A Gluten Free Lifestyle | February Series | Week 4

The past 3 weeks I've been sharing about a Gluten Free Lifestyle
In Week 1 I introduced the series and I shared my personal story as well as what gluten is. Read Week 1 here.

Week 2 discussed how gluten affects the body and the symptoms you may be noticing if you have a gluten intolerance. Read Week 2 here.

Last week I shared my food philosophies, how I structure my diet and my favorite products. Read Week 3 here.

For this final week, I want to provide you with some information on how you can transition to living a gluten free lifestyle, as well as some helpful tips.

Here are 3 different methods to start living gluten free:

1.     If you feel too overwhelmed to go completely gluten free, choose one day a week that you will eat gluten free. I suggest swapping out your regular meals for gluten free ones on SATURDAYS or SUNDAYS. The work week can be stressful and packing GF lunches takes a little bit more effort, so start by eating gluten free every Saturday or Sunday. As you feel ready, start turning more days into gluten free days and eventually you will have a higher ratio of GF days than gluten days. As you take time to plan meals and integrate it over time, it should feel less overwhelming and more manageable.

2.     Another method is to eat gluten free for one meal every day. Maybe you still eat your regular foods for breakfast and lunch, but you commit to eating GF every night with your family for dinner. Soon you will have a repertoire of healthy and easy dinner recipes and then tackling breakfast and lunch won’t seem so daunting.

I do want to say that if you have been advised by a health care professional to cut gluten out of your diet or a child’s diet entirely, then the methods above may not work as well. These methods are intended for those who want to adapt a gluten free lifestyle or who have gluten intolerances but who want to approach it slowly while they learn more about it. Also keep in mind that you may not notice an alleviation of symptoms if you progressively cut it out one day a week or one meal a day; however, for a lot of people, starting with one step and moving forward as you learn and understand more is the key to succeeding. Often times, jumping in full force without knowing enough about it or without the right tools and planning leads to stress and frustration and then sometimes giving up entirely. Whatever method you need to stick with it, go that route!

3.    The final method is diving in head first! Maybe you’ve been thinking about going GF for awhile and you feel ready to commit. You’ve talked with your family/spouse about it, you’ve gathered information and you have some ideas of ways to swap out regular foods for gluten free foods. Many people refer to this as “purging” or “going cold turkey.” You get rid of all the gluten in your house/frig/pantry and you commit to only buying gluten free food (free-range, grass fed, organic poultry and meats, free range eggs, fresh or frozen (organic if possible) vegetables/fruits, brown rice, quinoa (gluten free grains with protein, not empty starches) and you use those ingredients to make balanced meals.

Bottom line, you know yourself better than I know you. Whichever method you feel led to try, start there. You can always try a different one if the first one flops!

Don’t focus so much on buying products labeled GLUTEN FREE. 
>> To be blunt, I think most gluten free bread is pretty bad. No matter how much I’ve toasted it, buttered it, etc., I didn’t enjoy it. It was too dense and it didn’t satisfy me. But some people love it (my mom loves it with peanut butter). Also, I don’t care for most gluten free pastas. I always try steer clear of any high starch, high carb grain, and I was never satisfied with how gluten free pasta tasted. Again, I have friends and family that LOVE making spaghetti with gluten free noodles. Bottom line: modify your diet to suit your tastes but just because it is GF does not mean you have to buy it or should buy it, keep in mind that you might not like it.

 (One exception is gluten free lasagna noodles...these can be found at most every grocery store now and I make lasagna with them when I entertain or for holidays and no one even notices they are gluten free! I think this is because they are baked versus boiled)

>> I focus on SWAPPING rather than REPLACING. Can I SWAP a serving of noodles for a serving of brown rice? Yes. That is much easier (and often healthier if you are eating a small portion) than REPLACING regular noodles with gluten free noodles.

>> Refer back to the rule of thirds of how your diet should be structured: 33% complex carbs, 33% protein, 33% healthy fat. Choose one protein per meal and then add veggies or fruits (complex carbs) based on what you’re in the mood for or what is in season, always being sure to get healthy fats in also -- through fish, nuts, avocado, unrefined oils, etc. Add 1/2-1 serving of grain/starch per person. For us, when we have a grain side, we rotate between brown rice and quinoa. I dress it up in different ways and despite eating it on a regular basis, it is always so good and so satisfying that I don’t miss pastas, breads and other items that are loaded with carbs.

