You might not realize how many foods have gluten in them until you decide that you want to go gluten free. Whether you have celiac disease or just feel better without gluten in your diet, making the transition to being strictly free from gluten takes some planning. And no approach to a gluten-less diet is complete without a gluten free meal plan.
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What is a gluten free diet?
To successfully follow a gluten free diet, it first helps to understand what gluten is and in what foods it can be found. A gluten free diet is a way of eating that completely eliminates gluten. If you choose to go gluten free, your diet will not include any forms of wheat, barley, or rye because all of these grains contain a substance called gluten.
Two different types of protein make up gluten. These proteins are found in many cereal grains and they are what give the resulting flour and dough its elasticity and chewiness. Many of the common foods that make up a standard Western diet actually contain gluten. Of course, you have the cereals, breads, and pastas. But other not so obvious foods like soy sauces, various dipping sauces, and soups can also contain gluten.
Gluten free foods
If you decide that a gluten free diet is the one for you, it is helpful to learn what foods naturally do not contain any gluten. Thankfully, fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten free. We always recommend using these foods to build out the majority of your diet.
When it comes to other food products like breads, pastas, and sweets, many popular options are usually off of the table. That is, unless you can find specific gluten free options. Due in part to the growing popularity of the gluten free diet, many companies have made products that eliminate this pesky protein.
When following a gluten free diet, shopping is likely to take much longer as you study products more carefully. If you are in a hurry you may sometimes overlook an ingredient that might contain gluten. You may even have to go to different grocery stores or markets to find some of your gluten-free products.
When buying pre-packaged foods, it is good practice to always check the packaging for a gluten-free label to ensure that the food is completely void of gluten and no cross-contamination has occurred. This is especially important if you are celiac and cannot tolerate gluten.
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is quite simply the act of planning out your meals for the week – or at least the next few days. This also requires making a list of the foods needed, shopping for the ingredients at the store, and could even include prepping some meals or ingredients.People practice the act of meal planning for many reasons.
One reason is to make the decision of what to eat easier in busy or hectic times. Another reason for a meal plan is that it can help budget and save money on food. We all know how tempting it can be to grab take out when days go awry or get busy. Meal planning helps avoid this and saves money by doing so. That is most definitely a win-win for everyone.
Meal planning is also essential if you are following a specific diet – like a gluten free diet, for example. To follow a gluten free lifestyle, you will need to ensure that your meals are compliant to the specific diet’s rules. This requires that your cabinets, pantry, and fridge are stocked with the appropriate foods, sauces, spices, and beverages needed to help you stick to your plan.
How to meal plan
The most effective way to find success while following a gluten free diet is to make a plan and then stick to it as closely as possible. First things first, pencil in this task on your calendar on a day when you have some free time. Sundays usually work well for myself, but this will be dependent upon your schedule and lifestyle.
Next, decide what meals you want to make for the upcoming week. Consult your favorite recipe blog, your cookbook collection, or Google for ideas. I use my Notes app to keep a list of what meals work for me for the next week of my life. In general, I have a couple of staple meals that I make week-to-week for ease. Then, I throw in a couple of new recipes for some variety and to fight off the repetitive meal boredom that can sometimes arise.
Once you have your collection of recipes, make a shopping list for your trip to the grocery store. I like to do a once-over of my current stash of groceries so I know what I need to buy at the store and what I already have at home. To make this task even easier, I like to order my groceries online and then pick them up at the store later that day.
The last thing that falls into the meal planning category is to do any additional prepping that makes cooking easier throughout the week. This may include pre-cutting vegetables like carrots, broccoli off of the head, or trimming Brussels sprouts. If any of your meals hold up in the refrigerator over a couple of days, you could prep them too. I personally like to prepare a couple of breakfast items like chia seed pudding or egg muffins so I can grab and go in the morning. Once this is done, you are on your way to having a successful, and hopefully much easier, week.
Of course, this is just a general outline of how the meal planning process can go. Take what strategies work for you and your life and toss the rest. The ultimate key to making any lifestyle change is finding what habits are most sustainable and doable for you and your life. If you have any meal planning tips and tricks you live by, I’d love to read about it in a comment below.
Strategies for gluten free meal planning
Planning meals in advance can help eliminate the stress that can come with a gluten free diet. There’s nothing worse than coming home after a long day of work and realizing that your cabinets and fridge are empty. And when you follow a gluten free diet, popping over to the local drive through is probably not an option anymore.
Getting used to a new way of eating can take work and some extra planning especially when first starting out. Sometimes it can be worth searching out a local gluten free support group or even looking for online support. Social media sites like Facebook and Reddit have large online gluten free communities where you can learn tips, tricks, and foods that will help you on your way to healing. We should never underestimate how helpful sharing information and experiences can often be. If a gluten free diet is for medical issues like celiac disease and you need a little more structured support, a registered dietitian or nutritionist can help you draw up a healthy eating plan to follow.
A life without bread, beer, pizza and cakes may not sound too appealing but once you understand the basic rules of avoiding gluten, a gluten free diet can be quite easy to follow. You don’t necessarily have to miss out on your favorite foods, you just have to learn to say “no” to gluten.
A sample five-day gluten free meal plan
If you have made it this far, you are probably wondering if I’m ever going to share an example of a gluten free meal plan for you. Well, you are in luck. Below, you will find a simple and easy gluten free meal plan that includes options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Breakfast: Egg muffin cups
Lunch: Lettuce turkey wrap
Dinner: Tuna cakes with slaw
Breakfast: Chia seed pudding
Lunch: Leftover tuna cakes
Dinner: Flank steak with chimichurri
Breakfast: Egg muffin cups
Lunch: Leftover steak with chimichurri
Dinner: Pesto shrimp salad
Breakfast: Chia seed pudding
Lunch: Pesto egg salad
Dinner: Pumpkin spiced chicken thighs
Breakfast: Turkey sausage patties with lemon spinach
Lunch: Leftover pumpkin spiced chicken thighs
Dinner: Cream of zucchini soup
This gives you a general idea of the kind of variety that you can get in your diet when you take a bit of time to plan out your meals. While there are some repeats for the sake of ease and to prevent food waste, there is also a good amount of variety that will keep you from getting bored with your eating routine.
Ultimate Gluten Free Meal Plans
Sometimes, you just do not have the bandwidth to meal plan for yourself. Everyone goes through moments of overwhelm, and it is within these moments that caring for yourself becomes even more important. If you want to take the task of meal planning off of your metaphorical plate, outsource it to a company. We recommend Ultimate Meal Plans.
Ultimate Meal Plans is a subscription-based meal planning service that delivers a week’s worth of meal plans to your inbox every week. Ultimate Meal Plans gives you a fully customizable gluten free meal plan to suit your needs. You can choose the number of people you are cooking for, exclude ingredients to suit taste or dietary requirements, and you will get a fully customized set of recipes and shopping list to match.
One of the things we love about Ultimate Meal Plans is the ease of their recipes. They utilize the 15/5 rule which makes their meals simple to whip up but still delicious. The 15/5 rule means that none of their recipes take over 15 minutes to make or require more than 5 ingredients. This is especially helpful for those times in life where things are crazy and busy. The last thing you need when life is wild is for a recipe to take hours to cook and it leaves your kitchen a mess.
Are you ready?
If you’re ready to make a lifestyle change and cut out the gluten, give gluten free meal planning a try. This planning method will help you eliminate gluten in a sustainable method and get you on your way to feeling much better in your body.
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