When I found out I had to go gluten free for medical reasons, I thought my career as a chef was over. Flour is in the foundation of cooking and the idea of having to eliminate it from my kitchen scared me. I started making a list of the things I would have to get rid of from my kitchen and quickly became discouraged. Gluten is in everything.
Then I decided to make a list of the things I could eat, and my attitude quickly changed. Page after page of ingredients on my “CAN” list far surpassed the list of “CAN’TS.” New ingredients popped up in my kitchen and my culinary techniques became more refined. My passion and respect for food grew exponentially and it was all because something I was reliant on was taken away.
Most people think that “gluten free” is a diet trend and that if you eat gluten free you will loose weight. More often this is not the case. Sure, being gluten free will make you less likely to reach for the breadbasket at a restaurant and more likely to order a salad instead of sandwich. Eliminating something as simple as bread from your diet helps you make smarter choices in general and can expedite a weight loss diet. It’s the food choices you make that ultimately determine whether or not you lose weight.
Here are four things to think about when considering a gluten-free lifestyle.
1) The biggest trap of a gluten-free diet is the gluten-free products that have been popping up all over the market shelves. These calorie bombs are something to be eaten in moderation. People think that eating a gluten free donut is somehow better for you than regular donut. A donut is a donut. Delicious, yes, but good for a diet? NO. Gluten free breads, pastas, and flours are something to be cautious about as they are heavy in starches which are high in calories, and low in nutrition and spike the blood sugar just as much as white flour does.
2) Is a gluten free diet for everyone? No. It depends on how you go about it. I always tell people whether or not you adapt a full gluten free diet, foods containing gluten should be eaten in moderation. The wheat we are consuming now is very highly processed; in fact it’s a far cry from what wheat used to be. This is the reason why we are seeing so many people with digestive issues popping up. Modern day wheat has little to no nutritional value it is very hard to digest, and causes inflammation which leads to a whole set of health issues.
3) I get approached all the time with people wanting to go gluten free. The conversations all starts the same “I want to go gluten free” or “My doctor says I should go gluten free” or “I tried going gluten free but it’s hard.” “It’s hard” is one of the biggest justifications people who want to eat gluten free have for not eating a gluten-free diet. Of course it’s hard, changing the way you live and eat is hard. It’s not like you are being asked to go to the moon, or anything. THAT’S hard. You are simply being asked to be aware of what you put in your face. That’s it. Hold yourself accountable to make smarter choices.
4) My advice is to follow a diet rich in the things that come naturally from the ground. The less processed the better. Fruits, legumes, high fibrous grains, vegetables and small amounts of protein are the ONLY way to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. If going gluten-free sounds intimidating, my advice is make a list of the foods you love on your CAN eat list and focus on those! Look up new recipes that use your favorite foods and get in your kitchen and cook! When going out, look up the restaurant online before you go and become familiar with what’s on the menu so ordering isn’t so stressful. These little positive changes in your life will dramatically help you stay on track.
If you do decide to go Gluten Free, here are 3 tips I’ve learned on my edible journey.
1) ALWAYS check labels on foods. Gluten is in things you wouldn’t expect like soy sauce, some toothpastes, gums, candies, lip balms, etc. Make sure it’s labeled gluten free.
2) If you live in a home where not everyone is gluten free make sure you are mindful of cross contamination. When I lived at home with my family I had my own set of cutting boards, and my own toaster. I have to be very strict on my GF diet because the tiniest amount of gluten would make me sick.
3) When going out to eat make sure you tell the waiter that you have a gluten intolerance and to please make a note on the order so the chef knows. Nowadays it’s a very common request in restaurants so chefs are used to it, and most likely are willing to accommodate.