Planning Healthy Meals To Ignite Your Fat Burning Furnace

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Wondering how planning healthy meals can ignite your fat burning furnace?

Many of you know that I tried out a vegan diet for a short while. It was a huge challenge trying to learn a new way to cook. But it got me to thinking about those of you who are just starting out with clean eating. Those of you who are not used to cooking and eating clean, and I started to realize just how overwhelming  a major diet overhaul can be.

You see, when I first started to eat clean, it wasn’t that big of a switch for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was difficult. I was completely addicted to processed foods. I couldn’t picture life without Cheez Its or a Snickers bar! But in a way, I had it much easier than some of you because I grew up with a grandmother who cooked everything from scratch. She was one of these cooks who never needed a measuring cup or a recipe to make something taste good. She just instinctively knew what to add to make something taste just right.

How To Ignite Your Fat Burning Furnace By Planning Healthy Meals

I’m happy to say that I am now that same kind of cook. I love to cook without measuring cups or spoons! It’s an adventure for me every time I step into the kitchen.

But for many of you, the thought of eating clean is just as overwhelming as the thought of me becoming vegan. It’s a whole new world of ingredients and cooking language that sadly, many people never learn these days. It’s little wonder that the processed food industry is so successful!


Today I’d like to share with you a few tips and tricks I’m learning for making a huge switch in the way you eat. And in the process, I hope to help you learn how to plan daily, healthy meals so that you can better achieve your fat burning and/or fitness goals!

Eat Frequently


Ya, that one got me at first too. I mean, who has time for all that eating?? Not to mention all the food!

BUT, here’s the thing. It’s not as hard as you think. When I first heard about eating 5-6 meals a day, all I thought was, “how can I possibly cook that much?”. But you really don’t have to. You can do it one of two ways.

  1. Make your usual 3 meals per day, split them in half, and space them out to every 2-3 hours.
  2. Make small, simple snacks that equal about 250-300 calories each. Sandwich bags or small containers will be your best friend here.

As for the timing itself, I find it very helpful to have a wristwatch with a timer on it. But if that just won’t do, the best way to get into the habit is to try and eat at about the same time every day. Really think about your routine. Where can you fit in a quick snack?

Any way you look at it, you definitely want to eat frequent meals. It’s a well proven fact that eating revs metabolism and not eating slows it down. That said, you obviously cannot eat all day non-stop. That’s not what I’m advocating here. But small, scheduled meals are indeed the best way to get that fat burning furnace going!!

Menu Planning


It can be a little overwhelming to plan even small meals if you are not used to it. So think about single-item foods that you enjoy. Combine a carb and a protein, toss in some veggies and you’re set! Here are some examples:

Protein Carbs Veg
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Nut butter
  • Nuts
  • Soy products (organic)
  • Chicken breasts
  • Low fat cheese (string cheese works)
  • Brown rice
  • Brown rice crackers
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Fruits
  • Quinoa (which also qualifies as protein)
  • Bread (clean)
  • Starchy veggies such as potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bok choy
  • Celery
  • Lettuce


It just makes sense. If you supply your body with lots of nutrient dense foods, not only will your body get everything it needs to function properly, but you will feel full with less food. Combine this with frequent meals, and you’ve got a great recipe for health and weight loss!

You can find a list of 50 Super Foods here!

Menu Planner


I know this sounds silly, but it’s actually quite helpful if you implement it.

Make a list of some clean and easy (read “quick”), go-to recipes for those nights when you are not only out of time, but inspiration as well. Just a small handful of recipes that you know everyone enjoys. Put it on the fridge and leave it there. Trust me. It’s handier than it sounds!

Need a good way to stay organized and on top of your menus? Try this handy little tip for a Clean Eating Menu Planner.

Plan Ahead


It’s like that old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” So sit down on the weekend while you are making your shopping list and plan the actual meals as well. Figure out how much you need to make to have some leftovers in the freezer. If you “cook for an army” and freeze your food, your week will go much, much smoother.

Article is an original work and is © Tiffany McCauley. It may not be reproduced for any reason without written permission by the author.

Image depicting 5-star rating. Image text says, Love this recipe? Give it a star rating in a comment below.

