I love a good chili as much as the next mom, but I’m always happy when I can start making some fabulous, lighter family dinners for spring and summer. There are just so many great ideas to be found, and I love all of these.

Plus, these dishes are a lot more creative than just a big salad (not that there’s anything wrong with salad), so if your kids aren’t quite up to spearing their own romaine yet, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s to many a good al fresco dinner. Or at least dinners that don’t involve scouring a soup pot for hours on end.

Top image: Easy chipotle chicken tacos | From Scratch Fast

Related: 20 unique salad toppings that will make your boring salad pop!

1. Yay for spring pasta!

Lighter family dinner ideas for spring: Broccoli pesto pasta with whipped ricotta at Half Baked Harves

I love an easy spring pasta, and this Broccoli Pesto Pasta with Whipped Ricotta at Half Baked Harvest is calling my name. I love how Tiegen adds some complexity with fried lemon and whipped ricotta, without adding too much extra work. And what kid doesn’t love pasta? Perfect for a lighter family dinner from spring right into summer.

2. Easy tacos are an excuse to break out the grill

Lighter family dinner ideas for spring: Easy chipotle chicken tacos | From Scratch Fast

Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce have become a staple in my kitchen; I never let myself run out. That’s because they lend such incredible and effortless flavor to entrees like this Easy Chipotle Chicken Tacos at From Scratch Fast. It’s such a great reason to get outside and start grilling — though she does offer a grill pan variation.  And don’t skip the lime crema; it’s so worth it!

Related: These 8 cold noodle dishes are perfect for hot summer days. And nights. 

3. Trade pita for crispy lettuce

Lighter family dinner ideas for spring: crispy spiced lamb and lentils | Smitten Kitchen

These Crispy Spiced Lamb and Lentils from our beloved Smitten Kitchen sound fancy, but Deb assures readers that they only take 30 minutes to come together. Half an hour for a meal that feels much more special than your usual weeknight fare? I’m in. Plus, you’re skipping the bread, making it a perfect lighter meal for spring — and her tips for criping and browning the lettuce cups are genius. (We love Deb so much.)

4. A burrito bowl done light

Lighter family dinner ideas for spring: Roasted cauliflower burrito bowls | Pinch of Yum

If you’re looking for a way to lighten up traditionally cheese-laden, sour-cream-drenched burrito bowls, look no further than this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Burrito Bowls from Pinch of Yum. They’re totally vegan and packed with veggies — or feel free to swap in chicken or steak, if you prefer. Just hold the hot sauce (and possibly the cilantro) depending on your kids’ preferences.

5. Think citrus

Spring meal ideas to lighten up family dinnertime: Citrus brined grilled pork chops via Simply Recipes

Something about the warmer weather has me all excited to dive into a big bowl of citrus, so why wait until summer?  Those bright flavors are wonderful for a lighter spring meal for the family, and are the perfect complement to an easy grilled pork, in this recipe for Citrus-Brined Grilled Pork Chops from Nick Evans for Simply Recipes. He describes how the salty-sweet brine is the trick to moist, tender pork, should you be worried about overcooking — and even gets into the science of brining, which is great.

Related: Weekly meal plan ideas for spring:
5 easy recipes from quesadillas with a springy salsa to a 15-minute family fave.

6. Flatbread is perfect lighter alternative to pizza

Spring meal ideas to lighten up family dinnertime: Flatbread with spring vegetables and goat cheese recipe from Mom's Kitchen Handbook

Flatbreads are a great substitute for heavier pizza, and it’s so easy to buy the flatbreads then just grill them up in a snap. Add your favorite toppings and…done! Crowd pleaser! But to make the most of the spring produce, I’m into the idea of . this Spring Veggie Flatbread Pizza recipe from Mom’s Kitchen Handbook. She uses asparagus and English peas over pesto and goat cheese with lots of fresh herbs — but feel free to adapt for your own brood’s tastes.

7. You can never go wrong with a springy pan-seared fish

Lighter family dinner ideas for spring: Pan-seared Salmon with Chimichurri at The Rising Spoon

Kate included this Pan-Seared Salmon with Chimichurri at The Rising Spoon in a recent weekly meal plan, and it’s been calling my name ever since. Serve it with a big salad made of spring produce like fresh greens, radishes, spinach, and sweet peas; or I like it with a side of cauliflower rice.

Spring, we’re loving you!