Should You Go Gluten-Free? How?

by Guest Writer

This past week I decided to challenge myself and to experience what it is like to eat gluten-free. At first my gluten-free week was a daunting task, but I gradually learned which foods are naturally gluten-free and discovered many substitutes for gluten-containing foods. While this new diet was an exciting project and I mastered finding gluten-free products, I realized that being gluten-free is not for me. Not because I do not want to worry about what I can and cannot eat, but because eating gluten does not harm my body and I can eat healthy with it in my diet.

Those who have celiac disease, are allergic to gluten, or experience sensitivity to gluten, eat gluten-free because they have to. However, many people now eat gluten-free in order to try a new diet or because they think gluten is bad for them. Most people who follow a gluten-free diet for weight loss end up losing weight just because they are eating less. Moreover, gluten is not harmful to the body unless you do indeed experience intolerance. In fact, it is good for you—while gluten itself does not offer special nutritional benefits, many whole grains that contain gluten are rich in vitamins and minerals. People who eat gluten-free may have low levels of vitamins and nutrients including: iron, calcium, fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.

BUT if you are allergic to gluten or eat gluten-free by choice (whether for diet or for a challenge), you have to be careful when deciding what food you can and cannot eat, always reading labels to be safe. Furthermore, you have to make sure to consume the proper amount of vitamins and to focus on the fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy, and gluten free grains and to avoid the gluten-free goodies!

Always avoid all food and drinks containing:

  • Barley (malt, malt flavoring, and malt vinegar are usually made from barley)
  • Rye
  • Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
  • Wheat

Here are the wheat products to avoid:

  • Bulgur
  • Durum flour
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Kamut
  • Semolina (this is what couscous is made of)
  • Spelt

Thus, in general, you have to avoid the following foods unless they are labeled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:

  • Bagels
  • Beer
  • Breads
  • Cakes and pies
  • Candies
  • Cereals
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Croutons
  • French fries
  • Gravies
  • Imitation meat or seafood
  • Matzo
  • Pastas
  • Pizza
  • Pretzels
  • Processed luncheon meats
  • Oats (commercially processed oats that is)
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces, including soy sauce
  • Seasoned rice mixes
  • Seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Soups and soup bases
  • Vegetables in sauce

During my gluten-free for a week I ate many gluten-free alternatives, as well as healthy foods that are naturally gluten-free, including:

  • Beans, seeds, and nuts
  • Fresh eggs
  • Fresh meats, fish and poultry
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Most dairy products

Here are a few things I made throughout the week, as well as the ingredients:

Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Pancakes

  • 1 cup gluten-free flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup milk (you can also use yogurt, buttermilk, or non-dairy milk)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ounces gluten-free high % cacao chocolate, finely chopped

Sweet Potato Wedges

  • 1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder (you can also use Rosemary or your favorite spice mixture)
  • 1 Medium Sweet Potato, scrubbed, peeled or unpeeled, and cut into thin wedges

Quinoa with Black Beans

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups gluten-free vegetable broth
  • 1 cup black beans, drained, rinsed
  • ½ cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

All of the above ingredients are gluten-free, delicious, and easy to make! With increased knowledge, as well as patience and creativity, a gluten-free diet became easier. However, whether or not you find it a hassle, the real issue is serious nutritional deficiencies and you have to ask yourself: should you go gluten-free? I felt healthier this week because I was eating real food instead of processed package food, but I can do this with gluten in my diet. If you have to be gluten-free be sure to be healthy about it and if you don’t you can easily be more aware of healthy foods that both contain gluten and do not.

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