Starting a grain-free diet can improve digestive functions and help fight against auto immune diseases. Many people often confuse grain-free with gluten-free, but they are not the same diet. A gluten-free diet will still contain grains since not all grains are processed with gluten. However, a grain-free diet cuts out all grains (including the ones that are gluten-free).
Just because you are cutting bread out of your diet, doesn't mean that you won't be enjoying what you eat! Here are some tips on what to eat when you are going grain-free with tips on ways to incorporate them into meals.
Eggs are a great protein to start your day with. A versatile food, you can make countless grain-free meals using eggs as a base. One of the best nutritious meals can simply be poached eggs on a bed of sautéed veggies with herbs. The result is tasty, full of color, and packed with good nutrients.
Buy yourself a blender and you'll quickly become a smoothie fanatic. Once you have a few recipes under your belt, this is a quick and easy fix to compliment a grain-free diet. A typical smoothie includes milk as the base, fruit, and protein (like peanut butter, flax seed, or protein powder.) What's nice about this meal is it often requires such few ingredients. Just throw coconut milk, a banana, chia seeds and a few spoonfuls of peanut butter into a blender and soon you'll be drinking a delicious lunch packed with energy to get you through the day.
If you're on a grain-free diet, you are going to find yourself eating lots of hearty salads. Salads are the best way to pack a meal with yummy protein, fresh veggies, and delicious herb dressings. This is a great habit to get into because it's an easy one to meal plan for. Simply prepare a protein (like roast chicken or baked salmon), cut up all your fresh veggies, and have your dressing handy to throw on top.
Unfortunately, most soups you find in restaurants and delis have a flour thickener and, thus, are not grain-free. However, making a delicious grain-free soup is easy to do (especially if you have a crock pot to let it simmer all day). Having homemade broth handy in your house is a must if you want every soup to be packed with savory flavor. Use the broth as a base for vegetable soups, beef stews, creamy potato leek, and any other recipe you desire. If you miss the crunchy toast that comes on the side of most soup, go for a different crunch and throw some roasted seeds or crispy parsnips on your soup.
5. Roast Dinners
On a grain-free diet, the oven is your friend. Roasting vegetables, meats, potatoes, and foods of your choice can turn out to be some of the best meals you've ever had. For an easy tasty roast dinner, find some acorn squash to bake and stuff it with sausage and mushrooms for a comforting but healthy dinner.
An increasing number of medical professionals and scientists have been discussing links between modern grain products and chronic inflammatory and digestive illnesses. A variety of factors, such as genetic alteration, excessive input farming, and modern industrial milling have made grain-containing foods unhealthy. This has motivated some individuals to switch to a diet that contains no grain. Below are some helpful tips for transitioning to grain free eating:
Use Greens in Place of Grain-Based Wraps
Wraps are a tasty and convenient lunch, and you do not have to give them up if you go grain free. Simply use leafy greens, such as lettuce or kale, in which to wrap your favorite meat, poultry or tuna.
Fill Up on Vegetables
Fill your refrigerator and pantry with a broad range of vegetables. When you eliminate grains, you are far more likely to eat more vegetables, which is a very positive aspect associated with a grain free diet. Experiment with different recipes for healthy dips to make your vegetables more tempting.
Make Use of Your Slow cooker
Roasting meat and chicken in a crock pot is a great way to make quick, healthy meals without having to follow complex recipes or spend time with complicated preparations. Crock pot recipes abound for beef and poultry, and you can simply pair such items with salads, fresh vegetables or fruit salad to create a balanced dinner. A crock pot can also be used for beans, soups and chili, so that healthy snacks are always available.
In addition, a little-known use for your crock pot is creating tasty breakfasts, such as egg and cheese casseroles or egg and vegetable omelets. You may have to invest in a crock pot model with a timer to ensure such creations are ready at the appropriate breakfast hour, but the convenience such an appliance offers should not be overlooked.
Keep Appropriate Baking Ingredients on Hand
Obviously, everyone enjoys dessert of one kind or another, and therefore you will be pleased to know that grain-free baking is surprisingly easy. This is because you only need a few vital ingredients that are not difficult to locate. These include the following:
• Unflavored grass-fed gelatin
• Maple syrup
• Raw honey
• Coconut sugar
• Arrowroot flour
• Coconut flour
Many grain-free desserts can be made in less than 30 minutes, and numerous easy-to-follow recipes can be found online without any difficulty.
