Go gluten free? No bread, bagels, pasta, pizza, cake or cookies? Are you crazy????
I know. That is exactly what I used to think. But as I wrote last week, the decision was made for me. As soon as I understood that my autoimmune disease had been caused by gluten, there was no question—I went cold turkey immediately. As I detailed here, my Sjogren’s is now all but gone and gluten will never be part of my diet again.
So how did I do it? At the beginning I simply stayed away from no-no foods. There were still starches that were ok—rice, potatoes, quinoa and millet. I also ate lots of protein, nuts, fruits and veggies. It was a bit boring, but manageable.
My first aha from being gluten free was mind blowing. I have always struggled with food and cravings. Staying fit, for me, was 100% about discipline. If I let my guard down, if I ate whatever I wanted or followed my hunger signals I gained weight. Period. My body and I were in a battle that was fought on a daily basis. Even though I often “won”—it was a struggle and something that took up major time and energy.
The huge surprise I got when I went gluten free is that my cravings stopped. When I took the wheat and sugar out of my diet, my blood sugar must have stabilized. It was like a miracle. Suddenly I was not hungry all the time. I became “normal”–I would get hungry, eat a meal or snack and then go about my day—instead of constantly craving “something”. As I said, it blew me away.
While I have not lost weight in the past six months, for the first time ever, I have effortlessly kept my weight stable. I no longer weigh myself everyday or feel that food is the boss of me. The guilt I used to feel for not being able to “control myself” is completely gone. Good riddance!!
While gluten free has become big business for food companies, please beware. Many of the gluten free options are just as over processed and nutritionally void as their gluten filled neighbors in the grocery store. Please don’t be fooled by fancy marketing. You still want to steer towards whole, real food.
That being said, the alternatives I have found have been a pleasant surprise. Buckwheat pasta is my favorite. You must be sure to get 100% buckwheat, but despite its name, there is no wheat in buckwheat. Cooking buckwheat takes a little bit more love. You need to stir often while it cooks and rinse the noodles after they come off the stove—but it’s worth it. They completely fulfill any desire you may have for pasta. You can top them however you like and are equally good made with Asian or Italian flare.
We also keep brown rice and quinoa pasta in the house. They both cook up the same as flour pasta and are surprisingly good stand ins. For bread, we choose Udi’s brown rice bread. When nothing but a sandwich will do, this bread does the trick. It tastes best toasted.
The flours that now stock my pantry are almond flour, coconut flour and buckwheat flour. I also have gluten free flour for recipes that call for small amounts. Where I used to coat chicken or fish with breadcrumbs, I now use almond flour. It adds a slight nutty taste and cooks up light and crunchy.
For breakfast, I have altered a South Beach Diet recipe for pancakes. If you mix ½ cup gluten free oats, ½ cup cottage cheese, 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla in your food processor, you will have a delicious pancake batter that cooks up the same way you are used to. Despite having more texture than regular pancakes, my family gobbles them up. Try them—you will be shocked.
Buckwheat crepes are also a huge hit. We make them both sweet and savory. Delicious. You can find the crepe recipe here.
There are tons of gluten free meals and desserts that you can find online—specifically on Pinterest and Mind Body Green. We have made a few cookie recipes, but none that are good enough to share. We will keep trying.
Eating out is easier than you think. Many restaurants now have gluten free menus. For those that don’t, salads, sans croutons, are usually a safe bet. You can find a protein source with a side of veggies almost anywhere you eat—just make sure nothing is coated with flour or breadcrumbs. If you go to a burger place—order yours over greens. You won’t even miss the bun!
No longer suffering from my autoimmune disease is all the motivation I need to stay gluten free. Keeping my weight stable and no longer feeling controlled by constant sweet and salty cravings has been an added bonus.
Would your health be better if you cut gluten? Do you have some great recipes that keep you gluten free and happy? Please comment below.
Picture courtesy of my eleven year old daughter, Sydney–who is also gluten free.