What to Eat on a Gluten Free Diet – Week One

The hardest part of the gluten free diet is probably when you realize that wheat is in almost every processed food imaginable. So don’t think about that now! Give yourself a week to mourn the fact that you can’t buy normal bread and pasta, and that Campbell’s soup can no longer dwell in  your pantry. Mourn the obvious losses – we’ll deal with the rest later. For the first week, just focus on eating whole, unprocessed gluten free food.

(For more information on what to eat the first week of a gluten free diet, check out my ebook, The Gluten Free Survival Guide. It’s packed full of practical tips and strategies to help you get started and stay gluten free successfully.)

So, what are whole, unprocessed foods?

  • Fruits and vegetables that do not come in a package.
  • Meats that the butcher has processed in the store and that have not been puffed full of saline solution and seasonings.
  • Grains that only have one ingredient listed on the packaging, e.g,. “Rice” and do not say “Contains Wheat” or “is processed in a facility that also processes wheat”.
  • And since you always have to break the rules you create, any processed food that is CLEARLY marked as gluten free.

Most people are not used to cooking with whole, unprocessed foods or for looking for gluten in their foods, so don’t freak out if you still can’t figure out what to eat. I’m going to give you some ideas for breakfast and lunch and a menu plan (with shopping list) for your suppers.

Breakfast:

If you usually eat cold cereal for breakfast, then this week try Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Cinnamon Chex, Honey Nut Chex, Chocolate Chex,  or Strawberry Chex. These Chex cereals are the only mainstream gluten free cereals. If you live near an urban center, you may find that your grocery store carries other gluten free specialty cereals, and if they do then feel free to try them. The advantage of starting with Chex is that it’s widely available, less expensive than other gluten free cereals, and familiar/

If you usually eat a breakfast bar for breakfast, first check to see if your usual bar is marked gluten free. If not, then I’d suggest switching to cereal or fresh fruit for a week. You’ll be tempted to read the labels on all of the breakfast bars in the grocery store, but that’s just going to depress you. Save that for next week. Unless your store carries Larabars – those are all gluten free.

If you usually eat a hot breakfast, then see how many eggs recipes that you can come up with. A few that I can think of off the top of my head are: scrambled, fried, poached, omelette with veggies, and frittatas. Bacon, sausage, and hot cereals are all processed and should be avoided this week unless they are marked gluten free.

Lunch:

If you have access to a microwave at lunch, then the easiest option is to eat leftovers from last night’s meal for lunch. Add a salad or fresh fruit if you need to round out the meal. Lunch is easily the most bread-centric meal of the day, so don’t freak out when everyone around you is having sandwiches. You will be able to eat good bread again.

If you don’t have access to a microwave, then pack a large salad and some fresh fruit. I like to add chickpeas to my salad as the protein – that way I don’t have to worry if I forget to take my lunch to the refrigerator. A lot of salad dressings contain gluten; an easy solution is to make your own vinaigrette at home and take that with you to dress your salad. Check out these recipes from Michael Ruhlman’s new book, Ratio, if you need some guidance.

If you have to go out for lunch, please try to get the lunch moved to a restaurant that has a gluten free menu or has a chef that is very familiar with the diet. You are new to gluten free foods and you are very likely to slip up if you try to identify the gluten foods on your own.

Call the restaurant before hand and talk to the manager or the chef and explain to them that you have to eat gluten free, but that you’re going to need their help since you are new to the diet. They should be able to tell you which items from their menu are gluten free, or can be prepared gluten free. The manager at a good restaurant should also be willing to oversee the preparation of your food to make sure no one slips up. And, if you call ahead, hopefully all of this can take place discreetly in the background, especially if it’s a business meeting.

Supper: To make supper easy for you, I think you’ve basically got two options. The first option is to prepare simple meals of a meat (seasoned with salt, pepper, and/or other herbs),  a side of fresh vegetables, and a side of rice and potatoes. The second option is to print off the free menu plan that I’ll be publishing later this week, and follow it. It will have recipes for 6 meals, a cookie recipe, and a shopping list.

The point of these options is to keep you from having to search for recipes and then make sure that all of the ingredients in the recipes are gluten free. That would be way too frustrating for the first week of the diet. Option one will probably work best for those people that are accustomed to cooking without a recipe and feel comfortable dealing with unprocessed foods. Option two, the menu plan, should work for everyone else.