Add Healthy Saturated Fats to Each Meal
Once touted as unhealthy, it is now understood that healthy fats and proteins are good sources of energy that do not wreak havoc with insulin levels, as do most grain products. Genuine, natural saturated fats assist your body to process nutrients. In addition, they reduce inflammation and keep you feeling full longer so that the urge to overeat is significantly lessened. Good examples of healthy fats to add to meals as you transition to your new diet include ghee, organic lard, palm shortening, unsalted, grass fed butter and coconut oil.
With a little time and effort it is easy to go grain free. Fortunately, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by making this healthy lifestyle change.
Making the transition to a gluten-free diet is one of the hardest parts of realizing you have a gluten intolerance. You want to feel better, cure your headaches, and improve your indigestion by changing your diet, but actually doing it can be a bit of a culture shock. Many of the foods you eat on a daily basis will no longer be allowed and you need to become a stickler for reading ingredients of everything you eat. Here are some tips for transitioning to a gluten-free diet.
Start With Your Favorite Gluten-Free Foods
When you are making the transition to a gluten-free diet, you should first consider what foods you already eat that will still be allowed. This makes it easier for you because you can rely on some of your classic staples that you enjoy eating on a regular basis without feeling like you are missing out on anything. For example, most vegetables and fruits you eat already can still be enjoyed, such as lemon in your water, oranges as a snack, and bananas with your breakfast. Most meat can also be eaten, though you need to be careful with processed meat, such as packaged deli meat.
Buy Gluten-Free Substitute Products
While you eventually want to start making more food items from scratch, the transitional period can be quite a challenge. During this time, it is helpful to find some gluten-free substitutes of the foods you can no longer have. For example, you can usually find your favorite type of bread, biscuits, cookies, crackers, and cereal in a gluten-free version. There are usually boxes of gluten-free boxes as well. It used to be that only health food stores sold substitutes that were much more expensive than the standard form of these foods, but since gluten-free is becoming more popular, it is easier to find these food items in the supermarket.
Find Friends Who Want to Join You
It can be hard when you are doing this all alone. Try to find friends or family members that also want to reduce their gluten intake. This makes it easier when going through recipe books together, swapping ideas for meals, and going out to restaurants. If you have kids, try to transition them to a gluten-free diet as well so you don’t have the temptations in your household. Get your family together to come up with delicious gluten-free meals together.
While you might know about all the typical signs of having a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, such as stomach pain, indigestion, and headaches, there are some less common ones you might want to know about. Here are some of the less common signs of gluten intolerance to be aware of.
While you may not realize it, your skin condition, such as red splotches on the face and excessive dandruff on the scalp might actually be due to a gluten intolerance. While these conditions can be worse if you actually have an allergy to gluten or Celiac disease, people with an intolerance to gluten may also experience similar symptoms. You may find that you have a lot of dandruff and that using special shampoo doesn’t do much good. Perhaps you have redness on your face and can’t figure out why. These are both signs of eczema, which tend to be common among people who have issues with gluten.
Mental Health Disorders
If you are someone that struggles with a lot of different mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, it may very well be linked to your gluten intolerance. There have been quite a few studies that actually link gluten disorders and Celiac disease to anxiety and depression. Like the skin conditions, the symptoms might be worse with Celiac disease, but that doesn’t mean your anxiety or depression can’t also worsen if you have an intolerance to gluten. If you have noticed extreme irritability at odd time, worsening depression, or a sudden onset of anxiety, it might be a good time to consider other symptoms of gluten sensitivity.
Severe Digestion Problems
You likely know that having digestion issues is very common when you have an intolerance to gluten, but did you know it can cause more serious problems? For example, you might have irritable bowel syndrome, seemingly caused by nothing, but it ends up being linked to gluten. Try eating a gluten-free diet for a short period of time and see if your digestion and IBS symptoms improve. If they do, then these issues are directly linked to the gluten intolerance.
Any time you have an odd symptom, you should talk to your doctor about it. They might find that some of your symptoms are due to what you eat, such as the gluten in your diet. Removing gluten for a few days can tell you a lot about how you felt before compared to how you feel after.
One of the struggles of discovering that you have a gluten intolerance is then trying to figure out what you can eat and especially how to put your meals together. You no longer eat rice or pasta as a side, bread your chicken, have dinner rolls, or eat anything you want. Even if you were on a low-carb or low-calorie diet previously, the gluten-free diet is not going to allow for the same types of foods. Here are some helpful ways to put together your gluten-free meals.
Get a Gluten-Free Cookbook
To start with, it is really helpful to have at least one gluten-free cookbook, but preferably a few different ones. These are going to be your point of reference not just for making sure you have plenty of recipes to choose from, but so you know what foods you can and can’t have. Many of the gluten-free cookbooks available are going to provide food lists, tips, and suggestions for creating meals that help with your gluten intolerance. While many of them cater to allergies or Celiac disease, you can still use the same recipes for your gluten sensitivity.