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  1. Cherylcan says:

    I make a huge batch of soup, then freeze the leftovers in the 1 cup mason jars. They are great to grab on the go for lunches those mornings that you have no time. The added bonus is that you do not have to eat soup until you are sick of it.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Cherylcan – LOL! Yes, that is definitely an added bonus! Good for you!!

  2. I grew up eating a lot of foods made from scratch too.

    I think that was the last generation’s way of “clean eating”.

    I do great when I am planned and when I have the foods I need, but when I run out….oh my gosh it’s a pain.

    and I am JUST now getting how to eat 3x a day to 5. GREAT POST!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Cindy – Thanks! Glad you liked it! And you are right. Previous generations were natural clean eaters. So sad that that has faded away into the necessity of a “diet”.

  3. My husband and I chop up lots of veggies and apples and keep them in a tupperware in the fridge, so when we are packing lunches in the morning we can just grab and go! We also keep pre-cooked chicken and mashed sweet potatoes in the fridge, it really streamlines the process, and we always have something on hand to eat! I also like to keep a checklist of everything I need to eat for the day when I am packing, that way I am sure to get all my required foods in!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Court – What a great tip! Thanks for sharing that!

  4. Angela S. says:

    I started this clean eating adventure almost a year ago. Now, I was never a cook. In fact, my husband would kick me out of the kitchen because he was afraid of the damage I would do. Plus, I was scared of the kitchen. I was never taught how to cook and just learned to avoid it which led to a lifestyle of pre-packaged meals. Now, thanks to clean eating, I love playing in the kitchen and my husband has learned that I will not cause TOO much damage 🙂 . Clean eating has done more then help us move into a much more healthier lifestyle; it gave us another enjoyable experience to share together!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Angela – LOL! I know what you mean. I usually chase my husband out of the kitchen because I swear the man could burn water! But it’s wonderful that you two are doing this together. What a wonderful way to spend time together!

  5. I have no tips, I just want to thank you for this post. I get overwhelmed VERY easily and eating right is a big source of anxiety for me. I am usually very all or nothing. Reading this post actually gives me some hope that I can do it too, just a little at a time. Thank you for that:-)

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Nicole – Of course you can do it!! You are a woman. You can do hard things. Just try not to let it overwhelm you. Baby steps are key. Convert your kitchen one ingredient at a time over the course of several months. Before you know it, you’ll be eating healthy and loving it!

  6. I spend 2-3 hours on Sunday afternoon making my meals for the week. I make a whole batch of chicken kabobs, fish, salmon, mini meatloafs, protein bars, etc. I also get all my fresh fruit washed-up or cut-up and in my Tupperware fridge mates (venting system to keep foods longer). This way all I need to do is grab & go and I don’t have to worry about cooking every morning (except for my oatmeal). When I don’t do this, I feel unorganized and out of control. I also don’t eat right because I then find myself grabbing things to eat on the fly that I shouldn’t be eating. It’s all about planning ahead….

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tamra – Yes! Planning is so vital to eating healthy. In our society, planning our meals feels like a new concept. But the truth is, not so long ago, people had to plan their meals like this all the time! Convenience food is relatively new in this planet’s timeline. Everyone needs to realize that it’s okay to think about your food. It’s okay to plan what you will be eating. It’s okay to make arrangements that are appropriate for you in advance. It’s not silly or snobby. It’s the best way to get and stay healthy! Good for you!

  7. Can I buy your organizer with the recipe cards? That would help me out tremendously in planning. I’m not a huge fan of oatmeal and boiled eggs. With the CE Recharged book, it seems as though that’s all the meal plans really include.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Heather – I will email you at the address you posted here.

  8. General tip for streamlining your meal planning:

    Have TWO lists posted on your fridge, instead of one! In addition to the shopping list of what you need to restock, also have a separate list of what foods you have in the fridge/freezer already. This makes it easier for you to know what ingredients you have on hand at a glance, which helps you plan meals more efficiently. It also helps you to reduce food waste (by using up something before it goes bad) and energy consumption (less time opening and reopening the fridge/freezer means the machine doesn’t have to work as hard to keep it cold enough inside).

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Charlena – Yes! I mentioned that in another post I did. It’s an excellent way to keep track of everything! Thanks for the reminder!

