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Eating grain free: is it really good for you and how do you do it?

Eating grain free takes eating gluten free to another level. You might want to eat grain free if you need to heal inflammation in your guts or other parts of your body. You might need to do it if you have thyroid or autoimmune issues. Or you may want to do it short term as a cleanse.

Good news. It’s not as hard as it may sound! The key is to change your mindset and to do a little prep work.

eating grain freeFor you carb fiends, changing your mindset is crucial. Admit, you may miss the grains at first – otherwise you’re not much of a fiend. It may take a few months are even longer, but you may grow to not even like them so much (yes, it’s often the case!). And you will need to add other healthy whole foods to fill the void, at least until your stomach adjusts to feeling less full or bloated. Amen to that.

And if you’re trying to lose weight, this is bound, although not guaranteed, to help.

Eating grain free vs gluten free

First of all, become friends with the term “paleo”. “Paleo” refers to a caveman style of eating, or eating the foods that naturally exist on our planet rather than those that are made or processed using chemicals or synthetic ingredients.

More specifically, the paleo diet excludes grains, dairy and alcohol. Hold tight. Don’t panic. Read on.

If there is anything you truly miss when eating grain free, just Google “paleo xyz” and you will find a recipe for it. Paleo pizza, spaghetti, cheesecake, you name it.

And say you want to still eat dairy? Just modify the paleo recipes to include your dairy ingredients.

Dabbling with paleo recipes will expose you to lots of new ways to make old favorites.

Second, plan out some meals. (Sigh, I know. But planning prevents stress and choosing whatever’s convenient ,which is usually not so good for you.) Sometimes even on the typical American diet, it’s hard to figure out what’s for dinner every night. Planning and cooking ahead can take lots of stress out of your unpredictable nights.

Planning doesn’t have to be too time-consuming. Cheat off of a paleo meal plan, like this one from my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways, to spare yourself some of the mental work.

Lastly, identify the grains you rely on most and how you intend to replace those. That way, when you’re in a crunch, about to reach for your ol’ grainy friend, you can stop and reach for your replacement before you die of hunger!

Your new grain-free go-tos

Here are some common grains and suggested new go-tos while you’re eating grain free.

  • crackers, chips, bars                > raw veggies (oh so many to choose from!),                                                          kale or root veggie chips
  • bread                                          > lettuce leaves, put it in a bowl or make your                                                         own grain-free bread or paleo tortillas
  • buns                                            > slices of zucchini or sweet potato
  • cereal                                          > make your own grain-free cereal
  • pancakes                                    > paleo pumpkin pancakes (love these!)

You’ll get more results from eating grain free if you add in healthy foods, especially those high in fiber. You still need fiber, just not via the grains. Your best option? Learn to love the leafy greens! You’ll find many of them, and many ways to prepare them. And they offer loads of minerals and nutrients you may not have been getting before. Here are just a few:

  • kale (raw in salad or smoothie, sautéed, chips)
  • Swiss chard (raw, sautéed, roasted)
  • romaine lettuce (raw in salad or as a wrap, in smoothie)
  • collard greens (sautéed, blanched, roasted)

Also get fiber from these foods:

  • nuts and seeds
  • quinoa (a seed, but not deemed paleo because of it’s potential harm to your guts)
  • figs
  • berries
  • avocados
  • coconut (FYI – a fruit and not a tree nut)
  • beans and peas (legumes are not technically paleo)

Note that white potatoes are not a grain, but they have similar qualities and effects as grains (see the link above about quinoa). So if you’re eating grain free to heal your guts, you should also avoid using potatoes as a substitute.

Curious about going totally paleo? Read “Eating healthier: Is paleo the way to go?”.

In the meantime, if you’re eating grain free, just do a little prep work first. It will make your mission more relaxing and fun. It may be an eye-opening, gut-healing and life-changing experience!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.

What’s the truth about the autism and diet connection?

Get knee deep into the nitty-gritty about autism and diet. Be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised. Even scared. But for the love of your child, be informed.