Start Baking Your Own Bread
This might sound like a huge chore, but once you make your own loaf of bread, you will wonder why you haven’t always done it. There is something about getting bread out of the oven or using a bread maker that is satisfying. Pulling a loaf of bread you made from scratch and slicing it up yourself is rather cathartic, not to mention the smell and fresh taste when it comes from your own kitchen. Baking your own bread helps to save money since you can use a gluten-free bread recipe instead of having to buy an expensive alternative at a local health foods store. Bread machines are easy to use and a quick way to make your own bread.
Find Grain Alternatives
While you can’t have many of the grains you are used to, there are still some that don’t contain gluten. Finding these and using them in your meals can really make up for what you are missing. For example, you might not be able to have some forms of rice or pasta, but you can still have quinoa. This is always gluten-free, healthy, low-fat, and really easy to include in all of your recipes. Also look for foods that naturally don’t have gluten so you don’t have to second guess anything, such as fresh produce, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Get Rid of the Processed Stuff
With things like dairy and meat, it is okay to eat these food items, but you want to avoid anything that is processed. Now is the perfect time to stop eating so much processed food and rely more on the natural options. Instead of hot dogs and deli meat, get ground beef, chicken breasts, and steak
So, you've decided to go grain-free. This is a great choice, and you'll definitely be feeling the benefits in no time. But, it can be hard to stick to a diet plan if you don't enjoy what you're eating. Luckily, there are plenty of delicious meals that can be eaten on the grain-free diet.
Cereal and oatmeal aren't the only breakfast meals, even if they typically come to mind first. Grain-free individuals can enjoy freshly cooked eggs with a side of bacon or ham, a nice juicy steak paired with hash browns or diced potatoes, or a Denver omelet with all the fixings.
If you prefer a lighter breakfast, you can have grain-free banana bread or pumpkin bread, made fresh at home or bought from a bakery. A simple parfait can be made with yogurt and whichever fruits you enjoy; blueberries, strawberries, and bananas are great toppings, especially when combined with nuts, giving you all the nutrients you need to start your morning. Grocery stores also sell a wide variety of grain-free breakfast bars, held together with egg whites and fruit, rather than oats or granola.
Mid-day is here, and you wanted a sandwich or a burger, but they both have a big grain-filled bun on top! Not a problem, you can have your burger wrapped in lettuce, rather than a hunk of bread. Same great taste of grilled beef and your favorite toppings, lacking just the bread. As for sandwiches, there are now more grain-free breads on the market than ever before. Some are made from Almond or Coconut flour, among other types. These can be hit or miss, depending on your preferences, but they are absolutely worth giving a try before just cutting out your favorite hoagie or club sandwich from your meals.
If you aren't in the mood for a sandwich, try cooking up some home-made fried chicken. This is where almond flour really comes in handy, because you don't have to sacrifice the breading. You end up with a great, crispy exterior with the same delicious herbs and spices as any other fried chicken, minus the grains and the issues that come with it. As a side note, vegetable and canola oil are also rough on the stomach, while avocado, grape seed, peanut, and sunflower oil are much easier on the digestive system.
There are countless great dinner meals that don't require grains at all. Even those that do contain grains can often be substituted without compromising flavor. Freshly seared salmon or any other type of fish, garnished with some lemon and rosemary, is healthy, flavorful, and doesn't contain one bit of grain.
Steak, grilled chicken, and salads are all wonderful meal ideas. The greatest benefit with salads are the seemingly limitless possibilities; Caesar, Cobb, Chicken, Chop, Mandarin, Tuna, Potato, and countless other variations of salads can be made and enjoyed. If you don't feel like cooking, there are restaurants everywhere that make extravagant salads; just order one, pick it up, and enjoy.
Now that you understand a little more about what gluten is and how it affects your body if you have an intolerance to it, it is time to figure out what exactly you can eat. This is a new lifestyle, so don’t treat it like something you only do when convenient. If you think it will be better, start gradual by slowly removing food items with gluten one by one until eventually the majority of your diet doesn’t have it. Remember that you have a sensitivity, not an allergy, so you can still have some gluten in small quantities.
