One of the best lessons I’ve learned while being gluten-free is that in order to eat the best you possibly can, you’ve got to cook it yourself. You know that gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy, so you can’t count on just purchasing products to meet the nutritional needs of your body. But I think you already know that, right? (If you don’t, consider one of these options for learning more about being gluten-free AND healthy!)
Though you know you need to cook, I’ve heard the full spectrum of why people get into a rut and feel like they just can’t make cooking a priority. Whether you literally don’t know how to cook, don’t like to cook or just get tired of doing it, eating out (be it take out or buying frozen pre-prepared meals) isn’t the way to go for the majority of your food. Aside from the fact that you’ve really no clue exactly how these foods are prepared, you’re also opening yourself up to a whole host of issues that stem from added sugars, sodium, fillers and other sorts of added ingredients.
But you get tired of cooking, right? Yeah, I know… so do I. It happens periodically especially when life becomes overwhelmingly busy and my own personal need to eat starts to move to the back burner. That’s why I know that everyone, including myself, wants a break from the stove… and we all deserve one as well!
Plus, I know you don’t necessarily want to cook every single meal, every day. That can get old fast if you’re not truly in love with cooking or your actual kitchen.
Here's 10 tips that I personally use...
...and share with clients to make cooking (even when you don't feel like it) much easier!
1) Cook extra servings of your meal and box them up before you eat in grab-and-go containers that you can reheat for lunch or dinner.
2) Freeze extra servings of your food in freezer-safe containers that you can pull out in a pinch and reheat.
3) Keep a variety of frozen veggies on hand that can be added to meals to expand them as well as have on their own.**
4) Don't forget those nuts and seeds which can be a healthy snack, top salads or even added to certain dishes (like pesto). They are excellent sources of fat and protein that must be stored in the fridge or freezer if they’re not roasted and they’ve been hulled (de-shelled).**
5) Get a rice cooker and use it as often as you need to effortlessly make gluten-free grains like rice and quinoa that store well in the fridge. These grains can be added to meals as a healthy starch option.
6) Canned beans are also a huge meal helper. You can add them to a salad, soup, pasta, veggies, whatever actually to again increase bulk, get more fiber and healthy, lean protein.**
7) Plan to cook twice a week and utilize these tips to have a good supply of food on hand to eat throughout the week.
8 ) Get appliances for your kitchen that will actually HELP you like a rice cooker, slow cooker and a steamer (which is sometimes included with a rice cooker). Consider getting a good food processor or a Vitamix. These are definitely worth the investment, but don’t feel that you need to spend a gazillion dollars on top of the line equipment. I assure you that my $17 rice cooker from Target has gone the distance for the past 6 years and keeps on giving.
9) Build up your spice and herb rack. When you don’t have the necessary spicing options, your food is pretty much guaranteed to be boring and tasteless. Food companies know this and act accordingly.
So do the same and treat yourself to a new spice or herb each trip to the store. (Make sure to check that your favorite spice company is gluten-free!) Then you’ll have a well-stocked spice rack before you know it! Just make sure to keep them out of direct light.**
10) Get digital with your recipes! Sign up to receive email alerts from your favorite sites (hint: register your name in the sign up box to your right to receive my eNewsletter!) so that you don’t ever need to scour the internet 5 minutes before you start to cook. Check out the recipes as they come into your email box and file those away in a folder you can create called “Recipes” that you would actually like to make. Those that don’t fit the bill can be deleted.
** Remember -- when buying pre-packaged food products (yes, even bagged nuts, canned beans, spices and frozen veggies count), you MUST verify that they are gluten-free. In most cases, it's an issue of cross-contamination. However in the case of spices, some companies will add gluten for texture purposes, and definitely be mindful of Curry powders as that can be a definite trouble spot. So read your labels and call the company if you are unsure.
Do you have any other tips that keep you cooking less and eating more GLUTEN-FREE?
-------------- Author Information: Jennifer Fugo, CHC
Jennifer Fugo is the founder of Gluten Free School, a website dedicated to teaching gluten-sensitive individuals commonsense, simple and powerful steps to get healthy. She’s a certified Health Coach, named a “Gluten Free Guru” by Philadelphia Magazine who co-hosts the popular “Gluten-Free Sugar Cleanse” that teaches gluten-free folks how to kick their sugar addiction, regain control of their diet and feel awesome again.
Jennifer is a sought-after speaker and expert for news contributions who has been featured on Yahoo! News, eHow, CNN, and Philadelphia Magazine.