Meal Ideas & Resources

Below are some helpful resources and meal ideas that don’t break the rules. Also, it is important to know when serving yourself “real food” you don’t need to eat as much as you would of the processed stuff! Get ready to fill up fast.

Our Free “Real Food” Meal Plans

Meal planning is KEY to cutting out processed food. Our plans below include breakfast, lunch, and dinner suggestions for a family of four plus corresponding grocery lists with pricing:

  1. “Real Food” Meal Plans 1 & 2
  2. “Real Food” Meal Plan 3
  3. Summer “Real Food” Meal Plan 4
  4. Fall “Real Food” Meal Plan 5

Low-Cost Meal Plan Subscriptions

While the plans we developed above are great resources, we don’t crank them out on a regular basis! Here are a variety of good options from some of our affiliate partners that will keep your menu fresh week after week. Note some may require slight tweaks to follow our rules, but all of these meal plans provide a solid foundation.

  1. PrePear – An app with both a free and paid plan where you can create customized meal plans.
  2. Fresh 20 – Meal plans based on 20 fresh, local and (when possible) organic ingredients.
  3. Plan to Eat – Weekly meal planning, recipe sharing, and shopping list all in one; create and share your own recipes within and add them to your planner.
  4. MOMables – Healthy school lunch ideas and family plans including Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free, and Nut-Free in addition to the Classic.
  5. Super Healthy Kids – Kid-friendly meal plans that include 4 meals for each day, recipes, and instructions at your fingertips. 3, 6 or 12 month membership options.
  6. Prep Dish – Looking for Paleo and gluten-free meals? Look no further! Prep Dish is a tried-and-true source. Free 2 week trial.
  7. SmoothieBox – Get pre-portioned smoothies delivered right to your door. No sugar added, and collagen boosters included, this is a great way to up your fruit & veggie intake easily! Save $25 on your first box.

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  1. Homemade granola cereal (pictured) with milk and berries
  2. Scrambled or fried eggs with whole-wheat toast1, butter, jelly2, and fresh fruit
  3. Whole-wheat banana (or berry) pancakes topped with 100% pure maple syrup
  4. Plain oatmeal (follow directions on package) topped with a dash of honey, cinnamon and raisins or other dried fruit
  5. Pecan maple breakfast cookies with a hard boiled egg and a banana
  6. Whole-wheat crepes with a side of fresh fruit and a maple mocha
  7. Store-bought plain Shredded Wheat cereal with milk and fruit
  8. Whole-wheat muffins (pictured above) with a side of plain yogurt mixed with berry sauce and topped with homemade granola cereal
  9. Egg omelet, bacon from the farmer’s market, whole-wheat popovers with butter and jelly2, and fresh fruit
  10. Whole-wheat banana bread or whole-wheat cinnamon raisin bread topped with cream cheese and a fruit smoothie or on the side
  11. PB&J smoothie (pictured in smoothie pop holders) and whole-wheat biscuit
  12. Whole wheat German oven pancake with 100% Maple Syrup and a side of mixed seasonal fruit
  13. Millet porridge with diced apples, raisins, and almonds
  14. Buckwheat pancakes with sliced bananas and blueberries on top, and a pumpkin spice mocha
  15. Chevre and chive scramble served with a pumpkin whole-spelt muffin and fresh strawberries
  16. Filled pancakes (A.K.A Whole Wheat Ebelskivers) with mango and apple slices
  17. Whole-wheat waffles with applesauce
  18. Try any of our smoothies, like the PB&J smoothie
  19. Fried matzo breakfast with a seasonal fruit kabob
  20. Whole-wheat French toast with a fruit smoothie
  21. Breakfast casserole bites with fresh fruit on the side
  22. Whole-wheat toaster pastries (aka Pop Tarts) with scrambled eggs and side of yogurt with fresh berries and peaches
  23. Whole spelt lemon cottage cheese pancakes with a side of blueberries and farmers market bacon
  24. Tomato pie, with a side of scrambled or fried eggs

