit to preheat.

On high heat, heat a large skillet that’s ovenproof. Add in 1 T oil. Toss chicken with 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper. Place in pan. Cook until brown – about 3 minutes. Turn chick breast over and place pan in preheated oven. Bake for 9 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove pan from oven. Place chicken on a plate and keep warm. Place the skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 C chicken broth and cider, bringing to a boil while using a spoon to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Lower heat to medium-low and cook at a simmer for 4 minutes or until thick. Add mustard, 1 tablespoon butter, and parsley and whisk to mix.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 T oil and 1 T butter over medium-high heat. Toss in Brussels sprouts and cook until lightly brown, about 2 minutes. Put remaining 1/8 tsp salt and 1/4 C broth in pan and cover. Cook 4 minutes.

Serve sprouts alongside the chicken and sauce.

Adapted from http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-brussels-sprouts

Spaghetti Spinach Genovese 

This clean recipe for Spaghetti Genovese adds spinach as a nutritional boost while using whole-wheat pasta in place of traditional pasta. 

Serves: 5    Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 2 C baby spinach, packed
  • 8 oz. whole-wheat/whole-grain spaghetti
  • 1 C new or small potatoes cut in thin slices
  • 1 LB. green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 C prepared all natural ingredient pesto
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt


Boil water in a pot over medium-high heat. Cook spinach in water for 45 seconds until wilted. Remove spinach with a fine sieve and put in a blender. DO NOT DRAIN WATER. Return the spinach water to a boil. Add potatoes and spaghetti noodles. Cook about 6 or 7 minutes, until almost tender. Stir once or twice to keep from sticking. Add the green beans. Continue cooking until tender about 3 minutes longer.

Dip out 1 cup of the cooking liquid from the pot just before spaghetti and vegetables are done. Pour 1/ 2 cup of that liquid into the blender. Add pesto, salt, and pepper. Mix until smooth. You may need to stop and scrape the sides.

Drain liquid from the pot of spaghetti and vegetables, leaving ingredients in the pot. Mix in the pesto mix. Return to medium heat, cooking and stirring gently, until thickened and hot, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Adapted from http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/spaghetti_genovese.html

Sweet Plantain Black Bean Veggie Burgers with Avocado

Veggie burgers can be tasteless. These use natural ingredients to make them delicious with a hint of sweetness from the plantains and a kick from chipotle powder.

Yield: 4 burgers   Total time: 25 mins


  • 1 large, blackened peel ripe plantain, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 tsp virgin coconut oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 can rinse and drained black beans
  • 1/4 C hemp seeds
  • 1 1/2 T tahini
  • 1 T fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 C diced red onion
  • 2 T finely diced cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
  • 1-2 T oat flour 
  • 1/4 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • toppings: sliced onion, lettuce, sliced avocado
  • condiments: fresh or jar salsa, vegan mayo
  • All natural buns


Fix the plantains. Heat teaspoon of oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the plantains and cook 1 minute on each side. If the pan gets too dry, add a little water. Take plantains from the pan. Add 1 cup of the plantains to a large mixing bowl. The rest of the plantains can be served as a side to the burger.

Toss the black beans, chipotle powder, salt, hemp seeds, onion, tahini, cilantro, lime, and oat flour into the mixing bowl along with the plantains. Mash the ingredients with a potato masher or fork until the beans are split.

Heat a skillet with 1 tsp oil over medium-high heat.

Pat into patties and cook on a hot, oiled skillet. Cook for 1 to 3 minutes on each side until brown. Finish completely cooking in the skillet or transfer to a 350 Fahrenheit degree oven for ten minutes after browning.

Serve with bun and assorted toppings.

Adapted from Kathy Patalsky of http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/2015/05/black-bean-plantain-veggie-burger…

Browned Cod with Lemony-Wilted Spinach Sauce

The citrus and spinach sauce adds a zesty dash of flavor to a delicate fish like cod. Use Meyer lemons if possible since they have a sweeter juice.

Makes: 4 servings   Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 1 package baby spinach, 5-ounce size
  • 3 T water 
  • 1/2 C fresh parsley sprigs, lightly packed
  • 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tsp orange juice
  • 1 quartered clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper, crushed
  • 1 1/4 pounds’ cod, divided into 4 portions
  • 1 T grapeseed oil or canola oil
  • 1/4 C sliced almonds, toasted


Put spinach and water in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Put a few holes in the plastic wrap. Microwave on high about 2 minutes until spinach is wilted.  

In a blender, pulverize the wilted spinach and any remaining water with the parsley, lemon juice, orange juice, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and crushed red pepper until smooth. Set aside.

Dash the cod with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Cook the cod in oil that’s been heated over medium high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Turn cod once, cook until brown and cooked through about 5 to 7 minutes. Place on a plate and cover with a tent of foil to keep it warm.  

Add the reserved spinach sauce to the pan. Heat, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute until slightly thickened. Pour sauce onto a plate, top with fish and sprinkle with almonds.

Adapted from http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/seared_cod_spinach_lemon_sauce.html

Easy Two Ingredient Salsa Shredded Chicken

This is a quick to make a dish that combines the spicy flavors of salsa with a slow cooked chicken. It can be used for Mexican style dishes like tacos or quesadillas, chili, soups, sandwiches or on pizzas.

Makes: 2 servings   Total Time: 4-8 hours depending on slow cooker settings


  • 1 lb. (about 2) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups salsa, all natural 
  • Topping Ideas: Tomatoes, shredded lettuce, shredded Mexican cheese, sour cream, scallions, cilantro.


Put the whole chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Cover with salsa. Toss to coat chicken with salsa.

Put the cover on slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours. It’s done when chicken is easily shredded with a fork. Shred chicken. Put back in the slow cooker and toss with remaining salsa and juices left in the slow cooker. 

Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 5 days in an airtight container.

Adapted from http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/2-ingredient-slow-cooker-salsa-chicken-recipe/

Savory Red Onion Marmalade over Tenderloin Steaks

The savory red onion marmalade adds a sweet and tangy flavor to tender and juicy tenderloin steaks.

Makes: 4 servings   Total Time: 20 minutes


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 large, sliced red onion, separated into rings
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 2 T raw honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 4 (4-ounce, 1-inch-thick) beef tenderloin steaks, trimmed


Turn on and preheat broiler.

Coat a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in onions, cover and cook 3 minutes. Remove lid and add to the pan the vinegar, honey, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered, for 8 minutes or until slightly thick. Stir occasionally.

Sprinkle the beef with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, thyme, and pepper. Broil beef on a broiler pan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. Broil about 4 minutes per side or until desired doneness.

Serve onion mixture with tenderloins.

Adapted from http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/tenderloin-steaks-with-red-onion-marmalade

Next Steps in Clean Eating

Clean eating isn’t just a diet fad. It’s a way of life. Like any type of change, though, it can be tough to do at first. The trick is to give yourself time to adjust. Go slow and don’t beat yourself up when you fall back on processed stuff. Just make an effort to do better.

Keep things in balance. Slowly add new natural foods to your diet to find your favorites.

Make menus to help you keep on track. Adjust your favorite recipes to ones that use natural ingredients.

In the end, switching to a clean eating lifestyle can be a fun and healthy way to try new foods and enjoy cooking new recipes.