The connection between autism and diet makes a profound statement about the link between other health-related issues and diet. If changing a diet can relieve the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders, how many other health issues might it improve?

Doesn’t research waver about whether autism and diet are truly connected?

Yes. Some studies weren’t big enough. Others had flaws. But some autism patients have experienced improved or removed symptoms by changing their diet. What if your child could be part of that “some”?

The Autism Research Institute considers a diet free of gluten and dairy a “crucial first step” for autism patients. It could be cornerstone in helping overcome autism or may help medical treatments work better.

Overcome. That’s a strong word.

More specifically, an article on Treatautism.ca discusses how a diet free of gluten, dairy, corn and soy has helped patients by:

  • increasing language skills (number of words spoken, complexity of sentences and conversational speech);
  • improving focus, cognitive function and ability to be “present”;
  • improving social interaction (with peers or siblings or in larger groups, initiating play and using toys appropriately);
  • reducing self-destructive behavior;
  • increasing digestion, sleep and immune function (I’m no scientist but these surely spark the other positive effects!).

Doesn’t it fill your heart with hope knowing a change in diet could free your child from some of these struggles, whether from autism or not?!

Start battling autism by changing the diet

Where do you begin?

  1. autism and diet glutenRemove gluten and dairy from the diet for at least 3 months, as recommended by the Autism Research Institute. Know that many pediatricians or general physicians do not yet believe in the connection between autism and diet. But do what’s best for you, even if that means finding a more supportive doctor. Inform everyone who takes care of your kids so they can support your effort. (I typed up a letter with instructions when my kids did gluten-free during a month of school.) It doesn’t have to be that difficult – keep reading for more relief.
  1. Keep a food journal. Start tracking the foods your kid eats and ANY symptoms. Use this free template, which lists also symptoms you may not normally relate to food. The journal is key because if your child has only an IgG (immunoglobulin G) response to a food, as opposed to a more obvious IgE response, it can take up to 72 hours for the symptom to surface.
  1. Use typical gluten and dairy substitutes in moderation. Consider giving up corn and soy, too, since they 2 of the Big Four products, typically containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs – yikes!). These may cause more symptoms. It’s better to replace gluten and dairy with vegetables including leafy greens and sweet potatoes, which provide essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, vitamin D and zinc.
  1. Consider using supplements so your child gets enough essential fatty acids and probiotics. If your child has leaky gut syndrome, talk to a naturopath about a product with L-glutamine to help heal the gut, too.
  1. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people with autism spectrum disorders may have narrow, obsessive interests, which makes getting them to eat healthier foods more difficult. Work with a naturopath or other experts to educate your child about his choices. Sometimes your kid needs to hear it from someone besides his parents!

Also consider consulting Brian Balance Achievement Centers if your child has autism or spectrum disorders. A colleague told me about this rather rigid program you have to commit to for several months at a time. It includes changes in diet, sensory activities, at-home exercises and more. But his son wanted to do another session of it because he was so happy with the results. His teenage son wanted to commit to the rigid plan.

As explained on the website, “The Balance 360 System progressively removes foods that contain gluten, refined sugar and dairy. These foods are known to have negative reactions on brain, leading to food sensitivities and inflammation, causing negative behaviors, physical symptoms and learning challenges.”

More and more centers and people are seeing relief of complex, brain-centered symptoms by changing the diet.

autism and diet

Too often, we think we are depriving kids of the food they love. In reality, they’d be happy to starve the symptoms that restrict their livelihood.

I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to have a child with autism. I certainly am not downplaying the magnitude of it. Diet is not the answer to everything. And changing the diet may not help you or your child.

But it might. It could. It could make a marked difference in all the symptoms listed above, and more – whether they are a part of autism or another health-related struggle.

So isn’t it worth a try? See if your child might become part of the “some”. Read Eating gluten free made easy – what to avoid and what to eat and Eating dairy free with a busy lifestyle for practical ways to make the changes more easily. It could be life changing!