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  1. Peanut butter and jelly2 on whole-wheat bread1, sliced fresh fruit, and crackers3
  2. Whole-wheat tortilla filled with hummus, cheese and optional veggie (spinach, cucumber, carrot, lettuce or tomato), side of fresh fruit and store-bought whole-wheat pretzels4
  3. Grilled cheese on whole-wheat bread1, applesauce, and popcorn
  4. Caprese salad with basil pesto or grilled caprese salad sandwich
  5. Whole-wheat macaroni and cheese with frozen peas mixed in and a side of fresh fruit
  6. Curry chicken salad on whole-wheat bread, with a sliced apple
  7. Fruit smoothie or PB&J smoothie (pictured above)
  8. Whole-wheat tortilla filled with chopped cucumber, tomato, feta cheese and sprinkled with dried dill or leftover grilled veggies and goat cheese
  9. Whole-wheat cinnamon raisin bread and cream cheese sandwich, strawberries, and a hard-boiled egg
  10. Roasted pumpkin seed and currant salad and easy-cheesy crackers
  11. sandwich inspiration creation
  12. Green eggs and ham with a whole wheat biscuit
  13. Potato pancakes (with vegetables) served warm or cold over a bed of spinach with goat cheese and vinaigrette dressing.
  14. Crackers3 with hummus, grapes, cheese, and celery or carrots
  15. A big salad topped with nuts, cheese and olive oil/balsamic vinegar for dressing (pictured)
  16. Grilled pimento cheese sandwich with whole-wheat pasta salad and fresh fruit on the side
  17. Diced avocado and brown rice with a little bit of low-sodium soy sauce
  18. Whole-wheat waffle sandwich with cream cheese, cinnamon and raisins in the middle (pictured) with a side of seasonal fruit
  19. Berry good wrap with a side of sliced cucumber and an orange
  20. Egg soufflé with ham and a side of arugula salad with shaved Parmesan (perfect for brunch)
  21. Brie and apple sandwich with leftover turkey and a side of grapes
  22. Feta pasta salad with avocado and tomato
  23. Whole-wheat tortilla filled with easy slow cooker refried beans, melted Monterrey Jack cheese, and sour cream with a side of avocado
  24. Greek Yogurt Egg Salad with a turkey-and-cheese kabob and bell pepper slices
  25. Leftovers from any of the dinners below!

For portable school, picnic or work lunch ideas check out the posts in the “school lunches” category.

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Snacks and Appetizers

  1. Whole-wheat banana bread
  2. Dried fruit (make sure there is no added sugar) and nuts
  3. Fresh fruit (make them into kabobs for kids)
  4. Popcorn
  5. Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  6. Homemade granola bars or a homemade Larabar when you’re on the go
  7. Olives, crackers3, and cheese
  8. Bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers
  9. Pesto cream cheese bake with a whole grain cracker (like Ak-Mak)
  10. Whole-wheat muffins
  11. Potato pancakes (with vegetables) with sour cream on the side
  12. Celery topped with peanut butter or cream cheese and raisins (ants on a log)
  13. Peanut butter, banana and date pita Pocket Sandwich
  14. Hard-boiled egg
  15. Whole-wheat cinnamon raisin bread
  16. Plain yogurt mixed with berry sauce
  17. Pecan maple breakfast cookies
  18. Crackers3 topped with hummus
  19. Bacon-wrapped dates
  20. Whole Wheat Cheddar Garlic Drop Biscuits
  21. Ranch flavored dip with celery and carrot sticks
  22. Slow cooker refried beans with green tomato relish, topped with melted cheese and sour cream
  23. Powerballs
  24. Buttermilk cheese biscuit
  25. Whole-wheat zucchini bread or muffins (pictured)
  26. Whole-wheat pumpkin bread or muffins
  27. Pumpkin spelt muffins
  28. Easy cheesy crackers
  29. Whole-wheat popovers
  30. Virgin pina colada smoothie
  31. Curry chicken salad on Ak Mak Crackers
  32. Sliced raw veggies with a tzatziki dipping sauce
  33. Peanut butter banana smoothie
  34. Zucchini chips
  35. Rainbow fruit and veggie platters

Read more on snacks by clicking on the “snack for kids (and adults!)” category.

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Salads and Soups

  1. Caprese salad with basil pesto
  2. Salad with a twist (including glazed nuts)
  3. Tomato, corn and black bean salad
  4. Cobb salad with blue cheese dressing
  5. Lime-cilantro quinoa salad
  6. White gazpacho (cold soup)
  7. Tomato bisque (good with grilled cheese on whole wheat bread1)
  8. Taco salad (pictured)
  9. Peanut squash soup
  10. Tortilla soup (good with cheese quesadillas)
  11. Butternut squash soup with buttered whole-wheat toast on the side
  12. Easy split pea soup topped with chopped bacon and a side of whole-wheat biscuits
  13. Homemade chicken noodle soup (pictured)
  14. Whole-wheat pasta salad
  15. Quinoa salad with diced cucumber and red bell pepper
  16. Salad inspiration
  17. Asian coleslaw with Radish MiniSticks

