Over the past year, I have been working hard to stick to a special gluten-free diet for my health. I have issues with chronic pain and gut issues, so I was told to eliminate gluten and dairy from my diet if possible. But seriously, y’all. Sticking to special dietary restrictions is hard!
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Being deep into a move and home renovation has proven difficult for keeping me on my diet. We have eaten out more times than I can count, and there are very few special-diet-friendly options at fast food restaurants. I have found some tips and tricks, however, that have helped me stick to my special dietary restrictions as much as possible, so I want to share those with you! Whether you are on a gluten free, grain free, dairy free, vegan, sugar free, kosher, or other diet, these tips are for you.
Tips and Tricks for Sticking to Your Special Dietary Restrictions
Find An Accountability Partner
Choosing someone to keep you on track and hold you accountable is important. Since I am the only one sticking to a special diet in our home, it is hard to find that accountability; I am the only one eating a special diet, so no one else really thinks about it. Having friends with the same dietary restrictions has helped a lot.
Plan It Out
You probably already know this, but meal planning is hugely helpful in following your specific dietary restrictions. Decide what you will eat for the whole week. Choose a specific day to work on your meal plan and to shop. Don’t forget to plan for breakfast, lunch, and even snacks! So often people will only plan for one meal and forget about all of the others, which can make it far more difficult to stick with a specific diet.
Beyond planning your actual meals, plan your schedule. Have an idea what time you are going to eat each meal, and how many meals. I’m a grazer. I snack all day long. But knowing the approximate times I eat (late breakfast, midday snacks, late lunch, more snacks, family dinner, even more snacks) helps me remember to eat. If you’re always forgetting to eat (*guilty*), you may end up in a position where your only option is to break your diet. If you are able, you may want to set reminders on your phone if you get too busy to remember on your own (*also guilty*).
Have Quick Meals Available
One of the biggest helps I have had for sticking to specific dietary restrictions is a freezer full of meals that fit my needs. I may not eat these every single day, but they offer a quick option for me on those days when I am on-the-go or forgot to plan ahead or have too little energy or need to change things up.
Conagra Brands offer a wide variety of frozen meals that fit your specific dietary restrictions while being quick and easy to prep.
Change It Up
Eating the same things over and over may work for some people, but if you’re like me, you need to change it up so you don’t get bored. I find that changing up the types of foods I eat helps me willingly stick to my dietary restrictions because it keeps things interesting and exciting.
Serve Mexican cuisine one day and Asian cuisine the next. Throw in some Italian-inspired meals and something with a spicy kick. Conagra Brands like Evol, Healthy Choice, Udi’s, and Gardein offer so many delicious varieties to make this totally doable.
Of the meals I tried recently, the Evol Fire Grilled Steak Bowls were my favorite. This delicious dish had a combination of white rice, antibiotic-free fire grilled steak, black beans, roasted corn, red and green bell peppers, cheddar cheese, and cilantro lime pesto sauce. It’s like a burrito in a bowl! Meals like this are one of my go-to options because I really do not get tired of them, and they are well-rounded for me. Protein is always something I’m trying to add more of to my diet, and Evol Fire Grilled Steak Bowls are packed with protein at 18g of protein per serving. They’re also gluten-free and offer 7g of fiber per serving. The meat was savory and tender and the flavors tangoed in my mouth.
Transport yourself to the other side of the world with Healthy Choice Grain Free Power Bowls Spicy Beef Teriyaki, another delicious option. I loved how you’d get a mild kick of spice here and there while eating this tasty gluten-free combination of riced cauliflower, leafy greens, colorful vegetables like broccoli and carrots and scallions, and braised all-natural lean beef in a sweet and spicy teriyaki sauce. I absolutely love that this power bowl is rich in nutrients and packed with 18-20 grams of protein and 5-7 grams of fiber per serving.
Gardein Nashville Hot Chick’n Tenders are great if you are vegan and like spice. Whew! These definitely had a kick. My husband enjoyed these. I recommend serving them with your favorite vegan ranch or sweet bbq sauce. These do not fit my gluten-free diet, but they are vegan, dairy-free, and kosher. They turned out crispy on the outside, which was delightful, and the texture really was like meat. My kids and husband didn’t even know they were made from plant based protein and not meat.
One of the most difficult things for me with this gluten free diet is having a hard time finding quick pizza to make for when I am really craving it, but just don’t have time to make it homemade. Udi’s Sweet Potato Crust Chicken BBQ Pizza was a totally different option than I am used to, but it was pretty good! I prefer spicy to sweet, so this is good with some spicy bbq sauce added. My son thoroughly enjoyed it, though. I am excited to try some of their other options, too. I really loved the gluten free and grain free crispy sweet potato crust and the melty mozzarella and smoked gouda cheese.
You can purchase Conagra Brands frozen meals like these here.
Have Easy Food On Hand
I try to keep a handful of my gluten free snacks and frozen meals on hand at all times. This helps whenever I need a quick meal or when I haven’t thought about food for me. When I start to get low, I pick up a few more to restock.
Give Yourself a Corner
In our home, I am the only one on a special diet. This can make things difficult when everyone has access to my specific gluten free foods. For this reason, I’ve given myself a special corner of the pantry and a special section of the refrigerator/freezer specifically for my foods. No one else is allowed to touch these, so I always have them available for meals and snacks. Giving yourself a corner will also help you keep track of the foods you have that fit your diet and make it easy to see when you need to make another trip to the store.
Know Your Diet
One of the biggest challenges I have seen with my own diet and others on special food diets is not knowing what items are okay and what items are not okay on these diets. Have you ever noticed how gluten is sneaked into just about everything? It’s so easy to cheat on your diet and not even know it. Familiarizing yourself with your diet, restrictions, products to stay away from, and a pocket list of go-to food options will help make this diet thing a whole lot easier.