Whether you’re gluten-free or not, menu planning (or meal planning) saves money and time. But when you have celiac disease, menu planning is even more important as proper diet and nutrition are so important for your long term health. Planning meals ahead of time can help you to make better food choices and achieve your health goals.
You should menu plan whether you’re single and working full time or feeding a family on a gluten-free diet. Include breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks on your plan or keep your menu simple by eating the same basic breakfasts and lunches for a week and planning out your dinner. Use your completed menu to make grocery lists, get the family or roommates involved in dinner prep, and save yourself from desperation dinners, which are often unhealthy and unsatisfying.
Here are 3 tips and a sample gluten-free menu to get you on your way…
The First Consideration and Obstacle: Your Busy Schedule
Consider your schedule when you menu plan. Opt for simple meals on busy nights and make sure plenty of leftovers are available as often as possible.
Make time for longer cooking sessions on weekends or a quiet evening per week to prep meat and vegetables to use throughout the week, or stock your freezer with future meals. Cook chicken breasts for salads, boil eggs for an easy breakfast and chop and roast a pan of root vegetables.
Planning Out Your Gluten-Free Menu Ahead of Time: Quick Tips
- You can plan menus weekly, biweekly or even a month at a time. Consider your budget, food preferences and how often you shop when you schedule meals.
- Speed up your meal planning by assigning a specific type of food to each night of the week. You might plan chicken on Monday, Italian on Tuesday and soup on Wednesday each week.
- Organizing your menu day-by-day allows you to maintain variety over the course of the month, repeating your favorite dishes or experimenting with new recipes.
- Order some gluten-free cookbooks or look online for recipe ideas to help you fill out your week.
Gluten-Free Food is Expensive: How to Balance the Budget
Gluten-free diets can come with a high price tag. Specialty foods, including gluten-free bread, pizza crust and gluten-free flour tortillas can be hard to find and expensive.
- Include vegetarian meals, like bean soups, chili, vegetable tacos and polenta dishes on your menu to keep costs under control.
- Opt for naturally gluten-free grains and starches. Try rice, polenta, corn tortillas, potatoes and sweet potatoes in place of gluten-free pasta and bread.
- This brings us to our sample gluten-free menu. Hopefully this will help bring it altogether for you.
A Sample Gluten-Free Menu: A Week of Dinners to Make Your Life a Whole Lot Easier
- Loaded baked potatoes or baked sweet potatoes. Skip the high-fat cheese and sour cream in favor of vegetarian chili, fresh vegetables and non-fat Greek yogurt.
- Soup or stew, served on its own or over brown rice or polenta. Skip the cream soups in favor of broth- or bean-based soups. Make sure that your stock or broth is gluten-free.
- Dinner in a bowl. Serve up a whole grain, a protein, vegetables, and sauce in a single bowl for an easy, tasty and healthy gluten-free meal. Try brown rice, chicken breast, salsa and fajita-style vegetables or quinoa, chickpeas, roasted vegetables and a quick sauce of tahini and lemon juice.
- Meat and potatoes meals are a classic favorite. Choose lean cuts of meat, removing excess fat. Prepare side dishes, including potatoes and vegetables with fresh herbs, citrus juice and seasonings instead of adding butter or oil.
- Go spicy. Tex-Mex favorites are an easy option for a gluten-free menu. These meals can be high in fat and calories, so watch the cheese and skip the deep-fried foods. Warmed corn tortillas with seasoned black beans and a quick cabbage slaw, fish tacos made with baked, rather than fried fish, or oven-toasted corn tortilla tostadas can keep Tex-Mex healthy and gluten-free.
- Breakfast for dinner. Nonfat yogurt and fruit or egg white omelets with vegetables are healthy options. Add roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes and a side of low-fat ham, if you eat meat, to finish your meal.
- Simple salads. Top a bed of greens with roasted vegetables, cooked meat, beans, and your favorite dressing. As an alternative, replace the greens with a whole grain or bean salad, dressed with a light vinaigrette or lime juice and olive oil.