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  1. Farmer’s market stir fry (with veggies and/or seafood or local meat)
  2. Quiche with a whole-wheat crust (if using meat make sure it is local) and a side of veggies
  3. Pre-made store-bought dinner option: sushi with brown rice (no deep fried ingredients or sugar/HFCS)
  4. Whole-wheat pizza (pictured) with a salad or veggies on the side
  5. Whole-wheat macaroni and cheese with a side of veggies
  6. Grilled or sauteed fish with vegetable pancakes, and potato skins
  7. Breakfast for dinner…pick from one of the egg choices above
  8. Homemade chicken nuggets with a side of sweet potatoes and apples
  9. Vegetable and/or local meat (such as chicken, sausage or beef) kabobs over brown rice
  10. Fajitas, or slow cooker flank steak fajitas with homemade whole-wheat tortillas
  11. Homemade spaghetti sauce over store-bought whole-wheat pasta
  12. Collard greens, potatoes, and whole-wheat buttermilk cheese biscuits
  13. Veggie burgers and kale chips
  14. BLT with (or without) crabmeat and corn on the cob
  15. Homemade butternut squash ravioli with roasted asparagus
  16. Chicken enchiladas made with homemade whole-grain corn tortillas and steamed veggies on the side
  17. Jambalaya with brown rice
  18. The best whole chicken in a crock pot with zucchini chips (pictured) and wild rice
  19. Homemade sushi with brown rice
  20. Almond encrusted fish with an easy beurre blanc sauce and a side of asparagus and baked potatoes
  21. Whole-wheat spaghetti and meatballs with a side of roasted broccoli (sprinkled with whole-wheat bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning)
  22. Vegetable quesadillas on whole-wheat tortillas with a side of easy slow cooker refried beans
  23. Pork carnitas tacos with tomatillo salsa (pictured) and a side of watermelon
  24. Green curry shrimp served over brown rice and topped with steamed sugar snap peas
  25. Whole-wheat pizza pockets with sauteed seasonal vegetables on the side
  26. Get some salad inspiration, like mixed greens, grilled chicken, sliced strawberries, sliced almonds, crumbled blue cheese, and thinly sliced red onion with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, served with a whole wheat cheddar garlic drop biscuit on the side
  27. Chicken marsala pasta and fresh asparagus
  28. Brown rice risotto with almost any veggies or seafood or meat that’s on hand
  29. Grilled chicken breast with chimichurri spelt pasta and a side of sliced summer tomato.
  30. Enchilada casserole with a side of diced avocado and tomato salad, finished with lime and fresh cilantro
  31. Easy fried rice with fresh ginger and mixed chopped frozen veggies
  32. Roasted chicken with sweet potato casserole or chestnut and prosciutto bread stuffing, and sautéed green beans with sliced almonds
  33. Moroccan fish with mango and whole-wheat couscous
  34. Prosciutto-wrapped scallops over whole-grain polenta on a bed of arugula
  35. Coconut chicken satay served with peanut thai pasta
  36. Roasted summer vegetable pasta, made with fresh eggplant, zucchini, and Roma tomatoes, served with a side salad.
  37. Seafood (or turkey, or veggie) gumbo with a side of whole-grain cornbread
  38. Grilled local, organic beef hamburgers with a side of slow cooker baked beans and corn on the cob
  39. The best whole chicken in a crock pot with creamy whole-wheat mac and cheese and sautéed broccoli
  40. Grilled teriyaki pork tenderloin with brown rice and sautéed peppers and snap peas
  41. Whole-wheat fettucini alfredo topped with sauteed onions, mushrooms and bell peppers
  42. Grilled meat and veggie Foil Packets, perfect for camping or grilling out
  43. Tomato pie with corn and a whole-wheat crust, served with broccoli or a hearty side salad
  44. Grilled organic grass-fed hotdogs on a whole wheat bun, served with Asian coleslaw and apple slices
  45. Simple spaghetti with a salad on the side
  46. Whole Oven Roasted Chicken with parmesan couscous and sautéed zucchini and baby squash
  47. Chicken and Cheese Tostadas with avocado and cilantro and a side of fresh summer watermelon

For a cookout, backyard BBQ, outdoor party, picnic, or camping trip check out this post: A “Real Food” Cookout.