Homework: Make a list of what you want to eat for each day of next week. Here’s an example:

Monday: Rice Chex and banana for breakfast, green salad (with chickpeas) and balsamic vinaigrette dressing for lunch; cheddar cheese slices and an apple for snack; baked chicken breast, mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies for supper.

Comments

  1. All I can say is THANK YOU SO MUCH! I can tell these posts are going to be very very helpful. :-)

  2. Catharine says:

    Porridge made using Quinoa flakes is great for cold mornings. I usually make it with just milk 1:4/5. Quinoa can be a little expensive so I often grate a small apple in and add a little cinnamon to stretch it.

  3. I sure wish you had done this 2 years ago. I will be passing on the link to others though. I’ve met many people that were lost at first, just like us, and could use help finding the way.

  4. Thank you so much! I just had my endoscopy yesterday and got the “positive” result today. I was feeling so overwhelmed – we eat lots of whole wheat/whole grain foods in our house. I didn’t know where to start. This is great!!!

  5. I love the idea of your mealplans since we are just starting our gluten free journey, but we need casein free as well. How prominent are dairy products in your meal plans?

    • @Kara: I consciously try to pick recipes that do not contain dairy, or in which the dairy could be optional or easily substituted. For example, the free menu will have a recipe for quesadillas, but you could use non-dairy cheese and leave off the sour cream topping. Or you could just eat the filling like fajitas if you didn’t want to use the non-dairy cheese.

  6. Hi Mary,

    I think it’s a great recommendation for people to start out on natural whole foods, but for the most part, their diet should stay that way long term. Many of the gluten free alternatives to processed foods are just as high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Too many people who are eating these foods on a regular basis are making the mistake of following an unhealthy gluten free diet.

    • @Vin: I completely agree and that’s the approach that I take in my own kitchen. However, in two years of blogging I’ve found that some people are not ready to make that switch yet unless they are forced to do if for financial reasons. The switch to gluten free is enough of a mental and emotional stretch by itself. I think we finally made the switch to a vegetarian, whole foods- focused diet after we had been gluten free for 3 years.

  7. Our chocolate, strawberry and cinnamon chex are NOT marked gluten free like the others, and contain barley malt flavoring. You might be giving someone wrong information if I am not mistaken!

  8. Oops, sorry, I didn’t see the disclaimer. I buy my rice, corn and honey chex at a very busy Walmart, where the shelves regularly get restocked. I just figured that since they were not yet gluten free, that they had decided against making them gluten free.

    • @The Chatty Housewife: Rice Chex has been gluten free for awhile, so all of those boxes should be gluten free. However you’ll need to check the other varieties carefully for several months.

  9. On your weekly meal plans, I am wondering how prevalent other allergens are in the plans. I can’t eat gluten, eggs, nuts. Are your plans going to be useful to me?

  10. How reliable is a GLUTEN FREE label on a product? Is this regulated like some other labelings are? I recently purchased an asian ginger vinaigrette salad dressing. It is labeled GLUTEN FREE under the list of ingredients so I picked it up without reading the individual ingredients. When I got home I was reading the ingredients and is says “soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, and salt).” Can this product really be gluten free?

  11. Don’t know if I am posting in the right place. Hopefully I can get an answer here. I am just today trying to eat gluten free. My biginning question is, can I eat anything that has corn starch listed as an ingredient? Also, what about mayonnaise?

    Thanks for any help, this is overwhelming.

