By Lisa Cantkier (bio below)
From one celiac to another—when it comes to food, I can attest—less really is more. With the recent explosion of gluten-free products hitting store shelves, one thing is certain—the quantity of product selection is growing, however, the nutritional value of our food supply is becoming less and less certain.
For example, when you read ingredient labels, at which I’m sure you’ve become an expert detective, you may notice that many lists are quite long. Also, ingredient names may look unfamiliar to you. That is not a good sign when reading the label of a product you want to consume. Unfamiliar ingredients more often than not equate with additives, preservatives and chemicals that are very likely not good for our overall health. If you have no idea what those ingredients are, chances are you wouldn’t want them in your already fragile gut.
If and when you plan to purchase pre-packaged gluten-free foods, you are far better off to choose products that have ingredient lists that are short, and contain all-natural, healthy ingredients that you are familiar with. Try to avoid processed/refined foods, and foods that are high in sugar and high on the glycemic index. Your gut will thank you.
When cooking and baking fresh and from scratch at home, choose simple recipes made with wholesome, clean whole food ingredients. Choose organic ingredients when possible. Don’t forget your protein and heart healthy fats. Eat nutrient-rich vegetables and fruit, such as kale, broccoli and avocado. Replace rice with quinoa, and choose lean proteins such as fish and poultry. Add super-foods rich in antioxidants such as chia seeds, hemp hearts and flax seeds to cereals, soups and sauces. Use a spiraler to make your own quick noodles from sweet potatoes or zucchini. Bake homemade pizza and lasagna with an eggplant base. Use natural sweeteners such as stevia, coconut sugar and maple syrup to replace refined sugar. Use healthier cooking oils, such as high quality extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil in place of vegetable oils.
When reaching for snacks on-the-go, get your protein in there. Make a quick, all-natural smoothie with added fruit and pure whey protein. Reach for mixed nuts or dried fruit. Slice up those veggies and dip them in fresh hummus or another favorite dip like spinach dip. There are so many natural nut butters on the market today—I love cashew butter for its sweet flavor. Pair it with wholesome, crunchy quinoa crackers. If you can handle dairy, choose low fat cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. Try something new. Eat kale! Defrost some edamame. Try those sea vegetables in the produce isle.
Instead of buying what’s in the box, be prepared to think outside the box and experiment with new, healthy foods. Since celiac disease is a malabsorptive disease, every bite matters, and you want those bites to be nutrient dense. You might not fall in love with everything you try, however, you won’t know until you take that bite. Happy, healthy gluten-free eating!
Lisa Cantkier is a lifelong celiac, health writer and editor, and holistic nutrition enthusiast. She is the founder of GlutenFreeFind.com and a co-creator of GlutenFreeSmartStore.com. You can follow Lisa at @LisaCantkier