Gluten Free by Choice

All of my friends/family are aware that I don’t eat gluten. Many of them also find it tedious and annoying. I have learned to embrace their playful jabs of calling me “Glu-tarded” or when ordering at a restaurant asking for “extra gluten” in their order with a side-glance at me. I, however, do not find the process tedious and I generally don’t have a problem figuring out what to eat either at home or when dining out.

Gluten is a protein compound that is ubiquitous in the Standard American Diet (SAD). It is mostly found in wheat products and several other grains. The SAD diet consumes gluten in mass quantities as it is in all of the following: breads/buns, pastas, crackers, cakes, cookies and numerous other staples.

I haven’t always been gluten free (GF). In fact, I’m not completely gluten intolerant; I don’t have celiac disease. I choose not to eat gluten because I feel better when I don’t eat it. I’m happier (mood-wise), retain about 5lbs less water weight (due to the inflammation that gluten causes), and I am mentally clearer than when I have gluten in my diet.

Many people have also realized this phenomena and jumped on the GF bandwagon, making it a trendy fad diet. Manufacturers have also picked up on this and now generate a plethora of GF products. This is a good and a bad thing. It is great when you really want a cookie and can buy a GF cookie, but let’s be honest, the cookie is NOT healthy whether it's GF or full of gluten. In fact, most of the “GF products” are worse for you nutritionally than their glutinous counterparts. GF products typically will have more sugar and processed fillers and less protein content than the products they are trying to mimic.

Fortunately, a lot of food is naturally GF. Being aware of what doesn’t contain gluten helps immensely when trying to get creative with food choices. Especially during the holidays and special occasions. Here are things to consider:

1.     GF grain choices: rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, corn, oats (though usually contaminated), wild rice and sorghum. Many GF flours can be purchased at most grocery stores.

2.     Beans and legumes are GF

Quinoa bean salad recipe: 1 cup cooked/cooled quinoa, 1 can black beans, 1/2 cup minced cilantro, ½ cup fresh diced tomatoes, 1 tsp garlic, ½ tsp salt/pepper or seasoning of choice and drizzle olive oil - mix and serve cold.

3.     All dairy (though not typically a health food) is also GF

4.     All produce (fruits and veggies) are GF

Spaghetti squash make a great alternative to pasta noodles - bake for 40 mins, rake out noodles and top with your favorite sauce! I like to add broccoli and shrimp and toss with pesto.

5.     All meat is naturally GF, though watch for gluten in seasonings that may have been used

6.     All nuts are GF

Almond flour makes a great baked goods: bread, cookies, pancakes, etc

7.     And for the sweet tooth, dark chocolate is also GF!

I challenge most of my glutinous friends to “try it” for 10 days - you might be surprised at how good being “glutarded” makes you feel! :)

Stay tuned for more ways to feel good in the new year!

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