Tips for transitioning to a gluten-free diet
When I look back at what I used to eat, it seems like everything was based on gluten. Cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, cookies for snacks, and pasta for dinner was a normal day for me. When I made the transition to a gluten free diet, I didn’t know what I should be eating. Or even what I could eat!
I started buying rice pasta, rice cakes, gluten-free flatbreads. I bought a gluten-free product to replace each and every wheat product I used to purchase. None of it tasted good (though I do have to admit that GF products have come along way in the last 10 years!) and none of it was satisfying. On top of that, while being gluten-free helped with some of my digestive symptoms, I was still suffering from fatigue, bloating and other complaints.
I began to realize that a lot of the gluten-free foods I was buying were simply junk food! They seemed to be even starchier than their wheat counterparts and often included MORE sugar or additives to make the gluten-free grains act like gluten-containing ones.
They were devoid of many nutrients and severely lacking flavor, serving only to satisfy the intense carb cravings I had. So I decided to take a more whole-foods approach to eating gluten-free! I was tired of feeling bad and so tired of spending more money on food that didn’t taste as good.
In reality, I felt a bit of relief over not having to master the art of gluten-free baking flours, which I had avoided trying because it seemed so complicated!
Instead of finding replacements for wheat in my meals, I started changing my perception of what made a meal. I realized I didn’t have to have a starch or grain every time I ate. I now rarely eat starchy foods with my breakfast, opting instead for a higher fat and protein meal with a little bit of fruit. Some of my favorite dinners are just meat and vegetables with nice rich sauce.
What I noticed right away was how much better I felt.
No longer was I filling up on food with few nutrients. I was eating plenty of whole food with lots of vitamins, minerals, healthy protein and fats. I ended up going completely grain- and sugar-free and never looked back. The bloating, digestive upset and fatigue finally started to go away.
Before, I had been gluten-free for 6 months but had not seen much healing take place. Going on a more whole-foods, grain-free diet got rid of many of my symptoms right away. It was also a lot less stressful in the long run. I didn’t need to spend time in the kitchen figuring out complex recipes and ratios of gums and flours. Simply cutting up some meat and vegetables was the basis of all my food preparation.
KISS your meals (keep it simple, stupid)
Simply incorporate some naturally gluten-free sources of starch into meals. Sweet potato, squash, beets, carrots, turnips, and parsnips are all good choices. White potatoes are good too, just make sure to mix it up and don’t rely on them for every meal.
Which reminds me, one thing to watch out for is variation – it’s pretty easy to fall into having rice or potatoes with every single dinner! When I stopped eating all grains, it started to feel like I was having potatoes with every meal so I just decided to do without a starch for a few meals and really enjoyed it.
Make sure when you grocery shop that you pick up a variety of foods to choose from!
- Visit a store with a good selection of produce.
- Pick out fruits and veggies you haven’t tried before!
- If you are purchasing food for only 1 or 2 people, buy smaller amounts of more variety.
- Find other sources of meat and seafood available locally. (To save money, I did bulk orders for meat and chose cheaper cuts and organ meats as well),
- Any vegetable can be stir-fried! (Something I learned from eating a lot of Chinese cuisine – anytime I’d try a new veggie, I’d simply stir fry it)
After a while, I learned to keep my meals very simple and I focused on learning a few quick and easy recipes I could rely on for busy work days. Because nothing is worse than being hungry at the end of the day and realizing that you either have to spend an hour in the kitchen cooking your dinner. I wanted food that was so easy to prepare that it was faster than me going out to get “fast food”!
While a grain-free pizza or zucchini-noodle lasagna can sound good, chances are the first time you attempt dishes like that you will be overwhelmed with how long the process takes. New to us recipes simply take longer to prepare as we constantly view the recipe to find out what to do next and in-depth grain-free cooking can get tricky. And I know I have limited capacity when I’m tired at the end of the day and “hangry” to boot.
The following three tips I learned have saved me from so much stress as I worked to change my dietary plan:
- The slow-cooker became my best friend. Tough but nourishing cuts of meat were easy to cook in it and I could quickly put them in the slow-cooker before I left for work which left me with only a few minutes of prep time cooking up some veggies before dinner was ready!
- You don’t need to use sauces or broth if you use cuts of meat that are on the bone. As it cooks, it will flavor itself, often only needing salt & pepper to taste good.
- A whole squash can be cooked in a slow-cooker so you don’t have to fuss with peeling, chopping or hovering around a hot stove waiting for it to finish.
- Keep the multi-step recipes for a night when you have extra time. When you find recipes you love this way, then you can work to have certain parts of them prepped before you get home, making them a quick and easy dinner!
Simple meals and snacks from a few basic ingredients can be delicious and nourishing.
My transition to a gluten free diet was difficult at times. But, I managed not to get too stressed out about making perfect meals early on. Not being afraid to experiment allowed me to come up with some pretty easy recipes. Also, finding a few websites to follow for recipe ideas helps tremendously. (though be careful about following people that only make extensive and time-consuming recipes!) Often it only takes a bit of inspiration to try something different, and you might end up enjoying it for a long time.
I have been following the SCD diet since January 2008 for self-diagnosed Celiac disease. As part of the diet, I don’t eat grains or sugar and I prepare all my food from scratch. I believe that food plays a huge role in achieving health and want to share my experiences in restoring my own health through a change in diet. The recipes I post follow the SCD and GAPS diet protocols but can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to eat Real Food.
Visit Kat at www.SCDKat.com
You can also check out all of the posts from the week we focused on wheat and gluten:
The Silent Cause to Poor Health – a fabulous, everyone should listen to podcast
Gluten Free Easily – a guest post from Shirley of GFE
Gluten Free Beauty – a guest post by Kristen of Gluten Free Beauty
Gluten, Grains, and Children with Developmental Issues – guest post by Cara or Health, Home, Happiness