“Packaged foods” and “endo diet” seem like complete antonyms — after all, eating for endometriosis means focusing on plant-based whole foods and minimizing processed goods. But in the modern world, let’s face it: packaged foods are just a fact of life. For endometriosis, it’s important to eat whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but sometimes, eating quickly or on-the-go takes priority over optimum health.
Even so, I don’t think eating packaged foods means resigning to symptoms. In today’s grocery stores, there are plenty of gluten-free, dairy-free packaged options with (mostly) whole ingredients that won’t trigger your endo. Still, it can be difficult to know where to find these foods if you aren’t used to eating on the endo diet. Skipping meals to manage symptoms is NOT an option, so it’s important to have go-to snacks and meals you can count on in a pinch.
To help you get started, I compiled this list of packaged and pre-made foods that are convenient and delicious, yet don’t trigger my endo symptoms. Remember: everyone is different, so you may still struggle with some of these foods even though I can tolerate them just fine. The best way to learn what does and doesn’t work for you is through trial and error. However, this list avoids common triggers for people with endometriosis, such as gluten and dairy, as a starting point for building a healthier, happier diet!
Whether you’re road tripping or running errands all day, sometimes you don’t have the time to stop at home for a snack or meal as you’re rushing from point A to point B. That’s why I always make it a point to know where I can stop to get my fix without triggering symptoms when I’m running around. This shortlist of snacks can be found at almost any convenience store to tide you over until your next stop:
- Banana + Justin’s nut butter. Admittedly, it can be tricky to find fresh produce at a truck stop or convenience store — but in my experience, bananas are pretty universal. To make this snack more substantial, add some protein with a packet of Justin’s nut butter (varieties include almond, peanut or chocolate hazelnut), which can be found at many gas stations.
- Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal cup. Bob’s Red Mill makes many amazing gluten-free products, including their oatmeal cups, which are rich in fiber due to their inclusion of flax and chia seeds. Many gas stations have hot water for brewing tea or microwaves you can use to make your oatmeal free of charge.
- Rice Chex or Cheerios with dairy-free milk. You can usually find individually packaged cereal cups in convenience stores. Mainstream cereals like Rice Chex and Honey Nut Cheerios happen to be gluten-free. Pair with an individual bottle of soy or almond milk to make it a substantial snack.
- Larabar or The Gluten Free Bar. Bars can tide you over in a pinch when you just need something small to get you through a hunger pang. The Gluten Free Bar’s Dark Chocolate + Coconut and Larabar’s Coconut Chocolate Chip (sensing a theme here?) are my favorite flavors, but they come in varieties for every palate.
- Boom Chicka Pop kettle corn. Popcorn is a healthy whole-grain snack that’s packed with fiber to keep you full — but finding packaged popcorn that doesn’t include butter or some suspicious cheese-flavored dust can be a challenge. Boom Chicka Pop’s kettle corn is the perfect balance of salty and sweet that makes snacktime a breeze on-the-go.
- Mini rice cakes. Rice cakes are a must-have snack for anyone who is gluten-free. Skinny Pop and Quaker both make mini rice crisps in delicious dairy-free flavors, such as caramel and sea salt. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to find my old college favorite, mini rice cakes dipped in dark chocolate. Mmm!
- Roasted unsalted nuts. Nuts are packed with protein and healthy fats to keep you full when you’re in a hurry. You can pick up a package of roasted unsalted (or low-sodium) almonds, cashews or peanuts at most convenience stores. (There’s nothing wrong with a little salt, but too much can leave you with a bad case of endo belly.) These to-go packs of nuts tend to be pre-portioned for perfect snacking.
Most days, I try to cook for myself, since eating frozen or delivered meals tends to make me painfully bloated. But as we all know, there is always the odd day out when we need a fast dinner before rushing toward our next commitment. In preparation for those days, I like to stock up on some of these ready-made gluten-free, dairy-free options that won’t make my endo flare:
- Trader Joe’s Organic Acai Bowl. Trader Joe’s is a haven for all the endo babes out there. They make products that cater to every diet, and their organic acai bowl is no exception. This frozen meal makes the perfect breakfast or lunch and can be easily defrosted with a few seconds in the microwave. It even comes with strawberry slices and coconut granola on top for added fiber and crunch.
- Daiya Meatless Pepperoni Pizza. Pizza may not be the healthiest choice, but sometimes you just need to devour something cheesy and delicious! Daiya’s Meatless Pepperoni Pizza is gluten-free and vegan to satisfy all your cravings without making you ill. I’m not actually vegan myself, but I’ll be the first to admit that Daiya’s meatless pepperoni and soy cheeze are spot-on imitations of the real thing.
- Amy’s Rice Macaroni and Cheeze. Amy’s makes tons of delicious gluten-free frozen meals, but the rice macaroni and cheeze is a personal favorite. Mac ‘n’ cheese is my favorite comfort food, but often leaves me bloated with endo belly. This version uses rice noodles and Daiya’s vegan cheddar cheeze for a creamy, satsifying take on an old classic.
