up close woman's left hand writing process to eat gluten and dairy free in notebook

A Simple Process to Gently Transition Your Family to Eating Gluten and Dairy Free

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Wait, you mean I can’t just order pizza on Friday night? What about spaghetti? Burgers? It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you figure out you suddenly can’t eat all your family’s favorites.

stacks of generic white and red pizza boxes (not gluten or dairy free)

Whatever your reason, suddenly, you or someone in your family (or all of you) need(s) to eat gluten and dairy free. Is that even possible? Aren’t those ingredients in everything??! AND, won’t it cost an arm and a leg for all the substitutions we will have to make?

There is a Way

To answer those questions; yes, no, and it doesn’t have to. Those ingredients are in enough of our food that you certainly have a right to feel that way and ask those questions. However, I don’t want you to feel like it is impossible to simultaneously eliminate gluten and dairy from your (or your family’s) diet if that is what you desire to do.

For the remainder of the post, I’d like to walk you through a step by step plan to get you eating gluten free (gf) and dairy free (df) without overwhelming you or your family. A plan that will make it feel like something you can totally handle rather than something completely impossible.

First things, first; if you need more guidance on exactly what dairy is, what gluten is, and how to know what ingredients to stay away from, you can visit the websites listed below (I am not an expert; just a mom trying to eat mostly gf/df) and also do some google research. The following steps intend to take you through what to do after you have a mild understanding of that. Vegan is dairy free, but not always gluten free.

Start Small

As with any new habit, we are going to start small!

First, make a list of food/meals that you already eat and enjoy that are gluten free and dairy free. If this is for the whole family, make a list that applies to the whole family (my family eats this way so it is possible). I have created an entire list of examples below for this and the following steps.

Next, add anything to the list that you know you can make and everyone typically likes.These are probably items that maybe weren’t originally on your list because they aren’t everyone’s absolute favorites or they might not be on your regular meal rotation, but you know they could totally eat them.

Build and Use Your List

Hopefully you have at least a week’s worth of meals and snacks at this point, but have no fear even if you don’t. I’m going to give plenty of examples and hopefully your family will like at least some of them or your take on them.

Whatever you already have on your list, plan to make those items most of the time or as often as your family can stand them if your list is short. This will ease your transition and keep you from getting overwhelmed.

Here are some examples of meals you might have listed or could hopefully list. I’ve added items to this list that might have toppings that include gluten or dairy, but can easily be left off. In other words, the meal does not have to include gluten or dairy to still be what it is and is therefore gf/df.

  • The simplest and most easily gf/df is a grilled meat with a side of veggies and/or rice/potatoes (a sheet pan meal makes this quick too)

  • Chicken and Rice

  • Red Beans and Rice

  • Fajitas (use corn tortillas, lettuce, or none)

  • Chili

  • Classic Tacos (with corn tortillas/taco shells and no cheese or vegan cheese)

  • Loaded Baked Potatoes (bbq meat of choice, bacon, chives, no cheese/vegan cheese, no sour cream/vegan sour cream)

  • Baked chicken legs, veggies, rice or beans

  • Steak, potatoes, green beans

  • salads

  • Chicken and rice soup

  • Tortilla/taco Soup with tortilla chips and avocado

  • Bacon or Sausage and eggs

  • Breakfast tacos on corn tortillas (no cheese or vegan cheese)

  • Any shredded bbq meat on a potato

  • Bratwursts, fries, slaw

  • Baked beans (look at ingredients on can, but most are fine)

  • Baked fish, fries

  • baked apples

  • Fish or Shrimp Tacos

  • Classic chicken Wings with Carrots and Celery

  • Tamales (check ingredients – several fine options), rice, and refried beans

  • Oatmeal and fruit

  • Boiled eggs

  • Ants on a Log

  • All fruit

  • All veggies

  • All nuts

  • Smoothies (with a df milk or none)

  • Granola (use certified gf oats if that’s necessary for you; check ingredient label if buying premade)

  • Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans

Start Trying Substitutions

Now, 1-3 times a week (however many times feels easy and affordable enough), make gf/df versions of meals you like but aren’t naturally gf/df. Ones with easy gf/df substitutions (subs) you can grab at the store instead of your usual conventional ingredient (I.e. bread or cheese). You can add these to the list you’ve been creating if you like or make a separate list. If this seems overwhelming, repeat the same 1-3 meals with those subs multiple weeks in a row until you get used to grabbing the new subs. Then, add 1 more at a time as you see fit. I am not recommending to necessarily do this forever or at all if you don’t feel it is necessary (the price can add up). However, if transitioning is a huge issue or someone is having a very hard time still eating without those gluten and/or dairy laden foods they are used to, a well chosen and placed gf bun substitution or cheese substitute, could be the difference between someone eating or not eating. In that case, it could be worth the expense, especially if it helps transition to naturally gluten free foods that are less expensive. One small step at a time.


