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Go-To Formulas for Clean Eating on a Weeknight

Posted by Alia on Jan 12, 2017

Many of my clean eating cooking class students express the same desire to me: they want to be able to just open their fridge and cook a delicious, healthy meal from what they have on hand, without needing to plan, shop, source a million specialty ingredients, spend hours in the kitchen, and meticulously study a recipe. 

To some of you, this might seem like an unattainable dream, but for most students, just 2 baby steps are standing in the way of this goal. 

  1. You need to stock the fridge and pantry with wholesome ingredients, and
  2. You need to learn to learn to season and develop flavor and texture in whole foods.  In my classes—particularly Clean Eating Boot Camp—I seek to arm students with this knowledge in bite-size pieces so they can apply the techniques we cover in class to similar items that show up in their home kitchens.

To kick off 2017, I created the Clean Eating: Eat to Live guide to share some of that knowledge in a comprehensive, photo-rich packet that you’ll be able to consult in the weeks to come.  In this packet, you’ll find not only a list of my pantry staples—including natural sweeteners, fermented foods, produce must-haves, and international spices—but also 4 recipes including a soup, a salad, a bowl meal, and a sweet treat.

One technique that I’ve noticed is helpful to my students is that in addition to giving them a recipe, I’ll also give them general formulas to build similar recipes so that they can use what’s already in their fridge or make smart substitutions for their dietary needs.  So here are 3 simple formulas to get you started:

  1. Go-To Salad Formula

roasted rainbow saladSalads make perfect lunches and quick dinners because you don’t need to be too picky about your measurements, making it easy to make due with what you have on hand.  You can also mix and match ingredients to suit a variety of tastes in case you have a picky eater in your home.

There’s a risk of salads ending up too light—I know I’ve been in the position of eyeing the snack drawer not too long after lunch because my meal was too light.  Make sure your salad has a source of protein (beans, nuts, hardboiled egg, animal protein), good fat (from oil in dressing, avocado, tahini), and a few complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber (kale, sweet potatoes, cooked grains or beans).  I also find in the winter months, I prefer hearty greens like kale instead of softer baby greens like spinach, and that I enjoy something warm or cooked in the salad to make me feel more grounded and full.

Take a scan of what you have your fridge and see if you can build a salad using the following formula:

bitter greens + something sweet + something crunchy + protein


  • Kale + sundried tomatoes + sunflower seeds + roasted chickpeas
  • Arugula + roasted sweet potato + pecans + grilled chicken
  1. Go-To Vinaigrette Formula

salad dressingA salad recipe is pretty useless without knowing how to make a killer dressing to jazz it up.  While you can just splash on some balsamic vinegar and olive oil and call it a day, try using this formula to take your dressings to the next level and make you actually want to eat a salad.  If you are using stronger greens like kale or arugula in your salad, make sure you include a little something sweet in the dressing.  Sweetness helps balance out bitterness on the palate.  Kale-aphobes and children will especially appreciate this trick!

1 part acid + 2 parts fat + salt + aromatics/spices (+ 1/2 part sweet)


  • lemon juice + olive oil + sea salt + cumin + maple syrup
  • apple cider vinegar + grapeseed oil + tamari + minced shallot + honey
  1. Go-To Energy Bite Formula

chocolate chip energy cookies Reducing and limiting sugar intake is one of the best things we can do for our health!  But that doesn’t mean you have to forgo sweets for the rest of your life (because, let’s be real, none of us are going to do that anyway).  Instead seek out natural sweeteners like dates, honey, and maple syrup to make fake-bake desserts that appease your sweet tooth while also giving you a hit of protein and good fat

I call these sweet treats “energy bites” as they can usually be made pretty quickly and give you an energy boost rather than pulling you down into a sugar coma.  In this video, I’m demonstrating how to make my Cookie Dough Energy Bites that are made of protein-rich hemp seeds, cashews, dates and chocolate chips but taste just like chocolate chip cookies!  These are easy to whip up in just a few minutes.



something sweet + protein + fat + binder


  • chocolate chips + hemp + cashews + dates
  • raw honey + almond butter + shredded coconut + oats

Are you feeling this pared-down approach to making whole foods-based meals from what you have on hand?  Download my Clean Eating Guide to get my pantry staples as well as 4 more recipes: a Roasted Rainbow Vegetable Salad, an Indian-spiced Lentil Soup, a Sesame Greens Bowl with Quinoa, Nut Crunch and Teriyaki Drizzle, and my Cookie Dough Energy Bites. 

Clean Eating: Eat to Live

Be sure to check out The Chopping Block's Clean Eating Boot Camp on January 28 as well, where we put these ideas into action, giving you more information and hands-on experience making go-to nutritious and anti-inflammatory meals. 

Sign Up for Clean Eating Boot Camp

Topics: healthy, health, healthy cooking, healthy eating, clean eating, alia dalal, clean eating boot camp

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