- Dr. McDougall’s Pad Thai Noodle Soup. I discovered this quick and easy meal choice in college among our convenience store’s selection of ramen noodles. This vegan pad thai noodle soup is pre-packaged, fast and easy to make (just add boiling water and wait!) and tastes delicious. Better yet, it contains only a few simple ingredients that you can pronounce, so you can feel good about what you’re putting into your body.
- Dr. Praeger’s Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burger. There’s nothing better than throwing a veggie burger on the griddle at the end of a long day, am I right? Maybe I’m just weird, but there’s something so satisfying about Dr. Praeger’s black bean and quinoa burgers that’s even better than the real thing. This brand makes tons of veggie burgers for every taste, but I like these for their spicy kick. My pro-tip? Top with smashed avocado and lime for a taste of the Southwest!
- Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice. I always keep Seeds of Change Organic Quinoa and Brown Rice packets in my cupboard for emergencies. When I really need to hustle, these cook in the microwave in just 90 seconds. With olive oil and garlic, they offer healthy fiber, fats and whole grains. Pair a serving of this with some salad or frozen veggies and you get a quick lunch or dinner that will hold you over whenever you’re in a rush.
For obvious reasons, fast food isn’t ideal on the endo diet — but as someone in eating disorder recovery, I firmly believe that eating fast food is always better than skipping a meal. Thankfully, options are improving at many mainstream fast food chains, making it easier than ever to order something that won’t trigger an endo flare. Here are some of my go-to orders at my favorite fast food restaurants when I’m running around on-the-go:
- Starbucks: Iced Coconut Milk Cascara Latte and Blueberry Oatmeal. Almost any coffee choice can be customized at Starbucks to fit the endo diet, but the iced coconut milk cascara latte has become a recent favorite of mine. This drink is made with Starbucks’ blonde roast, poured over ice, with coconut milk and cascara sugar sprinkled on top. It’s lower in sugar than drinks containing flavored syrups, but still has that hint of sweetness I love! For snacking, the blueberry oatmeal is jam-packed with healthy fiber (and fats, if you add the nuts on top) to keep you full longer. Just skip the brown sugar packet — and if you need some extra sweetness, opt for the agave instead.
- Chipotle: Brown Rice Chicken Burrito Bowl. I could practically write a love letter to Chipotle, but that’s a blog post for another time. Instead, let me tell you about my favorite burrito bowl to order at Chipotle. I always opt for brown rice to sneak in a serving of whole grains, then top with chicken, plenty of veggies and a heaping spoonful of guac. The fajita veggies, corn salsa, pico de gallo and romaine lettuce are all delicious, fresh options to add a little color to your bowl — and, of course, extra vitamins to your bod.
- Panera: Chicken Tortilla Soup and Side Salad. Panera is best known for its bread and mac ‘n’ cheese, so you might not think of it as a gluten-free haven. However, their grain bowls and some of their soups are great options for eating GF on-the-go. The chicken tortilla soup makes a delicious dairy-free lunch or dinner on the go. Choose a You-Pick-Two combo with any side salad (minus the cheese) to sneak in extra veggies and keep yourself fuller for longer.
- Shake Shack: Burger with Gluten-Free Bun. Shake Shack is a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine! When you’re gluten-free and dairy-free, this burger joint might not seem like your new favorite fast food restaurant, but unlike most, Shake Shack actually carries a gluten-free bun (rather than offering you a sad, wilted lettuce wrap for your patty). To keep it gluten- and dairy-free, skip the Shack Sauce and cheese and instead load up on lettuce, onion and tomato, adding ketchup or mustard if you need a little extra flavor.
- Blaze Pizza: Gluten-Free Build-Your-Own Pizza with Daiya Cheeze. Blaze Pizza was a cult favorite on campus at Boston University. Even Lebron James owns stock in them! This fast-fired pizza chain is rapidly spreading around the U.S. — and if you’re lucky to have one nearby, it’s also a great place to eat gluten- and dairy-free. Blaze carries Daiya cheeze and a gluten-free crust. If avoiding dairy, choose spicy or regular red sauce and top with your favorite gluten-free meats and veggies for a hearty meal that doesn’t skimp on flavor. They’ll even do a glove-change for you if you have celiac or prefer to be extra-careful about your GF diet!
- Sweetgreen: Build-Your-Own Salad or Warm Bowl. Of all the places I miss from my time in Boston, Sweetgreen might be my most beloved. This build-your-own salad place has locations around the Northeast, as well as the Pacific Coast. As you can imagine, it’s a wonderful place to load up on veggies and gluten-free whole grains. They even make a variety of flavorful dairy-free and vegan salad dressings in-house to add some extra zing to your salad or grain bowl. Just make sure you avoid options that might trigger a flare, such as cheese or the za’atar breadcrumbs, when building your bowl.
- + BONUS: The Find Me Gluten-Free App! I wouldn’t want you to miss out on local fast casual options that carry gluten-free and dairy-free options — of which my home city, Cleveland, Ohio, has many! For that reason, I also suggest you download the Find Me Gluten-Free app. It’s free in the App Store and allows you to use location services to track down a gluten-free restaurant near you, as well as to view menu options and reviews from real-life gluten-free eaters. If you have celiac disease, I especially recommend downloading this app, as it allows you to view ratings on the restaurant’s risk of cross-contamination.