 

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Eating gluten free made easy – what to avoid and what to eat

Does the idea of eating gluten free make you cringe because of the foreseeable agony it will surely cause you? You may feel short on the time you need to do it. You may not know where to begin. Or maybe you’ve tried it before and just need some fresh ideas to make it easier.

Eating gluten free doesn’t have to be a downer. And for some, it’s a must.

So read up and breathe easier – maybe literally since going gluten free may relieve your allergies like it has mine.

What foods do you need to avoid when eating gluten free?

Inhale. First, know that all wheat products contain gluten. This includes farro, kamut, barley, rye and spelt.eating gluten free gluten foods

But you will also find gluten in these other grains and ingredients: bulgur, couscous, durum, einkorn, emmer, farina, graham, matzo, semolina, wheat germ, wheat starch, some caramel color, “stabilizers,” “flavors”, “colors” and bouillon.

Unfortunately, many sauces, condiments and soups contain gluten, because it’s a thickening agent. And it’s in many lunchmeats.

Finally, because many grains are processed using the same equipment, rice or oat products may not start out with gluten in them. But after being processed on equipment used for wheat, they end up with pieces of gluten-containing wheat in them.

What in the world can you eat instead, when eating gluten free?

And exhale. While you will need to avoieating gluten freed standard wheat products and even those with “ancient grains”, you can opt for breads or crackers with the gluten-free (GF) label.

I suggest choosing products with the “GFlabel as well as the “USDA Organic” or “Non-GMO Project Verified” label. Otherwise, you may end up with certain brands that though gluten-free, may contain modified food starch and other not-so desirable ingredients.

Ditto this for sauces and condiments. And for gluten-free soups and salad dressings. In fact, consider making your own. My go-to homemade gluten-free salad dressing is a 1:1 mixture of raw, organic apple cider vinegar and organic extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper, whisked with a fork. I make extra and have it on hand, shaking it before each use. Add lemon, lime or other gluten-free spices as you wish.

If you eat chips, cereal or anything else made of corn, make sure they are labeled gluten-free and organic.

When baking, choose flours from other gluten-free sources including: amaranth, arrowroot, GF rice, GF oats, buckwheat, cassava, nut flours, potato, quinoa, tapioca or yucca. Find a more extensive list of options on page 50 of my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways, as well as many more ideas of how to fill the gluten void throughout your day.

Want more ideas?

  • Boar’s Head and some other deli meats are gluten free.
  • Use large lettuce, kale or kohlrabi leaves instead of sandwich bread. Consider using zucchini or sweet potato slices (somewhat firm) for buns or noodles (with help of spiralizer).
  • Sweet potatoes became key to me, to help me fill fuller without all the grains. I didn’t use to like them, until I had them sliced and on the grill. Also try them mashed, sautéed or roasted in the oven with a little cinnamon.
  • Add other starchier vegetables such as kohlrabi and cauliflower (riced, mashed, as hummus). Eat more peas, beans and potatoes if you digest them well.
  • For an occasional gluten-free grain as a side, choose gluten-free rice or quinoa, which is technically a fruit!
  • When snacking on the run, grab some raw veggies or fruits you cut ahead of time. Grab a handful of nuts or plantain chips. Make your own paleo crackers or snack bars ahead of time or buy GF versions in stores.
  • Sweet potatoes and paleo sausage make a great breakfast. Look for a good gluten-free flour (I buy this one) for your pancake cravings, or make one of my favorites, paleo pumpkin pancakes. The pumpkin adds fiber and makes them more filling than regular pancakes!
  • Instead of your usual cereal, opt for gluten-free oats or quinoa, made even tastier with fresh fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, nuts, flax seed and so much more.

Don’t let the idea of eating gluten free freak you out! You have so many options, many of which may pleasantly surprise you.

It will take more time and some planning up front. So does building a new deck, playing a new board game, using a new TV and so on. But you are worth it. And it will become natural to you after a little practice.