  12. Another question that I am not seeing an answer to in my research. What about about alcohol?

    Thank you,
    Susan

  13. Susan
    Anything that lists corn, potato, rice, tapioca starch is fine to eat. There are several types of starch, but you must be careful with them in order to not get one that might have a gluten-containing grain or gluten by-product in them. If the ingredients lists “food starch” or “modified food starch”, by law, the company should list which type starch in ( ) afterwards. If the ingredient is made in North America it is likely to be gluten-free.
    I’ve had several people with way many more years experience than me (I’m only 3 mo. into this) tell me Hellmann’s Mayo is the best one to use. It does say gluten free under the ingredient list.
    I also buy my all purpose gluten free flour mixture from a website called julesglutenfree.com (Jules Shepard) who is Celiac herself. There is very little I can’t use it for. I also get great recipes from her website. Give it a try. In addition to this website and the one we’re currently on, there are great websites to get gluten free recipes from and all ya gotta do is sign up. :)
    I carry around a 3 pg. front/back (originally 9 pgs.) list of safe/unsafe/questionable ingredients. I don’t buy too many things w/o checking the ingredients against my list. I wish I could remember the website I got if from, but I’ve been on so many sites it’s hard to remember where I get stuff from. A couple of good sites to get good information on Celiac Disease (and food sources that are safe):
    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/celiac-disease
    http://www.celiacdisease.net (Univ. of Chicago Celiac Disease Center)
    http://www.celiac.org
    I hope you’ll find them useful.
    kath

  14. Kath, thanks so much for all your good information. What a great resorce this internet is! I have found so much more then I expected, and am finding this way of eating pretty easy. ( wait till I want a piece of pie and see what I say, lol ) I’m going to check out your new web sites and see what else I can learn.

    Thanks again………..Susan

  15. Susan (#15)
    You will have to check to see how you feel on corn, and a number of other foods. A neighbor woman and I are both GI/nonceliac. I can eat corn, and limited spelt, but no millet. She can have millet, but no corn or spelt. We can both eat quinoa, rice, kasha (sorry, buckwheat) and amaranth. I only recently found some teff, and I’ll make sure to give her some so she can test it. Try to schedule your tests so that if the result of the test is unpleasant it doesn’t affect work or other obligations too much. (Yes, I know what I just said, and how lousy it is to schedule a time to feel lousy.)

  16. Thank you so much for this info! I have been told to switch to gluten free/wheat free. It is so depressing trying to figure out what to eat! Thank you!!!!

  17. Wow — where are weeks 2 – 5?

    :)

  18. I don’t know if you know this but i keep in touch with food company’s well ok i write food companys all the time and ask the if they have any plans on coming out with healthy “er” foods.So far this is what i found out. Hamburger Helper is going to come out with 3 new gluten free Hamburger Helpers and Bisquick is going to come out with a new gluten free Bisquick. I also want to give you a great peanut butter cookie recipe 1 cup of peanut butter i like chunky 1 egg 1 cup of sugar i like to cut the sugar to 3/4 cup but it is easy to rember 1+1+1 mix togeather and bake @350 for 12-15 min let sit till cool These are great! You’ll Love em.

  19. Kelly from Canada says:

    My son (11) has been recently diagnosed with food allergies. His diet now has to be egg free, gluten free and dairy free. Needless to say, we are feeling a little overwhelmed but are slowly finding our way. He is feeling much better but I (who gallantly said I would do the diet with him) have been gaining weight!! So this is not necessarily a low calorie diet. I have found that you still need to really watch what you buy and eat. Thank you for your website and advice as this is certainly helpful. Any info on excluding all the above from diet and including desert items would be greatly appreciated!!

  20. I wish I had this website four years ago! I am gluten intolerant, my house is gluten free which allows me to not get sick and still splurge now and then with friends on pizza, etc. But, four years ago, I had to go completely gluten free to get my body healthy again after puking every day, often multiple times a day, every day for a year. ugh! I still have to be very careful so I don’t get sick, hence the gluten free home. I am so excited to have found your website and am going to be trying your red velvet cake recipe within the next few days…*excited!!* :) Thanks!

  21. Hello all! I am new to this site and want to try the gluten free approach to eating. I, fortunately, do not have any conditions that would require this diet but I know I eat too much refined foods and love carbohydrate laden snacks. Time to get off the merry-go-round. I also heard that you will lose weight being on this type of diet and as a woman past menopause age, who wouldn’t love losing those pounds that have crept up on my tummy? So, I am glad to have found this site and hopefully I will be able to keep up with the regimen. I would hate to give up pasta entirely as I am Italian, so if there are any gluten-free pastas out there, please recommend to me. Thanks everyone!