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Basic Recipes

  1. Whole-wheat tortillas
  2. Whole-grain corn tortillas
  3. Chicken stock in the crock pot
  4. Chicken stock on the stovetop
  5. Honey whole-wheat sandwich bread (for bread machine)
  6. Whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  7. Whole-wheat pasta (use the pasta portion of this ravioli recipe)
  8. Homemade berry sauce
  9. Easy cheesy whole-grain crackers
  10. Basic fruit smoothie
  11. Whole-wheat biscuits
  12. Strawberry honey jam
  13. Cream of mushroom soup
  14. Blue cheese salad dressing
  15. Simple mustard vinaigrette

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  1. Homemade popsicles, ice pops, snow cones and push-ups (pictured)
  2. Powerballs
  3. Maple pecan ice cream
  4. Chocolate torte with whipped cream and chocolate sauce
  5. Banana ice cream
  6. Homemade peach sorbet
  7. Whole-wheat crepes filled with fruit and topped with chocolate sauce
  8. Chocolate mousse
  9. Brownies
  10. Chocolate chip cookies
  11. Chocolate cake with easy whipped cream frosting
  12. Chocolate pecan pie
  13. Fruit crisp
  14. Whole-wheat holiday cookies
  15. Strawberry ice cream Sunday with a strawberry honey jam drizzle and walnuts
  16. Banana, date and vanilla smoothie
  17. Whole-wheat cookie cake
  18. Whole-grain mini donuts
  19. Cinnamon glazed popcorn
  20. Whole-wheat German oven pancake topped with homemade ice cream
  21. Yellow cupcakes with homemade frosting
  22. Watermelon cake
  23. Fudge pops
  24. Homemade fruit roll-ups

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Stocking a Real Food Kitchen

  1. My favorite kitchen essentials (including appliances and gadgets we own)
  2. 21 “Real food” essentials for freezer, pantry, & fridge
  3. Supermarket “real food” cheat sheet
  4. Where to buy real food
  5. Grocery shopping template (+ my routine)
  6. Our pantry
  7. Our refrigerator
  8. Our freezer

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Restaurant Options

Eating out tip: Most restaurants do not offer 100% whole-wheat (a lot of “wheat breads” are made with both whole-wheat and white flours) so it is best to just avoid things like bread, breading/breadcrumbs, crusts, flour tortillas, etc. It is also recommended to ask questions when it comes to sauces because a surprising amount contain sugar. It can be difficult to avoid refined grains and sweeteners when eating out so we usually try to focus on finding restaurants that serve locally grown/raised products. For more tips including specific meals you could order at some chain restaurants check out this post.

  1. Fish or shellfish
  2. Potatoes, beans, or brown rice
  3. Vegetable side dishes or combination plates
  4. Egg dishes
  5. Sushi with brown rice

Read more on the specific restaurants where we like to eat in Charlotte.

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General Resources and Information

  1. Understanding Grains (corn, wheat, multi-grain, etc.)
  2. What (should be) in your sandwich bread?
  3. How far does your produce travel?
  4. Buying organic or not
  5. Sweeteners 101
  6. “You are what you eat eats too”
  7. Milk – good or bad?
  8. High-fructose corn syrup 101
  9. The deal with corn
  10. Are you being fooled by the imitation?
  11. Becoming a “flexitarian” (meat consumption)
  12. (Not) Cleaning your plate

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Posts Detailing our Personal Changes in Health

  1. Shocking Blood Test Results
  2. Budget Day 100: Victory!
  3. Day 56: A Brave Friend and Health Benefits Update
  4. Day 47: Health Benefits
  5. A change in diet could be your cure for constipation

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1. I found “approved” sandwich bread at a bakery chain called Great Harvest. Their honey whole-wheat loaf only has 5 ingredients. You could also make your own with our honey whole-wheat bread recipe.
2. For jelly use a whole “fruit spread” variety with no sugar.
3. Ak Mak crackers are 100% whole-grain.
4. There are some 100% whole-wheat sprouted grain pretzels called “Splits” by Unique brand.

325 thoughts on “Meal Ideas & Resources”

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  1. Rachel Hillhouse

    My children have enjoyed all the meals that I have prepared for them off of here. My hubby has enjoyed the dinners. He likes it when I make enough for leftovers.

  2. I really want to start eating better but have to big obstacles and was wondering if you have any advice. I am allergic to all nuts and am hypoglycemic. I am worried about my sugar dropping without the right type of snacks. Any tips?


  3. My comment is about the summer meal plan and grocery list #4. The list seems incomplete, am I missing something? For example, the week calls for 2 days of sandwiches (1 entire loaf of bread really), and 2 days of toast (another half loaf if everyone has 1 piece). Again, you listed 1 avocado on the grocery list, but between recipes, you call for 3 avocados. And what stuck out to me most, was that pure maple syrup was on the pantry list. I’m certain you must stock this pantry at some point, but at the set budget, when do you work in these pantry items? This pantry stock list is near $100, and I can imagine you need to stock it once a month. Please advise the gaps.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Dawn. Pantries are going to vary from family to family. Lisa just fills in as needed as she surveys her items that are getting low.