Foods With Gluten
Before discussing what you can eat when you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, it helps to understand exactly what foods are going to contain gluten. It is found in grains like wheat, rye, barley, couscous, bulgur, semolina, triticale, spelt, and many others. This means the majority of cold cuts, commercial broth and bullion, malt, soup, breads, salad dressings, sauces, condiments, processed cheese, and processed foods will have it. Some food items you need to get rid of or reduce considerably are:
Fruits and Vegetables
For starters, you can begin by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Most fresh produce, and some frozen, is not going to contain any type of gluten and won’t upset your stomach. Some good vegetables to have are greens, broccoli, cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, leeks, fennel, artichoke, bok choy, rasishes, onions, cabbage, green beans, celery, and mushrooms. With fruits, you want to be careful about the sugar content. Try to go for fruits like tomato, bananas, lemons, limes, and some berries. These fruits tend to have a lower amount of sugar.
Fats and Seasonings
You don’t have to worry too much about having flavor with your food, just because you can’t have most grains. Healthy fats are a great thing to add to your gluten-free diet, including olive oil and coconut oil, nut butter, olives, nuts, seeds, almond milk, and butter if it is organic and grass-fed. With seasonings and condiments, feel free to have anything without sugar, soy, and wheat. This means mustard, salsa and horseradish are fine, but ketchup is unfortunately out.
As you can see, your new lifestyle will provide you with a lot of tasty, nutritious food even without having gluten.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have undoubtedly seen or heard many people saying they are reducing their gluten or giving it up altogether. In some cases, people actually have allergies or a condition called Celiac disease, which is causing gluten to make them ill. Others simply have a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten. The latter is more common, so that is what we are going to talk about.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a type of protein that is found in a variety of different grains. Many people think about wheat as being gluten, but it can also be found in rye, oats, and barley. The gluten protein is made up of other proteins, including gluten in and gliadin. These are often more closely linked to people that have negative reactions in the form of a gluten allergy or Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune condition of the small intestine. The symptoms are slightly different when comparing an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten as opposed to actually being allergic to it.
Common Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
When you have an intolerance to gluten, your symptoms can range from mild discomfort and abdominal pain, to some of the more common signs of being allergic to gluten. First of all, you might find that you have abdominal discomfort or indigestion when you consume foods with a lot of wheat or rye. There are actually many regular food items that contain wheat or other grains, that you would otherwise think are harmless. You may eat a simple sandwich with wheat bread and suddenly find that your stomach is hurting and you might even have diarrhea or nausea. Some other common symptoms include headaches, skin changes, and allergy symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and runny nose.
If you are found to have a gluten sensitivity, you don’t have to completely give up all gluten, but you do need to decrease it as much as possible. The more foods you eat with gluten, the worse you are going to end up feeling. They might not cause serious illness like if you had Celia disease, but gluten can definitely make you feel ill. If you want those stomach aches and migraines to go away, stay away from foods with wheat, rye, or barley. This includes most breads, grains, pasta, and a wide range of packaged and processed foods. You should try to stick to a diet consisting primarily of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein like meat.
Kids, naturally, need vitamins and minerals. Not only do they need them for the same reasons we do, but they also need extra vitamins and minerals to build their bodies up to their full adult size. A deficiency in even one micronutrient would mean a kid develops rickets, skin problems, allergies, or a poor attention span. So, naturally, as parents we want to feed our kids the healthiest possible diet, loaded with vitamins and minerals. But it isn't always as simple as wanting and doing.
When we try and feed our kids properly, it can be a real challenge to keep on top of the micronutrients, for two major reasons. The first reason is that it is easy to follow macronutrients, that is, fats, proteins, and carbs, because they are really obvious and memorable; but it is not so simple to follow micronutrients. You may be able to say, for example, whether bread is high in carbs or not, and even the number of calories per slice. But could you tell me, off the top of your head, how much selenium it has? There are just too many micronutrients, and our kids' needs are just too variable, for us to be aware of all the different things they may need in all the different foods they may eat.
And the second reason is that our kids generally do not like nutrient rich foods. As adults we either enjoy, or tolerate, foods that are very high in micronutrients. Liver, broccoli, and mushrooms, for example, are either enjoyed or dutifully swallowed by adults to make sure that they get all their micronutrients, sort of like a natural multivitamin. But kids are not so happy to eat these things. Which means that one of the few guaranteed ways of loading up on vitamins and minerals is not an option.
However, there are ways of ensuring that our kids eat enough micronutrients. The first is pure and simple: variety. If your kid eats enough different foods, they are bound to eat enough micronutrients over the course of the week. Make sure your kids eat at least one food from each category every week: nuts and seeds, leaves, berries, sweet fruit, non-sweet fruit, starches, legumes, meats or substitutes, dairy or substitutes, and omega 3 rich foods. You may not consistently hit their RDA, but other days you may exceed it, balancing things out a little.