Eating gluten free can open up a whole new world of foods to you. (Just Google “paleo” anything for a truckload of ideas.) Avoiding gluten may open up a new realm of health and energy for you, too. Embrace the opportunity, get creative and enjoy!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Getting to the root of your thyroid problem and how your diet can help

thyroid problem and solveYour thyroid is key to your health in many facets. It impacts your brain, heart, liver, kidneys and skin. It plays a part in your mood, weight, energy, sex drive and so much more.

According to ClinCalc.com, 3,450,708 prescriptions for thyroid medication were written in 2014. This doesn’t include people who haven’t been diagnosed with thyroid problems. Because lack of energy, depression and poor metabolism can be attributed to busyness, stress and genetics, for example, some people don’t realize they truly have a thyroid problem.

In some cases, taking thyroid medicine is a must. But similar to antibiotics, thyroid medication seems to be overprescribed.

What’s wrong with taking thyroid medication?

Let me repeat. Some people absolutely need thyroid medication.

But in other cases, the medication could be masking another culprit. In Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal?, Datis Kharrazian discusses how in a patient with Hashimoto’s disease, also called autoimmune thyroiditis, her immune system attacks her own cells and organs, including the thyroid gland. As the thyroid gets inflamed, it loses its ability to produce thyroid hormones, which can result in hypothyroidism.

According to thyroidbook.com, Hashimoto’s is the cause of hypothyroidism in 90% of Americans who have it. So for these patients, the root problem may remain unsolved.

Because studies have linked Hashimoto’s with gluten intolerance, Dr. Kharrazian suggests that all sufferers of hypothyroid stop eating gluten all together. Basically, when you have this autoimmune dysfunction, your body sees gluten as an enemy and attacks it. So your body could be in constant attack mode.

If you determine that gluten is your enemy, you may also want to avoid gluten cross-reactors, which are foods your body can mistake for gluten. Thepaleomom.com identifies these foods as cross-reactors: brewer’s/baker’s yeast, corn, instant coffee, millet, oats, potato, rice, sorghum, as well as casein, casomorphin, butyrophilin, whey and milk chocolate due to the dairy proteins.

How should you treat a thyroid problem?

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, constipation, dry skin, increased sensitivity to cold, unexplained weight gain, a puffy face, hoarseness, muscle weakness, elevated blood cholesterol levels, muscles aches, joint pain and/or swelling, irregular periods, thinning hair, slowed heart rate, depression and poor memory.

Symptoms of hyperthyroid include irritability, muscle weakness, sleeping problems, rapid heartbeat, heat intolerance, diarrhea and weight loss.

First, if you have these symptoms regularly, ask your doctor to have your thyroid tested using the full panel that identifies levels of all four hormones (reverse T3, free T3, free T4 and TSH). The typical thyroid test only gives you one general level, which often falls into the normal range, leaving your thyroid problem undiagnosed.

Second, give up gluten. Giving up gluten may or may not be a replacement for medication. But even if you need medication, giving up gluten could allow your immune system a much-needed break. The following foods contain gluten:

  • wheat
  • rye
  • barley
  • bulgur
  • couscous
  • durum
  • einkorn
  • emmer
  • farina
  • faro
  • graham
  • matzo
  • semolina
  • wheat germ
  • wheat starch
  • some caramel color
  • stabilizers
  • some flavors
  • colors
  • bouillon
  • many sauces, condiments and soups some lunch meats

For flours and starches, consider using amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, cassava, chestnut, Job’s tears, nut flours, quinoa, taro, teff or yucca. For starchier sides, think beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

Note that some doctors, especially in our western part of the world, do not necessarily link gluten to thyroid issues just yet. If yours does not, you may want to consult one who does, at least for a second opinion.

It’s difficult to deny. Trends in both numbers of health problems and people intolerant to gluten have skyrocketed in recent years. Whether it’s the gluten or the GMOs typically used in producing gluten that are so harmful, we can only speculate for now.