  4. Hi there, your website has used my popular photo of the STRIPED SWIMSUIT to gain people to click on your site for a while now and you receive ALOT of traffic because of it and continue to do so. I will not REPORT THE PIN if you please be courteous and add a link on this landing page that gives info on the swimsuit. It is not fair to the people that want the swimsuit. It is spam. Please give info on the swimsuit and link to .

  5. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

    Hi there. There does seem to be connection between some auto-immune conditions and gluten in some individuals. When going gluten free, it can be more challenging to stick to “the rules” but it is okay to make the adjustments that will work for you. This post will help: And take heart,there are more and more healthy, organic gluten free options all the time. The bean flours and pastas are among my favorites as are nut flours and coconut flour. There is a bit of a learning curve to get through but it soon becomes habit and a way of life.

  6. Hello. I have read conflicting information about whole wheat and gluten. I currently only have whole grains in my home and cook all bread from scratch. I do have hypothyroidism and was told that gluten has some evidence of autoimmune disorder connections. I was told by a medical professional to remove gluten from my diet; however, the gluten free oats and flours are usually not organic (which allows harmful pesticides, fertilizers to still be in the product and at times GMOs) and it is refined. I would like tips and advice on gluten please. I do not have swelling or any other symptoms to gluten. Thank you.

    1. I too was recently diagnosed with celiac disease and cannot have anythign containing wheat, rye, or barley (all contain gluten). What options or substitutes are available for the gluten free families that still want to eat REAL food?

  7. Hello!
    I have been using recipes and tips from this website for a year now. Love it. My husband is having a hard time believing that buying organic is better. He is a facts guy. Any scientific journals or research to point him to to help convince him to of less pesticides, gmo’s etc? No blogs please. Thank you!!

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. I’m going to give you a bit of reading here that contain more info within, referring to studies and journals:,,, and Yes, I realize some of these are blogs but they refer to and provide links to analysis or studies and research.

  8. After months of eating poorly & feeling the effects to my body, I have decided to take the 10 day pledge with my family. My only concern is the whole wheat grain recipes. Would it be better to consume gluten free bread, pasta vs. whole wheat?
    Thanks so much!

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. If you don’t have a sensitivity to wheat or gluten, there is not a need to go gluten free. You might look for ancient forms of whole grains, instead. A lot of gluten free breads and pastas are made with refined versions of gluten free grains and are very high glycemic foods. If you do go gluten free, look for whole grains whenever possible. I have found a lentil pasta that is really fabulous. ;)

      1. What is the lentil pasta brand and where did you get it? I currently eat the organic brown rice pasta from TJ but always looking for other gluten free options.

  9. I love that I stumbled upon this excellent resource! I have had to learn healthy eating as an adult, and it is still something that I struggle with. Now, as a new mom, I find myself overwhelmed with the realization that my son’s health is entirely in my hands. I have struggled to come up with healthy meals for our family, as I truly want to set him up with healthy eating habits for life.
    This is EXACTLY what I needed. So many wonderful, healthful meal suggestions. I can’t wait to try these, thank you so much!

  10. Love this! We’ve used your meal plans and I usually visit your recipe index when planning our weekly menu. I’ll be using this now too, thank you!

  11. so real food but still packaged bread and crackers etc…. not complaining just clarifying…I am gluten free and trying to avoid too much dairy so yes real food but beyond…seeing if this could be a good resource for where my kiddos are at but maybe won’t work for me…. hmmm….

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Mandy. Lisa makes or buys her bread from a local bakery but she does buy some cleaner packaged crackers. Ezekial bread is a good packaged bread and Ak Mak and whole wheat Matzo are good cracker choices. For gluten free eating, adaptations to both the rules and the recipes are necessary. ;)

  12. Wow, this post is amazing! So many resources all in one place I don’t even know where to start. I am definitely going to be coming back to this again and again whenever I need some meal ideas. Big ups to you!

  13. Sorry, Can’t eat grains, sugar, dairy, peanuts, or legumes, so many of your recipes will not be useful to me….. pastas, crackers,rolled oats, quinoa, black beans , flour, bread crumbs, cereals rice, tomato paste and sauce, Jam (or jelly), fruit juices, bread, pita breads, pretzels, cheese, yoghurt, and quite a bit more we are unable to eat.

    Thanks anyway. We only eat vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat, poultry and fish and some nuts like macadamia, cashews, and coconut, and we can eat some seeds. Any processed foods are out.

    It is sometimes difficult to make meal plans with the limited amount of foods we can eat, and to have a variety, and that is why I contacted you.
    I’m sure you are able to assist many however, so keep up the good work,