  22. I was just recently diagnosed with food allergies to corn, wheat, eggs, chocolate, tomatoes, beef, etc. Can have oats, chicken, pork & some dairy, thank goodness. Plus can have most fruits! Was totally overwhelmed at first, but love your website (and many others that I am finding). Thank you so much for the advice & recipes. Any other suggestions that you have that don’t have the above ingredients will be greatly appreciated!

  23. Yesterday I prepared my first Sandwich bread, I was amazed about the results. I enjoyed it very much.

  24. Could a gluten free diet possibly help a child that has recently been diagnosed with ADHD?

  25. My doctor recommended it for my son. He is autistic and ADHD. I already removed dairy with the biggest results and he said that by removing dairy, I greatly reduced his hyper-activity. I am trying the gluten free diet now to try to avoid medication. My son drinks soy milk now. But getting rid of dairy was the biggest thing that changed his life! Try that too. I hope that by removing gluten I can take him further in his recovery. Good luck to you. Diet is a big key for a lot of kids!! Keep reading and researching too.

  26. hi i have been looking for a free glutin free diet plan, is there one avalible, if there is where can i get it of the web thanks thanks

  27. michael auerswald says:

    I HATE MY LIFE!!!! so i just recently found out that i may or may not have a gluten allergy if i do then i have to give up well over half of my current diet which consists of greasy, artery clogging, meats and hardcore wheat products (breads, bagels, English muffins…) and switch to greens and not so gnarly meats? but i have bean told that if i stick to this diet i might gain some weight.
    i am 19 and only weigh 127. so i need support and good meal plans.
    p.s. i also love corn and artichokes.
    please help ;) thanx

  28. >The second option is to print off the free menu plan that I’ll be publishing later this week, and follow it. It will have recipes for 6 meals, a cookie recipe, and a shopping list.

    Menu plan? Sounds great! Anyone know where it is??? Help please.
    I have a newly diagnosed g-f teen and I am designated menu planner/cook. Challenging!

    Nice site…thank you!

  29. Stricklandmama says:

    My eight year old son is being tested for celiac disease. I have changed his diet to gluten free and all pain is gone. We have been doing it for a week. It has been a big adjustment to what him and my husband can eat. It is so expensive trying to be gluten free. Any ideas on where to buy things that aren’t from a health food store. Thanks.

  30. Petrina Smith says:

    Thanks so much its been a big help for me to know what I can or cannot eat .

  31. To Michael Auerswald,
    The reason you may gain weight with this is because if you have celiac disease, your body isn’t absorbing nutrients the way it should be when you eat gluten. Once you have been eating gluten-free for a while, you will begin to absorb the nutrients you need to gain weight. Sometimes gluten is hidden and it’s hard to know what “weird” ingredient has gluten and which does not. Here is a link with a list of gluten-free ingredients. I hope it helps. http://www.celiac.com/articles/181/1/Safe-Gluten-Free-Food-List-Safe-Ingredients/Page1.html just copy and paste it in the address bar. I hope you’re feeling better about your life.

  32. Betsy Ogden says:

    Rebecca! THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH! Yes I am yelling!! What you are doing is incredible! This has all been so difficult to deal with – yes, I gained a bunch of weight too :( But so excited that there is help out here to deal with all of this.

  33. It mentions the lara bars which taste like crap if you like raw food plus i dont like dates which seems to be the main ingrediant in all there bars, I found a bar called kind bars and wow what a great tasting bar. nothing raw or untasteful in this bar. even better thay are low glycemic too.
    I checked out the website at kindsnacks.com and found they have a ton on bars and are all wheat free and gluten free. my son even loves them and he is the picky celiac of the two of us who have it.
    good luck with finding great foods, they are out their,
    BTW, i was at a gluten free show in utah and found this awesome rice tortilla, i wish i could remeber the name, sorry

  34. I have just been diagnosed with food intolerances and been to buy my first “new foods”. I can’t have cow’s milk, wheat, gluten, yeast, coconut, egg white, pork, peach, hazelnut or chili pepper. It is so overwhelming, especially as to find a product that has none of these things in is near impossible. I feeling a bit down at the moment.

  35. Diane….be careful with the soy milk for your son. Research the facts on soy and natural estrogen. (alot of info. on soybean on pesticides are out there too) You may want to try Almond milk instead. I stopped using Soy and enjoy almond milk now.

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