If you have or suspect a thyroid problem, work with a doctor to get a full thyroid panel done, change your diet and determine the best mode of treatment based on your findings. It’s just another example of how changing your diet can be a life-changer!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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10 reasons to eat healthier that may surprise you!

reasons to eat healthier plate of foodYou’ve heard a thousand reasons to eat healthier by now, surely. It’s almost become a social or fad thing.

Well, I consider myself a bit of a rebel. Not a conformist. Not a fad follower. And not a lover of those things mainstream.

But, I do eat quite healthily. Mostly because I am tired of all the allergy and sinus struggles for so many years. After tons of money spent looking for easier answers and then probably several near punches in my face from my holistic doctor, I caved and decided to follow her “orders” to change my diet. (She has never even rolled her eyes at my ridiculous arguments, never mind ordered something.)

I eat 95% gluten and dairy free, with limited grains, and still take some natural supplements and products. But I’m not taking any over-the-counter or prescription meds. And the past couple of years, I have been much less congested with fewer migraines.

So now I have to keep from rolling my eyes as I hear stories from friends and family members who suffer chronic symptoms, or have constant doctors’ visits, but still won’t try changing their diets to see if that helps.

A’hem. I know where you all are coming from. I do. But please learn from my stupid rebellious mistakes before your health gets worse. Or before you become a cancer or other statistic. Or so your kids will have a chance at better health.

These good reasons aside, I’ve learned, the hard way, 10 reasons to eat healthier that may surprise you. Which can you relate to? “I should eat healthier:

10. to save money. What, you say? Organic, healthy stuff costs way more than other stuff. Try Trader Joe’s, Lucky’s Market, some local markets or vitacost.com, for a few. Even if you do pay more, you may buy less and therefore eat less, which may not be a bad thing. You may eat out less often. And imagine the oodles of money saved with fewer doctors’ appointments and medicines.

9. to increase fertility. Many factors besides diet play into fertility. But your body could be sensitive to gluten or gluten cross-reactors without obvious symptoms. Sensitivity to these foods can mess with your hormones, which can include thyroid function and fertility.

8. to sleep better. Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Not 6. And children need even more. Check out National Sleep Foundation’s latest recommendations broken down into age brackets. Sleep helps your body repair itself and prevent stress and anxiety. So healthy diet >> better sleep >> better health all around. Sleep is key.

7. to reduce arguments with your kids. Sound crazy? First, MSG has been linked to temper tantrums. Food dyes (e.g. Yellow 5, Blue 1, Red 1, etc.) can cause aggressive behavior especially in kids. Remove the junk. Bonus, if you enforce healthier eating over time, you surely won’t hear “but do I have to eat this?” or “I’m not eating this” so much because you have changed your lifestyles, period.

6. to improve concentration. Upset stomachs, irregular bowels, anxiety and so many more symptoms can distract you or cause “brain fog”. These same symptoms can mess up your sleep, which will make you less focused during the day. It’s a vicious cycle!

5. for better gut health. Aren’t the effects from electromagnetic fields, pollution and daily stress hard enough on your body? Eat healthy, anti-inflammatory foods that let your body digest foods without working so hard. Good gut health can help prevent heart disease, cancer and you name it. Plus, it can help you maintain a healthy weight.

4. so I can breather easier. Friends in St. Louis, we live in one of the worst cities for pollen and mold allergies. Wherever you are though, eat less inflammatory foods and your sinuses may be less inflamed! Breathe easier. Maybe even watch your asthma disappear!

3. so my skin will clear up. Hives, rashes, fungus, acne. All things skin.

2. to help correct behavior problems. Medical expenses, infertility issues, brain fog, gut issues, chronic sinus problems or lack of sleep? Of course these could cause depression, anxiety or anger. But some foods can physically cause aggression, depression, irritability, fatigue or non-stop talking. Find more about foods (even healthy ones) and the symptoms they can cause on page 47 of my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways.