  9. Great article!!! I don’t know where you find all the time to concoct all these wonderful recipes!

    I do have a question re: the donut recipe you posted last week. I went out and bought the donut pan so I could give my kids some “clean” goodies. Do you have any other recipes to use with the donut pan?

    Thanks so much and keep up the great work!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tammy – Not at the moment. But I’ll see what I can come up with!

  10. Amendment to my previous tip:

    While you’re at it making lists, go ahead and post a list on your pantry door to show what you have in there, too. 🙂

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Charlena – Yes! I like that!

  11. Tanya @ Sunday Baker says:

    Great post and lots of good tips. For my husband and I, planning is key. I cook up chicken breast and turkey on Sundays and we can make meals out of it all week. Same goes for brown rice and bulgur. I chop my vegies and we take a little of everything and put it in a brown rice tortilla and we have a meal!

    On Sundays I also boil a big pot of eggs and make either healthy cookie balls or homemade granola bars for a weekly snack. Planning and preparing make life so much easier!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tanya – That’s great! And yes, it makes the week go so much smoother! Good for you!!!

  12. Good Post. I just started eating clean this week. So far so good. Energy levels are up and loving the new ingredients and enjoying the preparing. Unfortunately I’m a young adult still living with the folks so there is only so much control I can have over all grocery shopping etc. But this week boiled eggs, grilled chicken breasts, cooked sweet potatoes, clean left overs in tupawear are all working well. Loving Charlena’s tip on writing up a list of what’s already in the fridge and Court and Tamra’s tips on spending time on sunday’s chopping up veg, fruit and pre-cooking meals.

    Also I LOVE this blog and all the recipes and really good posts on clean eating and nutrition. It’s like a daily reminder of how to eat clean. Thanks for sharing : )

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sinead – Wonderful! You’re doing great! And just a tip…. I don’t know a parent alive that wouldn’t buy more vegetables if their child asked them to. Just a thought… Keep up the great work!

  13. Gary Ammerman says:

    Your Gratious Pantry website and periodic emailers have been invaluable to me on my quest for clean(er) eating. If you move to a pure vegan website, I for one, am not longer interested in what you offer. It’s one thing for you, youself to go on an all vegan diet, but I for one am not cut out to be a cow. I hope you continue to provide good clean meal recipes with the foul and fish GOD created for our body’s use.
    There are lots of wonderful clean nurishing meals that can be offered centered on crab, clams, oysters, scallops, abolone, calamari, gator, crayfish, shrimp and other forms of seafood that I don’t find in the Gracious Pantry. I’m surprised your pantry is so selective on natures bounty. I hope you don’t leave us or push us toward being soybean, tofu, leaf eating dummies.
    Our Doctor, for one, sez the “mediteranian diet” in a clean eating format, is the best diet conceived by man for man and as you know it’s poultry and seafood heavy along with the solid veggies, fruit, leafies and olive oil. Please, keep up the good work!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Gary – I think there are a lot nicer ways you could have said that. But that being said, I am not continuing with the vegan diet simply because my blood sugars went too high when I tried.

  14. Another Suburban Mom says:

    This is some awesome advice. I know that the days I pack the cooler are the days that the clean eating gets done.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      ASM – You are so right. Planning and packing food is key! Good job!

  15. Lindsay@LivingLindsay says:

    Hi Tiffany! I’m so excited that I just found your blog!! I absolutely love it! I can’t wait to try out some of your recipes!!! I was looking for a recipe for savory oats, and your blog popped up. I now have you bookmarked. 🙂 Love it!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Lindsay – Welcome! Happy to have you! Let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to help! 🙂

  16. I also love frozen soup and lists! Lists for absolutely everything – I’m that kind of gal. Tiffany’s chicken soup with brown rice is my ‘freezer hero’, thers’s always a supply on hand. Clean, delicious and husband approved!!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jo – That’s fabulous!!! Great soup! 🙂

  17. Hi Tiffany,

    I sent you a message on Facebook about how great your blog is, and I just wanted to let you know again how happy I am that I found you! You motivate me to continue on my clean eating adventure! It truly amazes me how much energy I have and how much weight I have already lost. I started this new way of eating on May 29th and have had my ups and downs, but your blog has helped me to stick to it and to try new things. Thanks sp much for taking the time out of your busy day to write this blog, FB, and for your great recipes! I plan on trying many more in the future!!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sandy – What a wonderful comment! Thank you so much! 🙂 Clean eating ROCKS!!!

