America loves diets – whether they’re truly effective or just the flavor-of-the-month.
Keto and Paleo low-carb diets are among the most popular right now, but the diets with the most staying power are the ones that sound like they’re deeply rooted in scientific research. For example, immensely-popular “low-fat diets,” which sparked an entire industry devoted to low-fat food alternatives, were with us for more than 40 years before they were proven to have contributed to the obesity epidemic.
And the latest craze is the gluten-free diet.
Gluten is the name for a group of proteins found in wheat and other grains; they help flour bind to water and allow it to rise when baked. Gluten is also what gives wheat products their chewy texture and is found in barley and rye, as well.
Make no mistake: a gluten-free diet is medically necessary for the 1% of people who suffer from the auto-immune condition known as celiac disease (which triggers the body to attack gluten). It can also be a life-saver for those who have severe allergic reactions to wheat and wheat products. A larger number of people aren’t specifically allergic, but do experience gluten sensitivity; avoiding grain-based products makes sense for them as well.
Many others have also hopped on the gluten-free bandwagon, however. That’s because – even though scientific research on the diet remains limited – a number of health benefits (many involving digestion and the gastro-intestinal tract) have been credited to eating gluten-free. The diet is commonly believed to relieve bloating and help with weight loss, among other benefits.
If you have celiac disease, a gluten intolerance or have a wheat allergy – or you’re convinced that eliminating gluten from your diet makes sense – building a gluten-free meal plan might seem challenging.
But it’s not as difficult as you think.
Building a Gluten-Free Shopping List
Following a true gluten-free diet means avoiding a number of foods that are staples in most Americans’ diets – but also sources of gluten. You can’t eat most breads, pastas, cereals, baked goods and snack foods. A large number of salad dressings, marinades, broths and sauces (like teriyaki and soy sauce) are also on the no-no list, as is beer.
There are other foods which would seem to be safe, but might not be. For instance, oats don’t contain gluten, but foods made from oats are often produced in the same factory as wheat-based foods and can be cross-contaminated by products containing gluten. Unless specifically labeled gluten-free, they’re not safe for those with celiac disease or food allergies. But there’s no reason that those who are “gluten-free by choice” must avoid them.
Then what can you put on a gluten-free grocery list?
- All meat, poultry and fish (unless battered) are gluten-free foods, as are eggs.
- All fruits and vegetables are fine, as are nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.
- You don’t have to go dairy-free, but you have to be careful; many flavored dairy products have ingredients that contain gluten. Plain milk, butter, Greek yogurt and cheeses are all fine, as are most oils.
- Many grains are gluten-free, including rice, corn, quinoa, buckwheat and millet. A number of flours are also fine to eat, including almond, corn, potato, soy, chickpea and coconut flours.
- Finally, enormous interest in the gluten-free diet has led to the manufacture and sale of a huge selection of “substitute” products like gluten-free bread, pizza crusts and desserts – making it easier than ever for those who have to (or want to) avoid gluten in their diet.
That list of categories may help put your mind at ease when you’re trying to figure out how to put together a seven-day gluten-free meal plan. But it might help to see a list of a few of the foods that are still fine to use in gluten-free recipes or can simply be eaten as snacks. (Be sure to check labels to make sure there aren’t added, forbidden ingredients in packaged foods.)
- Natural peanut butter
- “Pasta” made from vegetables like zucchini, carrots or sweet potatoes
- Quinoa and lentils
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- Pure maple syrup
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips
You can make all sorts of gluten-free smoothies, and even some candy bars like Hershey’s, Reese’s and Jelly Bellys are gluten-free – so you can indulge your sweet tooth without guilt.
Hopefully you’re breathing a sigh of relief and are ready to move on to a sample collection of easy-to-make, healthy meals you can put into your gluten-free diet plan.
Gluten-Free Meal Plan Ideas
This is just scraping the surface of the many types of yummy lunches and dinners you can include in your meal plan, and it should help you understand that almost all of your favorite recipes can be tinkered with to make them gluten-free.
- Gluten-free carne asada tacos, with skirt steak marinated in chile sauce, cumin and garlic, served in corn tortillas and topped with avocado and salsa – black beans can be used instead of steak for a vegan dish.
- Gluten-free chicken stir-fry with broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots and onion, cooked with a sauce made from gluten-free chicken broth and gluten-free soy sauce (available at most supermarkets), and served with brown rice. If your tastes run more to crispy fried chicken, you can make a terrific gluten-free batter from buttermilk and gluten-free coating from potato starch, millet flour and sweet rice flour. (Pro tip: Make extra chicken and use it for an Asian chicken salad on another night.)
- Gluten-free hummus made from chickpeas, tahini paste, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, coriander and cumin, served with veggies like cherry tomatoes and miniature carrots, or gluten-free crackers.
- Gluten-free slow cooker lasagna, prepared in a crockpot or Instant Pot with layers of cooked ground beef and/or Italian sausage, homemade tomato sauce (or gluten-free tomato sauce), blended cheeses (ricotta, parmesan and romano), and either gluten-free lasagna noodles or zoodles (zucchini noodles). Many supermarkets carry both gluten free tomato sauce and pasta.
Thinking about breakfast or brunch? Almost any type of omelette with cheese, veggies or meat is gluten-free, as long as you don’t whip the eggs with flour. Or you can make yummy gluten-free blueberry muffins just by substituting almond flour for the white flour.
If you’re exhausted just thinking about all the prep work and cooking, though, there’s another way to create a healthy, delicious gluten-free meal plan.
Factor Does It All for You
You’ve probably heard of meal kit services. Usually they deliver ingredients or meals to your door, saving you the hassle of planning and shopping.
Factor does all of that, too. But there are huge differences between most meal delivery services and Factor.
To begin with, most services operate in one of two ways:
- They either deliver boxes of ingredients that you have to prep and cook according to the recipe they give you.
- Or they deliver frozen meals that have to be defrosted before you can do anything with them, losing most of their nutrients in the process.
That’s not what Factor does. You get fresh, delicious, fully-cooked meals delivered right to your door. All you have to do is heat them in the oven or microwave.
There are other important differences as well.
- Factor offers an enormous variety of meals you can choose from online, and the selections change each week.
- Factor’s meals are all designed by in-house dietitians and prepared from fresh and healthy ingredients by a team of expert chefs.
- Factor’s meals have no refined sugars and only use proteins from animals that have been grass-fed and pasture-raised with no antibiotics or hormones.
- Factor’s meals are all soy-free and non-GMO.
But most importantly…
Factor’s meals are all gluten-free.
There’s no need to worry about what you can and can’t eat when you subscribe to a Factor meal plan. Every ingredient and every meal is gluten-free, so you don’t have to research ingredients or make careful shopping lists to be sure you’re buying the right foods.
Delicious, healthy, fresh and gluten-free. That’s what makes Factor different from other meal delivery services.
To learn more about Factor, click here.