Whether you're recently diagnosed with Celiac or a seasoned veteran, meal time always requires thought and consideration.  It's not easy to rely on takeout for every meal, especially when options may be limited, and it's also not exciting to eat the same thing night after night.

At first, it may seem as though many, if not all meals are gluten-filled.  However, I promise it's super simple to make many dishes gluten free with just a few swaps.  Here are a just few ideas that can easily be upgraded to fit your GF needs.  Throughout this list, you'll see items denoted with a (*).  These are all items you should thoroughly check labels for before purchasing to ensure there aren't any sources of gluten lurking in there. 

  • Chicken Parm - You can swap the regular breading for GF breadcrumbs (they really exist!) choose a red sauce* that you enjoy, and some shredded mozzarella cheese*.  Most cheeses are naturally GF, but always be careful of already shredded/grated cheeses and ensure they don't have any additives that may contain gluten for preserving the shape and freshness. Serve over GF pasta, rice or omit the starch altogether!
  • Chicken Piccata - Take a standard recipe and swap out flour for a GF all-purpose flour.   You will need some chicken stock*, capers* and GF pasta.  Additional ingredients such as shallots, parsley and white wine are naturally free from gluten.  Toss in some sautéed broccoli or spinach, and you are all set for a delicious meal.
  • Caesar Salad - There's nothing like a homemade dressing!  Gather your Worcestershire sauce* and grainy mustard*, and whisk with the oils, eggs, garlic, fresh lemon juice and parm cheese*.  Serve over crisp romaine lettuce with some grilled chicken and you have a wholesome meal.  Of course, you can always opt for a bottled dressing, but always read those labels!
  • Tacos - Who doesn't love tacos?  This dish is so versatile and can be easily adapted to appeal to anyone.  Start your feast with corn shells* (hard or soft), or, omit the shell and go for a big salad.  It's extremely easy and fun to make your own taco seasoning, but if you purchase a pre-made seasoning mix, make sure to check that label!  Serve with veggies such as shredded lettuce, diced onions, avocado and tomatoes, with some salsa* and blends of Mexican cheeses*.  Plus, leftovers taste great for lunch the next day!

There are also countless meals that are naturally gluten free without any extra effort.  Here are a few ideas.

  • Grilled Chicken with Veggies - Marinate the chicken breasts with olive oil, lots of fresh lemon, garlic, maybe some fresh herbs of your choice if available, and add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Grill and serve with your favorite grilled veggies.
  • Shrimp Pesto - Create your own pesto or buy pre-made*, sauté some shrimp and toss together.  Serve on top of your favorite GF pasta, rice or veggies.
  • Sausage, Peppers and Onions - Cut up chicken or pork sausages*, bell peppers and sweet onion into same size pieces.  Toss together with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary and sage.  Roast at 450 for 40 minutes, taking out when halfway done to mix veggies and turn sausages so they brown on both sides.
  • Roasted Salmon - Top fresh salmon with olive oil, lemon slices, salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 for approx 15 minutes (time and temp may vary).

 

To help make GF meal preparation easy and enjoyable, here are a few suggestions:

  • Plan ahead.
    • I always find myself setup for a successful week ahead when I take time to think about my meals and make a list before heading to the grocery store. This may seem like common sense, but whenever I skip this step, I find myself feeling stressed about meals and end up noshing or making unhealthy choices.
       
  • Be prepared with a few fail-proof ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
    • Ensure you have some staples on hand that you can rely on for all meals, in case you are in a rut and not feeling like being creative.
      • Breakfast - Eggs have become a staple in my diet for breakfast.  Each week at the grocery store, I make sure to pick up enough eggs to last me a week (usually a dozen between my boyfriend and I) so that I can have a nutritious breakfast.  Add to that a breakfast sausage, or a few veggies for an omelette and you can easily create a hearty breakfast each morning. 
      • Lunch - Tuna salad is easy to whip together in a pinch and is a substantial lunch when served on top of a salad or in a wrap.  I also like keeping deli meats* on hand (Applegate is a great option) for some additional protein.  And of course, a big salad never fails!
      • Dinner - I like to keep proteins stocked in the fridge from chicken breasts to fresh shrimp to tofu.  All of these are so versatile and can be enjoyed in endless ways and combined with different veggies and starches.  
         
  • Stock Up!
    • Spices and seasonings - These are a great way to enhance any dish, by adding depth of flavor to easily transform your meals. My go-to spices usually consist of: salt, pepper, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, cayenne, basil, oregano and parsley (although not all combined together).  We keep at least a dozen more in our cabinet for various flavor profiles (from Mexican to Asian to Indian).  
    • Pantry staples - Many recipes call for some sort of stock*, so it's helpful to keep the pantry loaded with chicken or vegetable stocks for a quick boost of flavor.  I always make sure to have plenty of rice and other GF pastas available.  Soy sauce* (or tamari*) and hot sauce* are other amazing ways to add flavor to your dishes.
       
  • Invest in a slow cooker.
    • I didn't get one of these magical devices until my late 20s and can't believe I have survived all of these years without one!  In a few short months, I've experimented with carnitas, chicken dishes, curries and tikka masalas and have loved everything that's been made in there.  While some recipes involve some food prep before going into the slow cooker, I definitely think it is worth it to make the extra effort in the morning to be able to enjoy a hearty, warm meal at the end of the day, with little work and minimal cleanup after a long day.  Life changing!