September 5, 2013

Paleo/Gluten Free Meal Planning

A few weeks ago I wrote about a new lifestyle/diet change for my husband and I, after meeting with a Naturopathic Doctor and talking about ways to heal my psoriasis and other autoimmune and hormone issues I was having. It's been a very interesting, difficult ... but rewarding journey so far, which I will talk about in another post.

For now, I wanted to share one of the most helpful tips I can think of for starting something like this - PLANNING. I can't stress enough how important it is to be prepared. To do research, figure out what you can eat, look up recipes, buy cookbooks, plan all your meals and have snacks available.

Right now I cannot eat any gluten, dairy, added sugars (except for natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup) or highly processed foods. My ND is trying to get my body healthy, then slowly introduce foods back in and see what triggers my symptoms.

I plan 3 meals a day for both my husband and I for 2 weeks at a time, so I only have to grocery shop every other week. I have to drive 50 minutes to Annapolis, Maryland to get to the closest Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. It's actually something I look forward to now. My sister and I go together, so it's nice to have some time with her. And it gives me accountability to plan and shop for everything I need.

So here is an example of my meal plan for 2 weeks:

This might be hard to read, but I'll highlight a few things.

For breakfast, we really like Against All Grain's banana pancake recipe. We also eat bacon and eggs, corn tortillas with beans and eggs, and an egg/chicken chorizo hash. For lunch, we pack chicken sausages, hard boiled eggs, rolled up lunch meat, nitrate free natural hot dogs, veggies, fruit or leftovers. Check out NomNom Paleo for helpful lunch ideas. Dinner is usually meat and veggies, like lime grilled chicken, sundried tomato stuffed chicken breasts, sweet potato "chips", corn, green beans, etc etc. Doesn't really sound like a diet, does it? :) We have really tried to find ways to add flavor to our food by using fresh ingredients.

Here are some helpful tips highlighted:

1. Plan every meal for two weeks! It's so helpful to know what you're going to be making and know you have enough food in the house to feed your family. Obviously leave some flexibility if you have an unexpected dinner guest or are just feeling like eating something other than what you have planned. Swapping meals around works, because you still have the same about of meals planned.

2. Do your research! I have spent so much time reading food blogs, cookbooks and other articles trying to learn how to cook this way. It's totally new for me - using almond flour instead of regular flour, using coconut oil instead of canola oil. It's helpful to know what's really healthy for your body and why, so when it gets hard you can remember that you're giving your body fuel.

3. Experiment! I have had so many total failures since starting this diet. One time I tried to make "alfredo" sauce with coconut milk and blended cashews. Yea... not good. I've also wasted 1 whole cup of really expensive organic olive oil trying to make my own mayonnaise. But now I'm at the point where I really know what my husband and I like to eat, and feel so much better having figured that out by just trying new things and experimenting.

4. Read labels! This is probably obvious, but it's so important when you're trying to eat minimally processed foods. Even foods labeled with all kinds of healthy marketing gimmicks can be loaded with preservatives or artificial ingredients. There are good products out there that will help you save time in the kitchen. I recently found a chicken broth that has only the following ingredients: chicken, sea salt, honey, vegetable stocks (carrot, onion, mushroom, celery), bay, thyme, pepper. Nothing I can't pronounce, nothing crazy. Just simple, wholesome ingredients.