A friend recently inspired me to write this post by asking me…
“What do you eat then?”
I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to write this post, because I get asked this question all the time!
The whole gluten thing is really catching on, and for good reason. Trust me, gluten free is not just another fad. Gluten, and wheat in general, are bad news. If you want to know why, read my gluten article.
But for now, I would just like to share with you how I manage to stick to a gluten free diet, and what I eat.
I have been gluten free (for the most part) for about 2 years now… and I can honestly say that I do not feel deprived at all. My husband, who doesn’t have any known allergy to wheat, eats gluten free because I do most of the cooking But he doesn’t feel deprived either. My point is that life does go on after wheat. However, it is true that it can be difficult to stick to a gluten free diet- especially when you are are just starting out. So, if you want to succeed on a gluten free diet, I’ll have to let you in on a few secrets:
Secret # 1… Have veggies with everything! Gluten free is actually a perfect opportunity to load up on veggies. Whether it be a salad or steamed broccoli, have them with every meal.
Secret # 2… Look into other grains that are filling, but that do not have gluten, such as millet, quinoa, and rice. Serve them as a side dish. Also, replace wheat tortillas with brown rice tortillas or corn tortillas.
Secret # 3… Eat more beans. Beans are often overlooked. However, beans are filling, frugal, and very healthy for you.
Secret # 4… The Internet. If you are ever feeling uninspired, go online and look for a recipe.
Secret # 5… Look for gluten free items at the store. It’s actually a wonderful time to be gluten free! For example, I found… wait for it… gluten free donuts at my local grocery store! You can also find gluten free cookies, waffles, pancakes, pastries, and pizzas. If you like to bake, there are plenty of excellent gluten free flours out there. (But keep in mind that these things, gluten free or not, should be treats, eaten only on occasion! Gluten free doesn’t mean healthy. In fact, many gluten free processed foods are not organic, and are filled with GMOs, and other questionable ingredients. For info about why you should eat organic, go here. Also, packaged gluten free items can be expensive. Therefore, I’m only suggesting this so that you know it is an option, and that it is not hard to find gluten free versions of things you really love. If you must know, my favorite gluten free item is Pamela’s pancake mix! The closest to “real” pancakes in my opinion. And the ingredients pass my test )
Secret # 6… Think outside the box. Who says you can’t have salad for breakfast? Why don’t you have scrambled eggs with a side of beans? And it’s not so weird to eat a hot dog wrapped in a corn tortilla (Actually, I highly recommend this. Tastes kind of like a corn dog).
Secret # 7… Gluten is hidden in a lot of processed foods. So get used to the idea of eating whole foods and get used to the idea of cooking. But really you should be avoiding processed foods anyway. I feel that one advantage to being gluten free is that I eat a lot healthier now.
Secret # 8… Sprouted bread. This will not work for you if you have celiac disease or a severe reaction to gluten because sprouted bread still contains gluten. But, many people can eat sprouted bread without experiencing negative symptoms! This is because all grains are more easily digested when they have been sprouted. A popular brand of sprouted bread is Ezekiel Bread. But my favorite brand is Oasis Sprouted bread.. I find other sprouted breads to be sort of dry, but the texture of Oasis is a little softer. I have served it to people and they did not even know it was different from commercial bread! If you choose to eat sprouted bread, eat it in moderation.
Secret # 9… Plan! It has been said that if you fail to plan you are planning to fail. If you do not happen to be rich, you have to get used to making meals at home. This takes a little bit of planning. I try to sit down once a week and make a list of at least 6 meals. Then I write down what I need to buy from the grocery store in order to make these meals. When you don’t have a plan for dinner, it’s tempting to go out and grab fast food, or to fall back on unhealthy convenience foods. Also, when you make something, make a lot! That way you will have leftovers for lunch the next day.
Here’s a sample menu of what we might eat in a week:
Mon: Chicken n Rice With a Side of Salad
This dish consists of chicken that has been cooked and then diced on top of a large bed of rice and peas. And the side of salad is actually more like an entire extra plate of salad.
Tues: Lettuce Wraps
Similar to a taco or burrito with all the meat and toppings, but wrapped in large romaine leaves instead of a tortilla.
Wed: Beans n Rice With a Kale Salad on the Side
Just like it sounds. Beans, when prepared with the right spices, are delicious! Add some rice and it is literally a meal.
Thurs: Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, and Steamed broccoli
Fri: Sauteed Garlic Eggplant with some sort of steamed veggies on the side: carrot, green beans, broccoli etc.
Sat: Large Salad With Everything On It (I’m talking onion, tomato, broccoli, avocado, egg, cilantro, etc.). Sometimes I might make the hubby a couple veggie sandwiches on sprouted bread while I eat my salad.
Sun: Brown Rice Pasta.
Many stores carry rice pasta. Often times we will add veggies to the pasta such as broccoli or zucchini. I’ll even do lasagna- with brown rice lasagna noodles.
Living without bread does take some getting used to. But I think the main thing to remember is that you need to increase your intake of veggies, and other grains such as rice. And you can still have your meat and potatoes! I think it is also helpful to learn to work with spices and different flavors so that you can make different versions of the same thing. For example, I might do a stir fry with ginger as the secret ingredient, or I might do stir fry with sesame oil as the secret weapon. Same thing, different flavor.
And I just love wrapping things in lettuce! I’ll never forget the day I made carne asada. The real deal.. I marinated it for like 2 days and everything! I prepped all the fixings just like you would when you are doing carne asada tacos… except, I used large romaine leaves instead of tortillas. My husband LOVED it. And we had guests over that night for dinner. They loved it too. In fact, I had rushed out at the last minute to get some flour tortillas from the store because I knew our friends were not gluten free. So I was surprised when they kept reaching for the lettuce and making lettuce wraps with the meat and all the toppings. When I inquired about their strange behavior they simply said, “Actually, we like it better with the lettuce.” So basically, anywhere you would use a bun or a tortilla, try lettuce. I even do cheeseburgers protein style (wrapped in lettuce, no bun). You will be surprised how good lettuce, instead of wheat, will be. And so much healthier!
Now I know there are people who are really into making gluten free versions of things that are normally not gluten free. I do that occasionally, but for the most part I opt to eat food that is already gluten free: veggies, fruit, meat, cheese, beans, potatoes, etc. And I like to keep things simple. I have about 10 meals that I rotate. These are meals that I can pretty much make without following a recipe and we eat them on a regular basis. And then once a month or so I will try something random, or fancy. Having a set of go-to meals really cuts down on the stress.
Anyway, keep in mind that regardless of whether or not you have an allergy to gluten and/or wheat, wheat is not good for you. The wheat we eat today is processed very differently from the way it used to be. Our bodies simply do not handle wheat (or most grains) very well. Modern wheat and gluten has been linked to a myriad of health problems: IBS, eczema, chronic fatigue, depression, headaches, weight gain…So think of going gluten free as a healthy lifestyle change. Instead of bread, eat more veggies! Eat more fruit! Drink more water. And be patient. It takes time. When I first attempted the gluten free diet, I was constantly cheating- trying to get my wheat fix. Or I would search far and wide for the perfect gluten free substitute. But at some point you do need to accept the fact that there really is no perfect substitute for that fluffy goodness. And then you will move on and experience all the other non-wheat foods the world has to offer. You can live without wheat- I never thought I could but look at me now!
So, ”What do you eat if you don’t eat wheat?”
My answer is… EVERYTHING else!
By the way, if you would like specific recipes, let me know!
Feel free to share this post with your friends and fam. And leave me a comment or email. I love hearing from you!