I love your site and all the great food ideas you have. I have recently been struggling with the possibility of having celiac disease. While it hasn’t been confirmed, I think that regardless it is likely I have an intolerance of gluten because I feel so much better when its not in my diet. I have been starting to get sick of all the typical meals I have. For example, rice, lots of veggies and salads, fruit, eggs etc. Do you have new ideas to help me spice up my gluten free diet? Thanks! -Eliana
Creating a gluten-free diet or any other elimination diet can be daunting at first. It’s common for people starting this type of diet to find a limited menu plan that works for them, but then to repeat the same things over and over and over again. And before long, you’ll become really sick of those of the same food! (Even for folks not following a gluten-free diet, you may find some ideas here to get you out of a food rut so don’t leave yet.)
To incorporate some more variety, let’s start with general categories: Let’s look at your choices for proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, etc, and you’ll soon see that there’s a whole lot of variety you can choose from on a gluten-free meal plan. You may discover you keep choosing the same one or two items in each category, when there are dozens more you could be using.
Proteins. You didn’t mention if you are vegetarian, but if not, consider the following options: beef, chicken, turkey, ham, pork, and all kinds of fish and shellfish. Most of these are naturally gluten-free, you just need to be watchful with processed items like chicken sausage or deli meats to make sure no gluten was added. Steer clear from breaded items, obviously, unless labeled gluten-free. Got a hankering for chicken nuggets? Bread your own using gluten-free breadcrumbs. Just dip pieces of chicken into egg, then press into crumbs and bake on an oiled sheet at 400 degrees until golden brown. (Not only will you skip the gluten, but sayonara to all the artery-clogging, hip-padding fat from deep-fried nuggets.)
Many of the recipes in my Archives are free of grain products, but I haven’t checked on all the labels for things like condiments and spice blends. Still, it’s a good place to find something to do with that chicken in your fridge.
Dairy foods and soy foods are also great sources of protein. Here’s another menu of options: Yogurt and Greek yogurt, reduced fat cheddar or string cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, and most other kinds of cheese. Why not try Greek Yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit and nuts for a breakfast or filling snack? You can also use an ounce of crumbled cheese to liven up an otherwise ho-hum green salad. Crumbled feta and dried cranberries make a great pair on top of salad. I love beets and goat cheese on salads too. Need salad ideas? I have not just one page, but two on the subject!
Eggs are in, which means omelets, frittatas, and scrambles are all viable options. I love veggie packed omelets for my breakfasts, but sometimes also make crustless quiche, or mini frittatas in a muffin tin. Just use whatever veggies and cheese combinations you like – spinach, tomatoes and feta are my favorites.
For fruit and vegetables, all of them are gluten free when used fresh and plain. Given that there are literally hundreds of different items in a typical produce section, (and they’re all good for you!) this can be a gold mine for someone looking for healthy new inspiration. I love making pizzas on top of portobello caps or eggplant slices. You can add vegetables to gluten-free pasta dishes, soups, plus the aformentioned salads and egg creations. Making some interesting dips can help make vegetables more enticing: try hummus (homemade or store bought), bean dip, or salsa.
Fruit goes well with yogurt, or blended into smoothies with some protein powder. Not to mention, grabbing an apple or banana on the run is the easiest snack ever. You can also use fruit, topped with gluten free oats and/or crushed nuts and some sweetener, to make easy fruit crumbles for dessert. Try this one for inspiration, and vary the fruit to your liking or what’s in season.
Grains and carbs- here’s where gluten becomes an issue, since you must avoid products made with wheat, rye and barley. With oats, choose a variety that is labeled gluten-free. (Oats don’t gave gluten, but often become contaminated by other grains during processing). Oatmeal makes a great breakfast or hearty snack, and you can dress it up so many ways: berries or sliced bananas, flaxseed, vanilla, walnuts, or cinnamon are just a few ideas. try this banana bread oatmeal. To make rice more interesting, combine it with spices, nuts, and or dried fruit for an interesting pilaf.
Gluten-free items like crackers, pretzels, breads and pastas are available in some supermarkets, or you can also shop online for a larger selection. I’ll link to some good resources at the bottom of this post.
Homemade gluten-free bread recipes can be very difficult. I recommend making farinata (a flatbread made from chickpea flour) for an easy gluten-free bread option that doesn’t require 15 strange ingredients. It also makes wonderful pizza crust! Check out this farinata topped with roasted vegetables.
You can make corn tortilla chips at home. Just start with plain corn tortillas. Cut them into triangles, spray with cooking spray and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake then at 375 F until crisp, about 4-5 minutes (watch them, they burn quickly!) Then use your chips to scoop up salsa, bean dip, or make them into a crowd-pleasing nacho platter with black beans, cheese, lowfat sour cream, jalapenos…the works!
Nuts and seeds are gluten-free, but read ingredients to make sure that flavored or seasoned types don’t have gluten-containing ingredients like starch. A 1/4 cup of nuts and a piece of fruit together make a balanced snack, with carbohydrates, fiber, protein and fat, for about 300 calories.
I hope some these ideas excite and interest you, and that gluten-free eating now doesn’t seem so boring or limited. As with all dietary restrictions, the healthiest mindset isn’t to focus on what you can’t eat, but all the options you can eat.
Stuff to check out elsewhere on the net:
VitaminMenu.com has gluten free products available, and they have a free shipping offer. Free Shipping Offer at VitaminMenu.com