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  • Jennifer Heard

Gluten Free Meal Planning Made Simple

Too many years ago, when I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I was at a complete loss as to what to eat. My body was in turmoil, my diagnosis came because I was sick, really sick. So it wasn't as simple as "don't eat gluten". My immune system was in overdrive and everything I tried to eat seemed to set my body off in some weird way. Plus reading labels, digging through old recipes; EVERYTHING had gluten in it! During this phase I had to learn to listen to my. As the inflammation settled and my immune system rebalanced I decided that my "fly by the seat of my pants" eating style needed an overhaul.


Meal planning was a game-changer! When it comes to navigating life on a gluten-restrictive diet planning ahead is the key to success. Whether you have Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or simply choose to go gluten-free for health reasons, meal planning can be your secret weapon. It's the key to simplifying your routine, ensuring balanced nutrition, and making shopping and cooking a breeze. In this guide, we'll break down the process of meal planning for a gluten-restrictive diet into simple and actionable steps.


grocery shopping

1. Assess Your Dietary Needs and Preferences

Before you start planning your meals, it's important to think about your dietary needs and preferences. Take a moment to consider any dietary restrictions or allergies you may have, aside from gluten. Do you prefer to eat three meals a day or have snacks in between? Think about the foods you enjoy and those you'd rather avoid. Also, take into account your cooking skills and the amount of time you have available for meal preparation. Being mindful of these factors will help you create a meal plan that suits you and your lifestyle.


2. Create a Weekly Meal Plan

Now that you know what your body needs and what you like, it's time to make a meal plan. Here's what you need to do:


1. Mix it up! Choose a variety of gluten-free grains, proteins, fruits, and veggies for your meals. Don't be afraid to try new things and experiment with different flavors.

2. Waste not, want not. Plan meals that use similar ingredients to minimize food waste. This way, you can make the most out of what you have and save money too.

3. Cook smart. Consider batch cooking or making larger portions of certain dishes that can be repurposed into multiple meals throughout the week. It's a time-saver and ensures you always have something delicious to eat.

4. Stay flexible. Be open to making adjustments based on what's in season, what's on sale at the grocery store, or any changes in your schedule. Being adaptable will keep your meals exciting and help you make the most of what's available.


3. Make a Shopping List

note pad

Alright, let's get organized for the week! Here's a comprehensive shopping list to make your life easier. First up, produce: grab some fresh fruits like apples, bananas, and berries, along with veggies like lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Don't forget to check your pantry and fridge for any items you already have.


Next, head to the dairy section. Stock up on milk, eggs, and yogurt. If you're going gluten-free, look for alternatives like gluten-free bread and pasta. Speaking of which, check out the sauces aisle for gluten-free options too.


Now, let's move on to pantry staples. Grab some rice, beans, and gluten-free flour. Don't forget spices like salt, pepper, and garlic powder. And if you're in need of snacks or convenient meal options, consider stocking up on gluten-free alternatives.


That's it! With this organized shopping list, you'll be ready to tackle the week ahead.


4. Navigate the Grocery Store with Confidence

When you're on the hunt for gluten-free ingredients, it's crucial to be a label detective and stay on high alert for sneaky sources of gluten. Here's the lowdown:


First off, stick to the outer edges of the grocery store. That's where you'll find the good stuff: fresh fruits, veggies, meat, and dairy. No gluten lurking there!


Next, channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and examine those labels. Look for the gluten-free certification seal or any ingredients that might contain gluten derivatives. Don't let gluten slip past your radar!


But wait, there's more. Be extra cautious when it comes to bulk bins and shared equipment areas. Cross-contamination can be a sneaky culprit, so keep your gluten-free goodies far away from potential troublemakers.


So, my gluten-free friend, armed with these tips, you'll be navigating the grocery store aisles like a pro.


5. Prep and Store Ingredients for Convenience

Meal prep can be a game-changer for busy folks like us. So, here's the deal: get your fruits and veggies all washed, chopped, and ready to go. That way, you'll have healthy snacks and easy meal assembly at your fingertips. And don't stop there! Cook up some grains, proteins, and whatever else you need ahead of time. Pop 'em in the fridge or freezer, and you'll have a head start on your meals. Oh, and invest in some top-notch storage containers to keep everything fresh and organized. Trust me, it's worth it.


Meal planning on a gluten-restrictive diet doesn't have to be scary. Just follow these steps, get organized, and let your creativity shine. You can still enjoy tasty, healthy meals while staying gluten-free. Stay open to new recipes and ingredients, and most importantly, listen to your body. With a solid meal plan, you'll feel like a gluten-free superstar. Trust me, you've got this!


One last thing: the best tip I learned is that many ethnic foods are naturally gluten free: think Vietnamese (watch for soy sauce), Thai, and Columbian. Being open to other cultural food choices helps cut out the unnecessary processed foods/ingredients often found in North American gluten free alternatives.

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