By Casey Seamon, YMCA Registered Dietitian

As the temperature climbs outside, heating up the dishes coming out of your kitchen can be a great way to welcome spring and get ready for the hot summer ahead!

Chile peppers contain capsaicin, which is what makes them hot but also acts as an antioxidant in the body. Cooking with fresh or dried chiles is an amazing way to add flavor to dishes without having to add lots of salt or fat.

Try these five dishes I recommend (ranging from low to high heat) to spice up your cooking this spring.

Stuffed peppers

1. Stuffed Red Peppers: Bell peppers create a beautiful dish and are fun to fill with all sorts of healthy ingredients. They’re the mildest type of pepper with no real heat, but still lots of flavor and nutrients.

Heat Level: Low

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Courtesy of Dessert for Two

2. Green Chili Chicken Stew: Green chiles tend to be on the milder end of the spectrum. This quick, satisfying stew is an excellent option for cool spring evenings!

Heat Level: Mild

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3. Lighter Jalapeno Poppers: This popular pepper is where it starts to heat up a bit. Try this healthier version of a classic dish. It works great as an appetizer or a snack to refuel after all the spring cleaning.

Heat Level: Medium

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Courtesy of Nosh and Nourish

4. Honey Sesame Fish Taco: This recipe uses dried cayenne pepper to heat up some fresh fish tacos. Using dried chilis can make it really easy to add spice and flavor without any added calories. Cayenne can really start to spice it up, so add more (or less) to get your desired heat level.

Heat Level: Medium-High

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Courtesy of Minimalist Baker

5. Habanero Hot Sauce: Making your own hot sauce is surprisingly easy and means you get to control all of the ingredients added. This five-ingredient recipe whips up in a flash and can be stored in your fridge to spice up your dishes all spring.

Heat Level: High

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Hungry for more?

Check out Healthy Recipes for Kitchen Newbies. At the Y, we’re here to help you grow stronger and healthier.