Gluten-Free Meal Planning for Beginners

Make the transition to the Celiac diet or other wheat-free diets easier. Use these meal planning tips to create a personalized menu of easy gluten free recipes. You can learn more about food trends and the best restaurants here.


One of the greatest challenges faced by those newly diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance is that of planning meals. With so many familiar foods removed from the diet, it can be hard to decide what to put on the table from day to day. By devoting some time at the beginning of this journey to meal planning, those new to the diet can quickly move away from feeling overwhelmed to concentrating on joyful, healthy meals.

Consider Old Favorites

The first step in meal planning is to find a notebook or start a file on your computer to hold your meal ideas. Begin by making a list, as long as possible, of dishes you already know how to prepare that do not call for any wheat, rye or barley.

Instead of moving immediately to new foods, take a few minutes to consider familiar recipes that are naturally gluten free. A dish of beans and rice is naturally gluten free, as is a bowl of homemade soup served with a baked potato. Omelets are gluten free. Do not forget that many ethnic food favorites, such as Thai curry or Mexican food prepared with corn tortillas, are also gluten free.

Plan Simple Gluten Free Substitutions

Once you have a list of meals that are naturally gluten-free, start a second list of familiar meals in which the gluten-containing ingredients can be easily replaced. Be creative here, but focus on easily available ingredients. Potatoes and rice are good substitutions because they are already in most pantries and can be bought at any grocery store.

Try these serving suggestions to get started. Replace pasta with a potato, cubed and boiled or baked. If you used to have soup, salad, and garlic toast for dinner, try serving soup, salad and sweet potato baked in the skin. Plain white or brown rice can accompany many meals, or vary this by cooking the rice in chicken stock or by replacing part of the cooking liquid with a can of tomato puree.

Schedule Time to Try New Recipes and Gluten-Free Products

Specialized gluten-free foods can be a lifesaver, but it takes time to get used to them. Set aside one or two nights a week to try out new recipes and products. Choose a night when you have plenty of time and few distractions so you are not rushed while reading the instructions or called away from the stove while making your first attempt at gluten free gravy. Be prepared for some attempts at gluten free cooking to fail, and have a back-up plan for new-recipe nights.

Post Your Plan

Once you have gone through the above steps, assign a meal to each day. Consider your schedule as you do this. What days of the week do you go shopping? What days of the week will you come home late? Plan easy dinners for nights when you have little time. Once in a while, plan to make a double recipe and freeze the left-overs as a back-up for those nights when meals do not go as planned. Slowly build up your gluten-free pantry.

Finally, approach meal planning and learning this new style of cooking with joy. You have begun a difficult journey, but one that will ultimately lead you to health.

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