So how do you go 'gluten free' anyway?
Posted on Mar 20 2012 at 08:55:09 AM in Diet & Nutrition
As I have mentioned in my blog posts, the major keys to dieting, losing weight, and nurturing your metabolism as follows: (a) cut out starches, sugars, wheat products, and processed food and (b) eat whole foods (though be careful with fruits), lots of vegetables, nuts, meats, and high fat/fermented dairy (if you can tolerate it).
Most people I talk to you, get all of that. It makes sense, except for 2 things. Removing wheat out of your diet, and replacing it with (a) nothing because you are not hungry anymore (b) saturated fats in the form of things like coconut milk and yes, animal fat, particularly beef, lamb, organ meats, and fish.
In particular, I get a lot of questions about why wheat is not a good thing to include in your diet, and a very good thing, indeed, to actually eliminate from your diet. It still fascinates people that bread, yes, bread! of all things can be that toxic to the health in so many ways. One of the things I always have to do to focus people on the problems that wheat creates is remind them that many children (and adults as well) are allergic to and can’t tolerate dairy. That always seems to allow the light bulb to go off, so to speak. Then we talk about how casein is a protein in milk that acts in similar ways to gluten.
Then, I go through the list of reasons why wheat can be very problematic, and the how the ‘healthy whole grains’ argument doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. (No pun intended, but if you thought that was funny, I’ll take it!)
Then people ask me how to do actually do it, ie cut gluten out of their diet and go gluten free.
Once again, before I go over some of the tips and strategies, I will recommend Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, whose book I have reviewed on my site, and you can link to Amazon to get your copy after reading the review. I also recommend reading his Wheat Belly blog, which has a whole host of entries related to why wheat is not good for you, what wheat elimination can do for you, how to do it, and some very nice recipes for you and your loved ones to try.
In addition, in this blogpost, I will give a few of the tips and tricks that have worked for me, and I will try to balance each recommendation with some foods you can include in your diet.
a) Don’t eat any bread for breakfast, instead have omelettes, eggs, yogurt, coconut milk, and breakfast meats. To keep it truly low carb, so you won’t be hungry, you can have coconut milk instead of milk, which has a bit less sugar. But what if I must have toast? Then choose a gluten free toast. We like Udi’s, which is (a) very expensive (b) tastes good. Eating expensive food is NOT a bad thing, as it is generally better tasting, more nutrient dense, and if you are cost conscious (aka cheapskate) like me you will eat less. Don’t forget to eat only one slice of toast with peanut/almond butter and/or butter. And once again, have coffee with heavy cream and avoid sugar.
b) If you get tired of bacon (I do), then get some ground beef and make a breakfast burger with cheese, and you can add last night’s vegetables too. You have to get creative.
c) Have snacks that include things like nuts, cheese, beef jerky, plain yogurt.
d) Know which are your gluten free grains, and include some, but don’t have a lot. For instance, quinoa is a great alternative grain to wheat, and my wife and I have it several nights for dinner. Don’t pig out on it, meaning have seconds and thirds of this grain. Have seconds and thirds of things like meats and and vegetables, which will fill you up.
e) Likewise, be very careful shopping in the gluten free section of your grocery store. Things that are labelled gluten-free often have things like potato starch and rice flour in them, and though they are gluten free, they are also very high in carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index. This means that you can still get quite fat eating this food, and basically lose all the benefit you may have gotten by eliminating gluten in the first place.
f) I am a dad of young girls. And as a dad of young girls, Saturday mornings mean pancakes. Become creative in your pursuit of being gluten/wheat free and you will find there are some amazing recipes using alternative flours which many will find are much tastier than the original. I have made almond, coconut, buckwheat crepes, with a modification of the classic Julia Child’s recipe, and my kids love it (yes, you have to go light on the coconut for most, or eliminate it totally depending on your taste). Once you get the hang of non-wheat flours (and you have to experiment a bit, which is a lot of fun and makes for very good family time), you will find ways to re-create some nice recipes you have always like that are in most cases tastier and lower-carb) Don’t drink a lot of beer. I can never say never in regards to beer because Guinness taste soooo good on a cold January evening by the fire, but have it very occasionally, and yes, you can try some of the gluten free varieties (they don’t always taste that good). The good news is: the fermenting process can break up the gluten in the beer, lessening the content. And though I can only say this from personal experience, if you choose beers like Guinness, ie dark, bold, heavy, you are probably not going to have 6 of them. Maybe 2 on a weekend, at best. This may be punishment for some, that is, if you considering switching to wine a punishment!
h) Read, read, read. Weight loss has a lot to do with brain power, but not willpower, aka being lazy, gluttony, or sloth.It’s really about changing your percpeption of the world. Information is the key, and constantly reading books, blogs, and experimenting with new ideas and techniques will lead to sustainable weight loss. I do not try to push ANY of my ideas on anyone. I write a blog, and I love food. I don’t judge anyone by what they eat, and frankly, people are free to eat what they like. But still, people come to me all the time with questions on how I did it, and ask me is this try and why? There is a ton of misinformation out there, and a lot of ‘selling of the holy grail’ out there which the ‘average joe’ feels intimidated by. My goal is to have everyone aware with good information. The best possible to make a good choice. If they still choose to eat junk food, fine. But I honestly believe people want a healthy a good life, if not for themselves, then for their families.
i) Finally, learn how to cook. It is sad but true that we live in times where cooking has become a lost art, but you don’t need to be a chef to cook well. You just need some time and passion and willingness to ruin a pot every once in a while, which is sometimes not an easy thing to do in a modern society. The fact is the act of cooking real food is more and more becoming an act of protest and subversion (ie slowfood movement). It is sad to think , but with so much pressure from our daily lives to work, make money, be better in some way or another, and beat someone to the punch, so to speak, our time to eat, and more importantly, our time that we spend with the ones we love eating, gets squeezed. Cooking with your children is one of the best ways to spend family time together. Don’t miss out on it. Eating together is not only important, it is who we are as humans. I sincerely believe that most of the values you teach your kids, most of the memories that last the longest, most of the moments that have the deepest meaning in our lives are centered around food and the different rituals each of engage in to enjoy it together. Perhaps, there is an argument to be made that we have better lives in a modern society, but frankly, this comes as a cost. Many things in life are essentially zero-sum games where there is a winner and a loser. In this case, the ‘better’ life may impinge severely on the good life and good relationships you develop with your family. I am not saying that everyone needs to make a home cooked meal every night. The demands of daily life sometimes preclude that. But likewise, don’t miss out on the joy of spending time with your family and your kids cooking and eating together. This will not only help you keep wheat out of your diet, but more importantly, it will help you keep in some the most lasting and beautiful moments your life.
That’s not a bad trade off–switching out bread for the body with bread for the soul!