1. because I can. When I asked my then 3-year old boy why he asked so many questions, his smile-filled response was “because I can”. He could. He should. And he still does. Likewise, the #1 reason to eat healthier is because you can.

If you need help getting started, read my book, visit my Facebook page, check out some other articles in my blog or sign up for my free monthly newsletter.

Refuse to be the rebel here. Just eat healthier. Because you can.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Reap the health benefits of pumpkin year-round

benefits of pumpkinLong live the deliciousness and health benefits of pumpkin. Just because we’ve already sailed through Halloween and Thanksgiving, it’s not time to put the pumpkin craze to rest. From jack-o-lanterns to pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread and pumpkin latte and…this hearty, fruit-producing vegetable adds color and spice to the holidays. But read on to learn the wonders it can do year-round.

Health benefits of pumpkin

Maybe you’ve roasted your pumpkin seeds before. Or maybe you haven’t—they are a little intimidating, all tangled up in the stringy insides of something that appears to be so darling on the outside. But don’t let looks scare you. Use those precious seeds as medicine. Pumpkin seeds provide:

  • phytoestrogens, which help prevent high blood pressure.
  • tryptophan, which supports production of serotonin and improves your mood and quality of sleep.
  • beta-carotene which helps prevent cancer.
  • phytosterols, which reduce our bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Moving on to the meat of its benefits, pumpkin also:

  • provides fiber, which helps keep your digestive system moving the toxins out. That fiber helps you feel more full and satisfied, which is a bonus for us grain-free folks.
  • replenishes your potassium after a workout (it may even muscle that banana out of first position).
  • supports healthier vision, skin and bones due to the vitamin A content. According to this Huffington Post article, 1 cup of pumpkin provides more than 200% of the daily vitamin A recommendation.
  • supplements your zinc intake. For men, this helps maintain testosterone levels and male sexual health. Wait—come back and stay with me for a few more minutes!

How to prepare pumpkin

So how do you prepare these power gourds of nutrients?

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut your pumpkin (not your carved one!) across the top to cut off the stem. Then cut it lengthwise in half.
  3. Scrape out the seeds and stringy pulp and set them aside.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put each half of the pumpkin face down.
  5. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1-2 hours.
  6. Scrape the meat of the pumpkin out of the rind, which can be thrown out or composted. Then cut the meat into small pieces and puree it in your food processor.

Try this recipe from takepart.com, for roasting the seeds without the wrestling match.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. For every 2 cups of seeds and pulp, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (and light salt or other spices as desired) and toss.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the seasoned seeds and pulp in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  4. Stir every 15 minutes, baking for about 50 minutes or until the seeds are crisp and the pulp is caramelized.
  5. Let cool and enjoy.

New ways to eat pumpkin

Now that you realize how easy it is to reap the benefits of pumpkins, what exactly can you do with it?

Of course, pumpkin makes many desserts divine. But this is a blog about healthier eating.

Consider packing the seeds as a snack or sprinkling them on a salad or vegetable medley for extra crunch.

And you can perform magic with the puree. Here are my favorite 5 uses:

  1. Whip up some paleo pumpkin pancakes. Delicious. Easy to make. Super to freeze for future breakfasts on the fly. They also double as sandwich bread in a pinch.
  2. Use pumpkin instead of, or in combination with, nut butters in healthy baking – bread, cookies, etc. You don’t have to completely abandon the treats!
  3. Bake paleo pumpkin bars. See notes above about potassium and mood. Eat and energize any time of day, even on the go.
  4. Create a hearty paleo chili without tomatoes. This is a gem for me, since tomatoes don’t love me and I miss them dearly.
  5. Add pumpkin to your smoothie (#5 on my list because as much as I want to love smoothies, they just aren’t as satisfying as chewing food).

For even more information about the health benefits of pumpkin, as well as additional recipes, check out this article on jenreviews.com! Mmmm, pumpkin hummus!

Take advantage of the plentiful health benefits of pumpkin by incorporating it into your everyday diet, instead of just making it part of your October and November binges and décor!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.