If you walked into a restaurant ten years ago and requested food that was gluten free, you’d have probably been out of luck. Today gluten free items are staples on many restaurants, and flood the aisles of mainstream grocery stores. People living with celiac disease have an allergic reaction to gluten and have to avoid it. Others suffer from gluten intolerance, which can be just as cumbersome when it comes to choosing foods that can and can’t be eaten. Then there is an entirely different pool of people who have no obvious problem with gluten, but they want to eat packaged gluten free foods because it’s somehow healthier.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grains, like barley, bulgur, kamut, spelt, tritcale, rye, semolina. Just about every conventionally-produced starchy carb contains gluten, including pasta, crackers, cookies, bread, couscous, many salad dressings and seasoning packages, soy sauce and beer just to name a few.
Whether you avoid gluten out of necessity or choice, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to eat. Just because a food is labeled gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Think of it like this – if Nabisco started selling a gluten free Oreo, would you eat it? Hopefully not, because it’s still junk. Actually, it would probably be more expensive junk.
When people venture out on a gluten free diet, there is a tendency to gain weight. There is nothing about a gluten free diet that inherently promotes weight gain, but eating novel foods just because they’re gluten free will pack the pounds on in no time.
Here are three examples of gluten free diets, going from bad to good.
Gluten free, but unhealthy
GF Rice Krispies + Skim Milk
I can’t imagine many of you actually eat like this, but all of these foods are either naturally gluten free or made to be gluten free. Notice there is very little fiber, no fresh foods, fruits or vegetables. It’s generally void of anything your body could find useful. It’s also high in carbohydrates. Breakfast is fat free (which nearly guarantees it will be higher in sugar), and lunch is full of sugar, too.
Gluten free, getting better
GF bread with almond nut butter + an piece of fruit
GF pretzels with hummus
GF sandwich with turkey, avocado, mustard and lettuce
Baked salmon with brown rice pasta, red sauce and steamed vegetable
This meal plan is a little bit better, incorporating more fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. There is still a lot of processed gluten free foods. While it’s ok to eat these every now and then, try to avoid eating them at every meal.
Gluten free, best
Hot whole grain cereal (like GF Oats or quinoa) with low or full fat milk, berries and cinnamon
Plain low fat yogurt with fresh fruit, cinnamon and walnuts
Fresh vegetables and guacamole or hummus
Apple and almond nut butter
Grilled chicken salad on romaine, with lots of vegetables, topped with salsa and a little bit of sour cream
Homemade chicken, rice and vegetable soup with a few GF crackers sprinkled on top
Lean grilled burger with a baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli
Shrimp stir fry with lots of fresh veggies, brown rice and flavored with tamari (GF soy sauce)
This meal plan is fairly unrefined, contains plenty of healthy fat, and lots of fruits and vegetables. It’s also not sky high in sugar, which is a big benefit to keeping hunger in check.
My two cents. Personally, I intentionally avoid most foods that contain gluten because I don’t think it’s particularly good for my body. No, I don’t have celiac disease. A lot of gluten-based foods contain ingredients that are genetically modified. A great big finger is often pointed at genetically modified crops (GMO), and the role these foods play in the deterioration and inflammation of the mucosal lining of the small intestine – a telltale sign of many digestive disorders. In 1994, genetically modified crops starting springing up everywhere in the US. As if we weren’t already well on our way into the dietary dark ages, shoveling down foods laden in high fructose corn syrup, trans fats and artificial sweeteners, the FDA gave a big thumbs up to genetically modify the crops we eat so food grows faster and bigger.
In contrast, countries in the EU have either banned GMO outright, or require labels on foods bio-engineered. Bio-engineered labeling is also required in Russia, China, Australia and Brazil. When starved countries desperate for food, like Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe ban GMO, but we allow it with no questions asked, something is wrong.
Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.