This post is part of Made to Eat, a series about creating healthy meals that are quick and easy. You don’t have to use complicated recipes or tons of ingredients. I’ll provide tips, tricks, and inspiration to create healthy meals anytime, whether you eat a diet free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar, or not!
So let’s face it – sometimes there are days when we don’t feel like cooking or just don’t have time. However, if you’re gluten-free, dairy-free, or are simply trying to stick to your health goals, running out to McDonald’s or popping in a lean cuisine just doesn’t work. What do you eat if you find yourself around dinnertime with no energy left to cook? How do you find something to eat if you have to eat “fast food”? Arm yourself with some healthy, fast, simple options that you can break out (or order in) whenever you need some ‘convenience’ foods. And, bonus: these are all gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free options!
So, next time you don’t feel like cooking, but need something healthy, consult this list! Part 2 will include tips when ordering takeout and provide good gluten-free/dairy-free fast food options.
Remember: If you have special dietary restrictions, always triple-check with restaurants about their ingredients and cross contamination policies before eating there, even if they have a gluten-free menu, and always make sure to read the label on all products to make sure it’s safe for YOU to eat.
1. Plan Ahead - This is always my number 1 tip for clients and friends — take advantage of leftovers, stock your freezer, utilize your crockpot, meal plan, and prep your food at the beginning of each week. By planning ahead and filling your freezer, fridge, and pantry with ingredients and meal options, you make it easy to throw together, or simply heat up, a nutritious meal in minutes without much work in the kitchen.
If you make one meal, make enough to freeze and for leftovers. Then take advantage and stretch your leftovers! Like the yellow dal picture at the top, I add to my leftovers to get more bang for my buck. I ordered Indian delivery and had leftover yellow dal. The next day was easy, I used a base of arugula and roasted acorn squash that I already had in the fridge and used the yellow dal as the ‘dressing’. Additionally, in the picture below, I started with leftover meat sauce that I had made and then added precooked brown rice and cut-up zucchini, parsley, and a hardboiled egg from my food prep earlier in the week. Voila! A quick, healthy meal I threw together and heated up in less than five minutes.
I also make sure to food prep. I spend a couple of hours on Sundays to make breakfast for the next couple of weeks (here’s one example) and prep food for snacks, lunches, and dinners. Yes, it means spending time grocery shopping and prepping on the weekend, but it saves SO much time and money (not to mention saved calories and stress) during the week. And, your crockpot is your best friend. Here are some gluten-free, dairy-free soup/stew ideas that are perfect for this time of year.
And, I don’t mean that you need to plan all out full meals in detail, I mean plan options. I make sure I have enough ingredients on hand to easily put together healthy meals. I like to have a couple of main staples/proteins ready to go (mung bean noodles, lentils, beans, cauliflower pizza crusts, brown rice, turkey burgers, hardboiled eggs, chicken breasts, etc) so I can throw them together with veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and greens that I prepped for the week. Combine with a sauce or dressing of choice and you have a quick, healthy, gluten-free/dairy-free/sugar-free meal! For more ideas, check out this post.
2. Keep Healthy “Convenience Food” Options On Hand – I make sure to have plenty of options on hand for when I need to pop something in the microwave or toaster oven. The thing about ‘convenience’-type foods is that they’re usually loaded with salt, sugar, gluten, and weird chemicals that you don’t want to put in your body. After some trial and error, I’ve found a few options that work for me, so I wanted to spread the word. These are made of whole foods with limited ingredients and no toxic chemicals. Again, check all of the labels on everything to make sure they are safe for YOU to eat.
Hilary’s Eat Well frozen gluten-free, vegan burgers – These are tasty little burgers and are made of whole foods like millet, quinoa, and greens. I love the Hemp & Greens and Root Veggie burgers. I heat them in the toaster oven for a few minutes then throw on various types of mustard, herbs, and whatever veggies I have on hand (see below – the more colorful the better!). You can find them at Whole Foods or most health food stores.
Tasty Bite Channa Masala Heat and Eat - I find these at Whole Foods or on Amazon. My favorite is Channa Masala – it’s made with only chickpeas, spices, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. If you get a different kind, make sure to read the label – it should contain only ingredients you know and have no gluten, dairy, or sugar. Although they package in plastic (boo BPA lining!), I feel that it’s a better choice than other alternatives. Make sure to microwave it in a bowl, not in the plastic package!
Pre-cooked Lentils, Brown Rice, and Chicken – Most grocery stores have pre-cooked staples like these on hand (Trader Joe’s has a ton of options) – pick some up and combine with some greens and whatever else you have on hand to make a fast meal. I also like to pick up rotisserie chickens to have for the week. I buy plain rotisserie chickens (so there’s no gluten or sugar added in the marinade or seasoning) that were raised without antibiotics or hormones, and were treated humanely. Check with your grocer if you need to ask about ingredients or cross- contamination. One chicken provides a lot of different options from adding shredded chicken to salads for lunches to eating the thigh with a baked sweet potato and salad for dinner!
Gluten-free Breads and Tortillas – Keep GF/DF bread and tortillas in your freezer (they last longer) so they’re ready to toast, prepare, and eat in minutes. If I have time, I’ll make my own bread, slice it, then freeze – this is my current favorite recipe. Add veggies as much as you can. Try an egg sandwich with avocado and spinach, PB&J toast with a side of green smoothie, a veggie and bean wrap, or an open-faced pizza!
There’s also tons and tons of soups, stews, frozen pizzas, and other convenience-type foods out there. The ones listed above are my favorites. I also like Amy’s and Eden Organics brands. Try exploring Whole Foods or other health food stores to find options that work for you. Just read the labels and remember to go for the ones that have fewer ingredients (especially ones that are real, whole foods), lower sodium, and no added sugar, gluten, or dairy.
And, for those really desperate days when you don’t have very much food in the house, try these – they may not be totally ‘balanced’, but are good options now and then. Some ideas: “kitchen sink salads” – pile on whatever you have left in your fridge; crackers with nut/seed butter, fruit, and a smoothie; yogurt with granola, seeds, and fruit; a green smoothie with nuts and berries; or a bowl of gluten-free oats with fix-ins.
What’s your favorite quick make-at-home option?
For more tips, keep your eyes out for PART 2 coming soon!
And, a couple of quick updates:
If you’re following MTG on Facebook, you probably saw the announcement about this GREAT “spring training” program from FemFusion Fitness. From now through March 31st, FemFusion Fitness email subscribers will receive a FREE March 2014 Spring Training calendar with daily clickable links, new fitness videos to check out, and awesome new recipes to try (or save for later). The idea is to get you excited about clean eats and to expose you to fun new ways to move your body. I LOVE this idea and wanted to spread the news. I’m honored that there are several MTG recipes featured! Head on over to FemFusion Fitness to take a look!
And, the winner of the $25 Glass Dharma gift certificate was Angel B. Thank you so much to all who participated!
For day-to-day recipes, pictures, resources, and tips,
check out Made to Glow on