Many people ask me if it’s healthier to be gluten free because they heard it was and were considering a change, despite having an allergy. My answer is usually yes and no, depending on how you go about it. Sure, it’s healthier if you cut down the amount of starches and carbohydrates you are eating and replace those with more vegetable and protein-rich foods. It’s also great to not have an allergic reaction if you are allergic. But often times the change from eating gluten to eating gluten free goes from eating regular gluten packaged goods to gluten free packaged goods. You get what I’m saying? Carbs to carbs isn’t healthier.
The Unhealthy Gluten Free Diet
1) Bread. Instead of eating a regular sandwich every day for lunch, you now eat a gluten free sandwich with gluten free bread made of potato, rice, and tapioca flour. IT IS healthier if you are allergic, because now you will not have the allergic reaction, but you are still eating a starchy, food-coma inducing sandwich. Most gluten free sliced bread like Udi’s and Rudi’s are 80 calories per slice.
2) Pasta. Instead of eating regular spaghetti, lasagna, and ravioli, you now eat the gluten free versions plus the same amount of cheese that come with these dishes. Italian food is probably the most fattening and carb-heavy food you can eat, aside from American cuisine. So while yes, you are not having the allergic reaction to gluten, you are still working on increasing your cholesterol and overall body fat.
3) Cookies and Crackers. Gluten free manufacturers LOVE to make gluten free cookies, you know why? Because with enough sugar anything tastes good and you know what sells best over just about anything in the world? Sugar. So again no gluten reaction, but it’s still a high sugar, high fat, high carb cookie. Crackers are just less the sugar. A lot of gluten free cookie and cracker manufacturers like to use cream, milk, and eggs in their products as well, which also makes these little snacks a high-dairy treat.
The Healthy Gluten Free Diet
1) Bread. Instead of eating a sandwich every day for lunch, how about a salad with lots of fiber and protein? Kale, spinach, brown rice, quinoa, cashews, almonds, kale chips, tuna, chicken, turkey, olives, cucumbers, carrots are a few of my favorite ingredients for a complex and filling mid-day lunch. I also like to make lettuce wraps with meat and rice cheese, along with vegetables, which is easy to make and definitely filling.
2) Pasta. I don’t eat a lot of Italian food and yes, it’s hard to replace the ingredient of many Italian dishes and actually make it delicious. Egg plant is a great replacement to lasagna noodles and spaghetti squash or shredded zucchini is a healthy replacement for spaghetti. I use alternative cheeses like almond or rice cheese instead of regular cheese, to lower fat content.
3) Cookies. I don’t eat cookies, plain and simple. I can’t handle most sugar anyhow, so it’s good to cut it out. If I do occasionally eat a cookie or a treat I look to Skydottir Cookies or Jodee’s Desserts for a treat. Both bakers are vegan and use high fiber, low fat, and low-glycemic index alternative sweeteners in their products.
4) Crackers. There are many delicious gluten free cracker brands out there as well, but I just recently turned to a new brand I found called Go Raw Flax Snax, crackers made of flax, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds flavored like pizza other herbs. They are so good! They also have a cookie that is made out of raw coconut and ginger, also very good.
5) Vegetables. All in all it’s important to eat more vegetables. One way I am able to do this is juice every other morning. I like to make juices that are strictly low sugar vegetables, so carrots and beets are usually not on my list. I do use tomatoes which have some sugar, but mostly cucumbers, celery, kale, spinach, lemon, and ginger. Combinations of all these with a little apple or carrot definitely makes them taste better, but after awhile you get used to the taste and feel amazing to boot.
Don’t get me wrong, I still eat gluten free breads, pastas, and crackers on occasion, mostly once or twice a week when I really want it, but for the most part I try to cut out the carbs, fat, and sugars for an all around healthier and more nutritional diet. Eating gluten free can definitely be healthier and I can only hope celebrities or gluten free advocates in the public sphere educate people about what is actually healthy and what is not when it comes to eating gluten free.