I don’t have the kind of life where food prep can take up a large part of my day. My strategy for making a vegan and gluten free diet a reality has involved a combination of more planning on the weekends and exploring options at the restaurants where I work and live. When I first started, I did a lot more food preparation myself and ate out very infrequently. This is still ideal but not practical especially when life is hectic. Here is my typical menu:
Breakfast: Most days I have a green smoothie for breakfast. If I need a bigger breakfast or some variety, I make Dr. Fuhrman’s Oatmeal. (It is delicious!) Another option is Udi’s gluten free granola with a lot of fruit and some almond milk.
Ideally, I do some juicing on the weekend. There is a little more time for the prep and clean up. I also try to prep the items that I will juice early in the week, so that it is easy to do. If I don’t have time to juice, I use coconut milk or almond milk in my smoothies.
Lunch: I try to prep salads for two or three days on Sunday. This means I have an easy lunch ready to go most days. Since I am trying to avoid preservatives, oil, and salt, I make my own salad dressing. Dr. Fuhrman has some good recipes that have become a regular part of the rotation. Here is a link to my current favorite, Dijon Date Dressing, that I found on the Homestead and Survival blog.
Dinner: I try to make dinner 2-3 times during the week. As long as there are left overs, I can get through most of the week.
Snacks: Nuts, fruit, and vegetables (Variety is key!)
What about the exceptions? This has been the part that has required me to look at a lot of menus and ask a lot of questions. Here are some ideas that have worked for me:
If I only have time to make one thing, I make salad dressing. I can always buy a salad for lunch or dinner. Having the salad dressing ready saves a lot of time. I have also purchased some of Dr. Fuhrman’s pre-made salad dressings and saved them for times when I don’t have anything made. If I’m really stuck, I use Mrs. Dash (unsalted) seasoning or a similar product that I can buy in large quantities at Costco with some lemon or balsamic vinegar.
Soup: Soup is another great option because it freezes well. I have always had the mantra, “cook once, eat many”. Soup is perfect for this! I always have lunch and dinner portions of a couple of different soups in the freezer.
If you live in a place with great food options, eating on the go will be much easier. Here are some solutions that have worked for me:
Sushi: Any vegetable roll works, and I order it with brown rice. Some places are pretty inventive, so I don’t feel like I am sacrificing anything. Not all brown rice is gluten free, but you can ask about it. Since I’m not allergic to gluten just trying to avoid it, I don’t have to be as vigilant about it as those with severe food allergies have to be. This makes life a lot easier.
Greek: I found a Greek restaurant that makes a gluten free falafel. I order it over a Greek salad with no cheese. They grill the falafel and will do it with little to no oil if I ask. The tahini is perfect for the falafel and then I just add a little vinegar to it.
Italian: Many Italian restaurants offer at least one gluten free pasta option. I ask for a simple tomato sauce and lots of vegetables.
Whole Foods (or health food store): Many health food stores or grocery stores like Whole Foods have a decent selection of prepared foods that note all of the ingredients. This makes it easy to find options that fit into your diet. You don’t need a lot of great choices- just one!
SPLURGE option- Indian: Indian restaurants, especially those that focus on cuisine from the southern part of the country, offer great options. My local Indian restaurant makes dosas from rice flour. There is usually a little oil in it, but if I can control the oil in most of my other meals I am willing to allow a little oil.
Banquet Hall: Grilled Vegetables is an option you can get in most banquet halls. I just ask for an assortment of whatever vegetables they have. Often my meal looks so good, others have looked at my plate longingly and wished that they had ordered the same thing!
If I am going to a new restaurant, I try to look at the menu in advance. If options aren’t clear, I try to call in advance to discuss possible options. If I’m not sure if there will be anything on the menu, I eat something before I go. At the restaurant, I can get a salad but won’t be hungry with no options.
Developing a new repertoire takes effort. I try new recipes on a regular basis and tweak those that I think have potential. It’s always a work in progress. I ask, “How can I set myself up for success this week?” Sometimes it is something big on the weekend. Other times it is just a small addition or adjustment.