  • Spaghetti (sub a gf spaghetti noodle) and serve with a salad or roasted broccoli (a naturally gf sub would be spaghetti squash or spiralized veggies)
  • All the rice bowls (sub coconut aminos for soy sauce or get a gf soy sauce) like Korean Beef, Fried Rice, or Fajita Bowls
  • Fajitas (use corn or gf tortillas)
  • Burgers (bunless or gf buns, no cheese/vegan cheese) and fries
  • Sandwiches on gf bread without cheese or with vegan cheese
  • pb&j on gf bread with chips
  • Hot Dogs with gf buns
  • GF chicken nuggets with fruit and veggie
  • Taquitos (check ingredients – some are fine like xxx)
  • GF waffles (frozen or make your own with mix or recipe)
  • Your meatballs with a substitute if they weren’t already gf/df
  • gf/df pancakes (there are frozen ones, mixes, and recipes from scratch)
  • GF crackers and peanut butter
  • GF crackers and pepperoni or deli meat with vegan cheese
  • Daiya frozen pizza (they have a gf crust and use vegan cheese – add meat if you want)
  • Gf corn dogs (state fair brand and applegate make some)
  • French Toast (with gf bread and df milk)

Add More Options and Drop Expensive Subs

When you are ready, try a relatively familiar meal with a naturally (if that matters to you) gf/df swap.


  • Chili served with roasted sweet potatoes or in a baked sweet potato (instead of with cornbread, crackers, etc)
  • Spaghetti with nutritional yeast on top instead of any cheese
  • Burgers with no bun or a lettuce wrap
  • Hot dogs with no bun
  • Tacos with a lettuce wrap
  • Nachos with no cheese or sour cream (tortilla chips, meat, beans, all veggies, guacamole)
  • Breakfast casseroles that use potatoes and no cheese (and a df milk if necessary)
  • Stuffed bell peppers
  • Chicken or tuna salad in mini bell pepper boats


“Substitutions” that are naturally gf/df (sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, no bun, lettuce) are less expensive than gf/df subs like gf bread and vegan cheese. They are also typically more nutrient dense which means more bang for your buck. The gf bread and dairy free cheese, are not in their natural form, nor are they in as high demand, so they cost more. Staying away from them is a good way to save money if that is important to you.

Give It Time; Change Isn’t Easy

Your family might not love these new eating habits right away and that is okay. Who likes sudden, undesired change? Give a meal several tries before removing it from your options. If someone doesn’t care for one meal or snack, they will probably like something in the next. At first, try meals with elements people already like so they can get full on what they like and venture to the new foods when they are ready.

Take It One Step At A Time

I recommend allowing several weeks-months to get used to each stage before moving to the next. Before branching out too far, get settled in the stage you are at. That will ensure the transition is doable and keep you from giving up. Once you have mastered all that and you want more variety, slowly start looking at new recipes. I recommend starting with 1 or 2 dishes your family really loves and misses. Find recipes to substitute for those and have them 2-6 times that month (the same recipe or try multiple to find your favorites). Master those new favorite recipes and then continue to add only 1-2 new recipes a month or as often as feels “easy” to you. In your search; paleo, whole 30, or 21 DSD are helpful keywords to use if the terms “gf/df” or “gluten free and dairy free” don’t pull up enough options for you. If you would like particular resources, https://www.mamaknowsglutenfree.com has a lot of delicious traditional gluten free and dairy free recipes and we also like https://afreshlifewithcourtney.com. She aims to make easy recipes we all love, gluten free and a lot of her recipes are also already dairy free. She created several of our family’s go to recipes. If you would like to see more of my family’s favorite gf/df recipes, visit https://hopeandplanjournal.com/family-friendly-gluten-free-dairy-free-recipes/.

Hope this helps simplify your gf/df journey or trial or at least gives you some ideas for your meal plan. If you have any questions, please comment below or contact us and I’ll do my best to help!


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