Choosing a gluten-free lifestyle doesn’t mean you need to torture yourself with a merry-go-round of the same meal options each week. With a little bit of know-how, help, and research it’s easy to make a meal plan that revolves monthly or longer.
The first step in your gluten-free meal goals is to know which products to avoid and which to include in your meal.
Reading labels, choosing best
You’d be amazed at some of the items you’d never think contained gluten that actually do. Reading the labels and keeping a sharp eye out hints that you should avoid the product will lead to you to choose wisely. Remember, wheat isn’t the only way gluten sneaks into your diet. Rye and barley also contain the protein your body doesn’t like. Wheat free doesn’t mean gluten free.
Aside from directly affecting your health, you may discover a pattern of other not-so-good ingredients walk hand-in-hand with gluten, such as maltodextrin, sugar, corn syrup, and sodium. And they are usually in high doses.
It’s often said that picking foods that are on the perimeter of the store will get us a basket full of wholesomeness. While that’s true in most cases, don’t assume! Some blue cheeses, lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages, beer and root beer, and even pickles processed in malt vinegar could be hiding high enough amounts of gluten to affect your health. This is why reading the fine print on the label is vital to your meal planning success.
Risky Sides, Sauces, and Spices
When you venture into the middle aisles in search of certain meal elements, arm yourself ahead of time with research on what brands offer you the best gluten-free options. Gravy packets, jellos and puddings, bouillon cubes and boxed soups, soy sauce, microwavable vegetable pouches with sauces, baked beans, and even certain curry and mustard powders are laden with the dangerous protein.
Do-it-yourself prep can avoid a lot of these issues. Boiling up your own soup stock and freezing it for later can eliminate the worry about your choices in the store lanes. Using corn starch to thicken gravies, puddings, and cheese sauces for your vegetables will save you money and joint ache. Or just steam fresh or frozen vegetables and sprinkle your favorite hard cheese on top before serving. Making your own curry from spices you already have on hand is easy; all you need is a quick recipe such as this one, and it makes enough for a couple meals throughout the month. As for soy sauce, the production process allows gluten into the bottle, so select Tamari instead.
More flavor, more filling
Using real, untampered foods are the best bet for making a filling and delicious gluten free meal. So to make your goals happen, pick the items you can have that help fill you up. Real butter and hard cheeses (see note above about blue cheese), natural lunch and chunk meats, fresh spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables, and homemade alternatives to the convenience foods hiding gluten in a fancy package are the building blocks of a fabulous and cost effective gluten free meal plan.
Make a plan and stick to it
Once you’ve done all the hard work, put it in motion! Plan out a certain number of days, what you’ll eat, what prepping you’ll need to do, and make a shopping list. Don’t deviate but be honest with yourself. Chose items you and your family love to eat, and make it realistic for your health. If you need or want to eat out, plan that in and chose a place you can feel confident sitting down in. (Stay tuned for an upcoming series on wonderful gluten-free restaurants around the U.S.) Do what works for you with the knowledge that you’ve set yourself up for victory.
Below is a suggested two-day meal plan to help get you started:
Breakfast: Gluten-Free French Toast and Scrambled Eggs
Lunch: Gluten-Free Ham and Provolone Mini Croissant Sandwiches with Tomato, Cucumber, and Basil Salad (Use our recipe without the sweet toppings!)
Dinner: Coconut Curry Chicken and Fried Vegetable Rice
Breakfast: Gluten-Free Donuts and local, fresh Bacon
Lunch: Harvest chicken salad stuffed bell peppers and Rosemary Potato Rolls smothered in rich butter
Dinner: Local Pork Fajitas and Homemade Spicy Pinto Beans (Check out the best tortilla options here)
Also check out Where Do I Start for more help with a gluten free lifestyle.
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