>> Take your favorite recipes and MAKE THEM WORK FOR YOU! Turn them GLUTEN FREE by modifying the ingredients. Maybe a recipe calls for regular flour, swap it with Cup4Cup GF flour (sold at William’s Sonoma, Trader Joe’s, Costco and other stores). Most of my favorite recipes were not originally gluten free. I found them, wanted to make them, and turned them into gluten free recipes by swapping out a few ingredients and putting my own twist on it. Plus part of the fun of getting in the kitchen and cooking is being creative and trying new things!

>> Ask your local health foods store or Whole Foods Market if they have any gluten free mixes other than the traditional boxed ones. The Whole Foods Market near me features different gluten free bakeries every month and they sell their mixes right in the store. I recently discovered some of the most amazing chocolate cake I’ve ever hadand plan to make it for my daughter’s 1st birthday! Whole Foods Market is a great resource, as they cater to a wide variety of specialized diets.

Keep in mind that the most basic and the most raw version of a food, the better it is for your body. 
>> The reason gluten intolerances and celiac diagnoses are spreading like wildfire these days is because the way wheat is produced is dramatically different than it was even one hundred years ago. Our bodies were not made to digest such genetically modified, processed foods. We were designed to eat raw food that came from the earth - before it was processed and packed with countless chemicals.

>> Find snacks that you love and that satisfy you. My husband and I love raw nuts and dried fruit. A lot of granola bars contain gluten and they’re not incredibly healthy. We try to eat snacks that contain protein (to satisfy you and fill you up) and fiber. Another great snack is a little turkey and sharp cheddar cheese or a handful of berries or carrots. If you pack snacks and have them handy, you’ll be less likely to reach for prepared products with gluten.

If a child has already eaten gluten, it will obviously be slightly harder to take it away, BUT the good news is that most children are still very malleable that you can start offering new foods and cut out gluten and (hopefully!) they won’t even notice.

If you’ve gotten through all 4 weeks of this series, I applaud you!

Above all else, as you start to modify your own and your family’s eating habits and cut out gluten (and maybe even dairy), I imagine you are going to start feeling much better. Maybe your skin will improve and look healthier, maybe your joints won’t ache, maybe some of your health conditions will subside, or maybe you’ll just feel like you are filled with vim, vigor and vitality on a daily basis in a way you’ve never experienced before! Whatever it is, I would encourage you to try it out and start in small ways with simple steps.

Spend an hour sitting down and sorting through your favorite recipes. Are there any that are already gluten free? You might be surprised at how many recipes are naturally gluten free
Others may require getting a little creative. If there is something you love to make, think about how you can swap out ingredients to turn the recipe gluten free. Don’t be afraid to try new recipes. Some may fail, others may become your new favorite dishes! 

Watch cooking shows that you might not normally watch -- you may find a new favorite! 
(Or start to watch them if you don't already)
One of my ALL TIME favorite recipes -- skillet almond shortbread -- was from Trisha Yearwood's Cooking Show...first off, at the time I didn't even know she HAD a cooking show and second, I didn't think I would find anything I cared to make. Well, one Saturday morning as I was flipping the channels, I stumbled upon her show and watched as she made almond shortbread. It wasn't naturally GF so I just swapped out all-purpose flour for my Cup4Cup GF flour and it has become one of our favorite go-to recipes, especially for holidays!

When you're out to dinner -- ask the hostess for a GF menu -- some of our favorite restaurants cater specifically to GF eaters and I've discovered some of my favorite dishes through asking for a GF selection.

Above all, getting connected with others is something that has been such an encouragement to me, where I can see photos of and read opinions on other recipes that I may want to try in the future. Talk with friends and family; share and swap your favorite tried-and-true GF recipes. Try to get connected with online GF groups and start reading some gluten free blogs. It is amazing how many resources are out there once you begin to look a little!

Who knows, you may fall in love with living gluten free and wonder why you didn’t start sooner! 
And feel free to contact me anytime with any and every question -- I certainly am not an expert on the topic but I love getting connected to my readers, especially regarding topics I am so passionate about! 

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