Hello, gluten-free friends! How is 2014 treating you so far?
At a time when resolutions are being bandied about with wild abandon, we took the time in our last blog post to discuss ways that you can establish and stick to small, attainable goals that will improve your gluten-free lifestyle. And now we’re back with more!
One of the biggest challenges to living gluten-free is proper nutrition. Not only does the intestinal damage caused by gluten intake inhibit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, but many gluten-free products are lower in B vitamins, iron and dietary fiber than common grain-containing products. Taking steps to ensure that the foods we eat contain a healthy amount of vitamin B12, folate, and riboflavin to prevent anemia is key.
The following foods are ideal for incorporating into your diet in larger quantities to establish a balanced nutritional intake…
Amaranth, millet, quinoa, brown rice, sorghum, buckwheat, corn, and gluten-free oats.
Sources of Folate
Green leafy vegetables, fruit juices (not from concentrate!), and legumes
Sources of Iron
Poultry, fish and other meats, fruit, dark green leafy veggies, and legumes
For the more experienced gluten-free diners, this list may have made you roll your eyes and give a hearty “well, duh“… but sometimes it’s a good reminder to take a step back and really evaluate how many of these foods make it into your daily or even weekly diet.
And if they often don’t, it’s understandable why. If you have a rigorous work schedule and/or children, the likelihood of you having the time to cook yourself fresh, healthy lunches and dinners (that also appeal to the kiddos) on a daily basis is slim. But that’s why we’re here to talk meal prep… and how it can be done in advance without sending your poor gluten-free brain into overload.
Pre-making a week’s worth of lunches sounds like work, we know. But carving out that bit of time on Sunday evening after the kids are in bed means a boatload of saved headaches and cheap “fast food” fixes. If you try to think of it less as a chore and more as an exercise that saves you time, money, and junk-food guilt it’ll be a lot easier.
Start With Storage
We are absolutely unashamed to admit that we wholeheartedly endorse the use of mason jars. Not only do they come in sets of 6-12 for rarely more than $20, but you never have to try on a million lids before you find the one that fits. Plus, the vertical shape of the jar is ultra-conducive to layering your meal so chopped tomatoes don’t make your salads soggy and gluten-free pasta doesn’t slowly disintegrate in pasta sauce. Buy a set! Machine washable, air tight, microwave safe… it’s a win-win.
Pick a Formula
We mentioned layering your ingredients, but this is even easier if you stick with one of three main ideas for fast food prep: salad, pasta and quinoa (or similar ingredient). Why these three things? Because choosing three main ingredients that allow for a vibrant array of mixing and substituting takes a lot of the brainstorming out of the process. Make a batch of quinoa and then make three different dishes from the same pot. One day mix in some olives, feta, spinach and onion, the next add a Thai twist with some coconut milk, curry seasoning, chicken and Thai basil. All you need to pick are your favorite veggies and flavors, incorporating some of the necessary nutritional ingredients we discussed above.
If it’s a salad you crave, just choose a green of choice and mix up a new assortment of veggies each day, keeping anything potentially liquidy at the bottom so leafy bits stay crisp. There are some great combinations to be found right here!
Of course, we aren’t saying you can’t get more complicated with it. In fact, we also love some of these non-mason jar meals from Oh She Glows (vegan and gluten-free!).
Make a Plan
If your need to prepare goes beyond lunch, go for a fully mapped out menu! That way you can make and freeze or, at the very least, get your shopping done in advance. Nothing sucks time like having to make a midweek run to the grocery store after work.
If you feel confident enough to make your own, kudos! But for the rest of us who tend to get a little slack-jawed when we stare at a blank calendar, mom and blogger Stuffed Pepper creates and shares some wonderful month-long menus that are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, kid-friendly, paleo-friendly and even have vegan options. Can ya believe it? So go forth and start trying something new! All it takes is making one small first step…