In this article, I discuss why meal planning is essential for someone with celiac disease. I’ll also share a template you can use to create your own meal plans at home, as well as a week-long sample celiac disease meal plan complete with recipes for delicious gluten-free meals. You can also learn about how you can be a part of the Good For You Gluten Free Meal Planning community and have your meal planning done for you each week. Scroll to the bottom of this article for details.
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease affecting 1 in 100 people worldwide.
When someone is diagnosed with celiac disease, they must follow a strict gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt, as well as sometimes in oats. Oats are a naturally gluten-free grain, however, they are grown in rotation with wheat and become highly cross contaminated during harvesting and processing. You can learn more about whether oats are gluten free in this article.
Researchers have pinpointed gluten as the exact trigger food that sets off an autoimmune attack inside the small intestine of someone with celiac disease. The only way to fully manage the disorder — along with the symptoms and potential devastating outcomes associated with it — is to follow a strict gluten-free diet for life.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why the gluten-free diet is hard to follow
- Why meal planning is important
- How to create a meal plan of your own
- Offer you a free sample celiac disease meal plan (complete with recipes)
- How you can join my exclusive gluten-free meal planning community
Why the Gluten-Free Diet Is Hard
The gluten-free diet is difficult for people with celiac disease to follow for many reasons.
(1) Even a Crumb Can Hurt You: Someone with celiac disease must not only avoid any and all foods that contain gluten, but also they must avoid any and all foods that come in cross contact with gluten at any point during the manufacturing, packaging, or processing of the food. T
his means when a chef prepares a meal for someone with celiac disease, the food must not come in contact with foods, surfaces or cooking props that have come in contract with gluten.
Even a crumb of the tempting protein can make someone with celiac disease very sick and set off an autoimmune attack inside their bodies that can lead to more damage and ill side effects.
(2) Gluten Is Found in So Many Foods: Gluten is found in so many foods that comprise the Standard American Diet (SAD), making the stretchy protein hard to avoid. Bread, pasta, pizza and other gluten-y foods are staples in most American diets. A sandwich isn’t the same without bread, and mac ‘n Cheese isn’t the same without the mac.
On top of that, gluten is hard to spot in many foods that contain it. It hides in foods that look innocent, like gummy bears, licorice and soy sauce. I listed the top 10 surprise products that contain gluten in this article.
(3) It Turns Your Life Upside-Down: Finally, celiac disease drastically changes your lifestyle. There’s rarely a time when you’ll be able to grab a quick bite to eat on the road; rather, you’ll need to prepare all your meals, carry plenty of food with you, and eat at home more often.
In fact, the safest place for you to eat will always be in your own kitchen… and it’s why meal planning is so important.
Why Meal Planning is Important
As mentioned, meal planning is essential to surviving the gluten-free diet. While following a strict gluten-free diet is never easy, it does get easier with time.
Something that helped me transition to the gluten-free lifestyle was planning my meals and learning to cook easy, fast and delicious meals at home. I’m able to re-create some of my favorite restaurant dishes and rarely feel deprived of my favorite meals.
If you’re on the fence about meal planning, please allow me to share four benefits that helped me:
(1) Eat Out Less
If you’ve become reliant on eating out, chances are you’re eating trace amounts of gluten each day. In fact, 32 percent of dishes marked “gluten free” in restaurants contain gluten according to this study.
When you eat at home, you have much more control over the ingredients used in your food, as well as how your food is prepared so that it does not come in cross contact with foods containing gluten.
Ed Note: I enjoy eating out. I do so with caution and am very limited by what I can and will order. You can read more about eating out safely in this book, The Ultimate Guide to Eating Out.
(2) Eat Healthier
Losing gluten is the first step to feeling better, but it’s not the only step to reclaiming your health. Eating meals at home ensures you don’t accidentally eat gluten, and it allows you to control how your food is prepared. As a result, you’ll eat less fried food, less sugar, and less processed ingredients. Instead, you’ll enjoy only what fresh and whole ingredients you put into it.
(3) Save Time
Meal planning can save you a ton of time if you do it right. Once you lay out all your meals for the week, you will only need to make one trip to the grocery store and you won’t have to spend time each day wondering what to make for lunch or dinner. You can also plan for planned leftovers in your meals, cooking once and eating two or three meals as a result.
(4) Spend Less Money
We can all use tips to help us save a little money here and there. When you plan your meals, you’re naturally eating at home more (spending less on restaurants and take-out), you’ll be sick less (saving on your healthcare bill each year), and you’ll be able to plan your leftovers (buying in bulk), maximizing each meal so it lasts for two or three meals during the week.
What a Meal Plan Looks Like
A good meal plan will include a plan for all your meals as well as your snacks for the day. Here is a template you can use. Click on the image to view the template in full screen mode.
When I create a meal plan for the week, I keep Sunday open as a flex day. It’s the day I do my grocery shopping and planning for the next week. It’s also the day I use as a flex eating day, where I’ll eat leftovers or make something I skipped during the week because we decided to go out to eat.
Here is what one of my celiac disease meal plans looks like:
You can download this exact gluten-free meal plan, complete with all recipes and a grocery shopping list, when you complete the following form:Click here to download this exact meal plan to your device.
For more meal planning tips, please read my article How to Never Run Out of Meal Ideas – Meal Planning 101.
It can definitely be a lot of work to plan your meals each week. The good news is that I’m here to help you.
I have more than 1,700 gluten-free recipes in my database, and I use my huge recipe database to create wicked-good meal plans for you.
My recipes are simple to make (usually takes less than 30 minutes to prepare), use only simple ingredients (no weird stuff), and taste amazing. My meal plans also offer lots of room for you to make them your own and add/delete ingredients that you do/don’t like.
My hope is that my meal plans will inspire you to cook more at home, eat more veggie-forward meals, and feed yourself (and your family) well.
Visit Meal Plans by Good For You Gluten Free to find out how you can get a free week’s worth of meal plans and recipes – sweet!
Feel Better Soon
I’m confident that if you stick to a meal plan and eat most of your meals at home, you’ll be feeling better in no time.
Remember, celiac disease is a lifelong condition. While you will feel better over time, your symptoms may not go away overnight. And once you start eating gluten again, your symptoms will re-emerge, sometimes with a vengeance. Avoid gluten, eat right, and strive for good health at every bite.