Gluten-free Living: Meal Planning & Prepping

Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, nutritionist, trainer, or health professional of any kind.  This is just what works for me, my conditions, and my body. Always check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet! It’s been quite awhile since I’ve done a gluten-free living post – but I’m back at it! Today, I want to talk about something that is a huge part of my life: meal planning. (Forwarning: iPhone/instagram pics ahead)

I need a plan for all of the bottles I carry. Oof.

Meal planning and nutrition have been absolutely essential to my weight loss efforts (and success!) and to living a gluten-free lifestyle without feeling deprived. Since a gluten-free diet is completely based around foods you can and can't eat,  food is both the easiest and most difficult part of gfree lifestyle. As we’ve discussed before, there are tons of foods that are naturally gluten-free such as veggies, lean proteins, beans, some grains, fruits, and chocolate (yeah, it’s a food group in my world). With such variety you’d think a gluten-free lifestyle would be a piece of gfree cake! But as many people find out, it can be time consuming, draining, and difficult.

The part most people struggle with is not so much the food but the convenience factor. We are society built on convenience and instant gratification (hello fast food, iPhones, internet, etc.) and this, in my opinion, has caused us to feel defeated and overwhelmed when anything requires consistent, hard work. I hate to say it – but being g-free and healthy isn’t easy. But it’s worth it. There is no need to feel intimated though because it can be made easier - and that’s meal planning and prepping come in.

Being gluten-free isn’t easy for anyone and it is especially difficult for those who have other food sensitivities/intolerances or other restrictions. Trust me, being gluten-free, trying to eat a fat loss diet, being low carb/insulin resistant, and eating clean and eating often can feel overwhelming at times. I eat often, I eat a lot, and I usually eat up to 4 of my meals during the work day – my bank account, mind, and waistline can’t handle eating out that often , which means I do A LOT of food packing.

Typical size of my work day food haul (Yeah, let's not talk about those counters. I can't wait to move)

To give you an idea of how much food I take with me on a daily basis, here is a typical day for me. I usually pack all of my food for post-workout through my afternoon snack (about 4 meals):

5:30am: 1 Tbsp peanut butter before hitting the gym 6:00-7:15am: Workout, just drinking water here (or my DIY electrolyte drink if I'm running or know I will be a sweaty mess) 7:45am-ish: Protein shake with flax seed meal, my favorite protein powder, cinnamon, and almond milk. Also usually have a piece of fruit (usually berries, citrus, or an apple). 10:00am: 2 hardboiled eggs (or 3 egg whites) with another bit of fruit. Maybe some more peanut butter here 12:30pm: Salad with some sort of lean protein (chicken, tuna, salmon, or tofu + egg whites), with olive oil and 1/2 a medium sweet potato or cubed squash 3:30-4:00pm: carrots or peppers with one of these: greek yogurt, cheese, tuna w/hummus or a smoothie 7:30-8:00pm: Dinner changes everyday but usually consists of a lean protein like chicken or fish with lots of veggies and a little healthy fat.

That’s a lot of food to think about every day. I’ve been in situations before where I’ve vastly underestimated how much food I needed for the day and it’s no fun trying to find something, anything that is semi-decent nutritionally and safe to eat. Being gluten-free makes it all much more difficult – you can’t simply grab something or get take out without a good bit of detective work. It can be done though and we will talk about this later. Suffice it say, if I tried to “wing it” everyday, I would lose my mind!

Grill up extras!

So, what do you do when life is crazy, work is crazy, and you’re trying your damnedest to feel and look better? You plan. I’ve been consistently meal planning and prepping since January (it was part of my goals) and have learned a thing or two about it so here are my top planning and prepping tips:

1. Make a plan for your plan: Seems excessive, I know. But having a plan – about what groceries you’re going to buy, how often you are going to eat, etc. – is key to making meal planning and prepping a breeze. Make a grocery list, stick to it, and make a plan for your meal prepping day. Planning makes the heart grow fonder. No? That’s just me and my type A self. 2. Be boring: As a food blogger and someone who has a freelance job making & photographing meals, it’s tempting to eat something new and exciting for every single meal. Not only is this approach costly and time consuming, it can be a lot of mental effort – you have to check that everything is gfree, not contaminated, etc. and frankly, no one really wants to have to think about food that much. Instead, be consistent and rotate through your favorite meals throughout the week using meal templates. For example, I always have a salad for lunch but vary the greens (kale, spinach, swiss chard, oh my!), the protein (chicken, tofu, eggs) and varying toppings (hello crispy radish chips!) so I don’t feel like I’m eating the same thing every single day. 3. Prep and then prep some more: Once you’ve made your plan, bought your groceries, and figured out your favorite meals, prep your food on one (or two) days. Chop veggies, portion salads, blend up smoothies, portion snacks, etc. Basically, if it can be made ahead, make it. It may seem like a lot of work initially but you’ll be so glad that you have all of your food ready to go once Thursday night rolls around and you would rather be sipping wine than chopping carrots.

4. Learn to love leftovers:  When I cook dinner, I try to make enough to have at least one or two additional servings. It mixes it up and helps me cook more efficiently.  Grill an extra chicken breast, make extra tofu, or make larger meals like healthy pizzas and use up those leftovers!

Grain-free pizza always makes great leftovers.

I tend to do my prep on Sundays and usually prep the same things every week. Here are some of my meal prep staples:

1. Make ahead smoothies with protein packs (using my favorite powder) 2. Kale salad 3. Hardboiled eggs 4. Oven baked tofu 5. Homemade peanut butter 6. Raw veggie dippers (carrots, peppers, etc) 7. Roasted veggies 8. Grains such as brown rice, quinoa, etc. (I don’t eat many grains now but they are great for prepping ahead!) 9. Beans 10. Soups 11. Greek yogurt (I use this tutorial)

Now that you have some tips and ideas – start planning and prepping! Make your gluten-free lifestyle work for you and make it easy on yourself so that it’s one less thing you have to stress about. I've got tons of recipes on the recipe page that work for make-ahead meals!

Do you like to meal plan? What are your favorite make-ahead meals or snacks?