There are a few other great tricks. For example, you can work out the micronutrient contents of their favorite whole foods. This way, you can tell them what they need to eat that day to hit their micronutrient needs, and why. Plus, because you're only learning about twenty or so different foods, it is much easier to memorize their vitamin and mineral levels. So we can keep a better eye on our kids' nutrition and push them in the right direction.
Another great way of getting your kids to eat vitamins and minerals is to bargain. Simply talking with your kids about the importance of these nutrients is sometimes enough to persuade them. Other times you may need to offer a reward, or to combine a nutrient-dense food with a desired treat to get them to eat properly.
Finally, if all else fails, you might want to consider a children's multivitamin. If you really have tried everything and there is no way this kid will get nutrients from whole food, then it is better to throw in the towel and feed them a multivitamin than to let them go without their essential vitamins and minerals! Talk to your doctor about your child's dietary requirements and current eating habits, so that you can work out a meal plan and supplement combination which will suit your child and your family best. And remember: there is no shame in supplements if that's what you need to do. Perhaps your kid is a supertaster, or autistic, or going through a growth spurt. They may have a legitimate reason for avoiding healthy foods, and it is your job as a parent to nourish them, not let them go without vital nutrients because an internet guru said whole foods were the only way.
Kids lunchboxes are under a sort of continual scrutiny for some reason which is pretty hard for me to understand. From schools giving us weird guidelines such as kids needing a “grain” instead of a starch, to Instagram mommies boasting of their healthy, ornate, cultured bento boxes, it seems that what our children are munching on matters to absolutely everyone. And yet, the one thing we may be failing to consider is: this is our kids' lunch. It may sound silly, but between bending over backwards to comply to school lunch inspections and leaping to try and outdo celebrity kids' food, we are neglecting the central aspect of a lunchbox: putting together a healthy, wholesome, enjoyable meal which will keep our kids fueled all day long.
So how can we make sure that our kids are getting the very best, healthiest meal for their age, tastes, and activity levels? We've done some investigating, and these are the top five mistakes parents make when it comes to assembling a healthy and nutritious lunchbox.
1: “I don't have time to prep, just throw some chips in.”
When we are making a lunch box it can be very tempting to say “I don't have the time to do all that!” But this is actually an assumption we make based on seeing things like elaborate lunch boxes prepped for celebrity kids, or professional chef food. But a kid's meal does not need to be elaborate to be delicious and healthy. Your kid is not going to suffer, emotionally or mentally, if you don't give them hand-rolled sushi for lunch. So next time, instead of a pack of chips, “throw in” an apple, some roasted nuts, or even some finger-friendly leftovers.
2: Giving all our kids the same box.
I get it: if you do the same for everyone it's easier, nobody risks ending up with somebody else's lunch, and nobody can complain someone else got a different thing. But at different ages and with different lives, your 15-year-old artist will need a different lunchbox than your 8-year-old football superstar. This doesn't mean you need to make each kid a bespoke lunch! Just that you may give one kid one sandwich and the other two, or one kid some more pudding and the other some more protein. Just play around with the amounts.
3: Putting in “new, healthy, superfood treats.”
Another one we totally get! If the latest big thing has come out an it's apparently the healthiest food in the world, it can be so tempting to put it in Jr's lunchbox. But what if Jr doesn't like it? Of course, sometimes it can be better to go hungry than eat junk, but if there are plenty of healthy options, stick to what you know your kids like, to make sure they eat well. Try the experiments in the kitchen at home.
4: Giving them just what they ask for.
Kids may know what they want, but they have no clue what they need. We all know not to give our kids a sugary drink for their lunch, but when it comes to other things we often cede to them as the experts. But if we know for sure that they will eat half an apple, but a whole banana, then why do we agree to give them the apple? Combine their wants with your knowledge of them, to make sure they get everything they need.
5: Not paying enough attention to kids' fads and trends.
This one is much less obvious, but just as important. Many of our kids will not eat a food which has been condemned by their friends, and will relish a food which their friends enjoy. Therefore, if you want your kid to eat a whole, healthy lunchbox, then you need to pay attention to which foods they would be ashamed or proud to drag out in the cafeteria. If the kids have all decided, because of a cartoon, that eggs are smelly and terrible, then a hard-boiled egg may go uneaten. On the other hand, if a superhero's favorite food is tuna sandwiches, then everyone may want one.
By working with your kid's wants and needs, you can make sure that they get the best lunchbox for them, even if it isn't the best lunchbox for Instagram.
Lisa Ann de Garcia, MA, MEd.