  18. Is that your file card box with meal plans and ideas? Man, what I wouldn’t give to have a peak in there! Sometimes I come up with really creative ideas (whole wheat flax waffle and cottage cheese with honey and cinnamon) and sometimes I am stumped!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jenna – that’s why I keep a file card box. For the days when I am stumped. Happens to the best of us!

  19. graciouspantry says:

    Start with your kitchen/pantry/fridge. Every week when something runs out, replace it with a clean and healthy substitute. Brown rice when the white runs out, whole grain pasta when the white runs out, honey when the sugar runs out, etc. Before you know it, you’ll have a totally clean kitchen and you didn’t break the bank to get there. Plus, it will transition you slowly into clean eating without it seeming overwhelming.

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  21. Stephanie says:

    Hey there I just found this website and I absolutely love it. I haven’t started eating clean I’m doing this on my own so I’m trying to get as much information as I can get my hands before I biggest problem is I have to have planned what I want to eat or I will be way off for the week and I’m not sure what my daily requirements should be. That way I can plan from there. Also what food provides that.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Stephanie – I would talk to a dietitian to find out what you personally need. I would have no way of knowing that. Most of my recipes have nutrition data, so once you know where you are starting you can plan accordingly.

  22. I’ve been trying to east clean for about two years now , my daughter and I are good with all the fabulous foods but my son and husband are really picky. Meaning, my son won’t eat most veggies or meats and my husband pretty much won’t eat anything clean. How do I plan meals and encourage clean eating in my house when only my daughter and I seem to be eating. Making separate meals is out of the question as we are limited in or finances. Any ideas?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Bridgett – Well, it depends on how hard of a line you want to draw in the proverbial sand. When that happened at my house with my husband, I told him he could eat what I cooked or fend for himself. He ate what I cooked. 🙂 But if you don’t feel you can do that, you have to sit down as a family and reach some sort of compromise. Get your son involved in the kitchen. That’s a big one. He needs to interact with food to expand his palate. Maybe have one night a week where the boys have to prepare a clean meal, and one night a week where the girls prepare a not-clean meal. Make a game out of it. There are many approaches, you just have to find what works for you as a family. I know that’s not very specific or helpful. Have you tried making clean versions of some of their not-clean favorites? Remember that it takes time for a person’s palate to change. If packaged foods are king in your house, your (or your husband’s palate) has changed to accommodate that. It won’t change back overnight, and you can’t force it on them or they will resist even more. So you have to either draw a hard line or find a way to compromise.

  23. Like Heather, I would like to buy your organizer and recipe cards.
    How may I do that??
    BTW Love you site..!!!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Laurie – I haven’t sold those in a long time. But if you go to a craft store and search for a recipe box, you’ll find all kinds of them.

  24. Can I apply this to the two “snacks” in between meals? My biggest issue is portion control, so can you give me an idea of just how big the snacks should be? At the moment I’m drinking green smoothies for breakfast, leftover clean eating recipes from your site for lunch, and one for dinner. I have to eat two snacks in between each meal because I’m breastfeeding so I can’t wait too long til the next meal. I am at a loss with these snacks.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Samantha – It depends on your approach to clean eating. If you are eating smaller meals, 5-7 times per day, then it could be just like any other meal. But if you are eating three larger meals with two smaller snacks, then that would depend on your caloric needs. Have you discussed this with a dietitian or breastfeeding consultant?

  25. I’m not really sure on how to get into contact with a dietitian. Do you know anything that would help me with that? I understand you’re not certified, I’m more looking for what knowledge you can gather in terms of what I should aim for. I know you’re a mother as well, so I wasn’t sure if you’d have some information on it or not. Looking for advice 🙂 Any tips you have would help knowing you’re currently working towards becoming a dietitian.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Samantha – If your health insurance can’t direct you towards a dietitian, then I would just google the ones in your area. Actually, when we moved, I had to give up school. So I’m far from being a dietitian unfortunately. Have you tried tracking your food intake with something like MyFitnessPal? I find that helps me a lot when I have to keep track of how much I’m eating.

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