Going gluten free has become a big trend over the last couple of years. This has been good news to people suffering from a gluten allergy because food companies and restaurants have started offering a lot of gluten free alternatives to their product lines and menus. I’ve always written people off going gluten free when they don’t need to as people just looking for another way to cut carbs and lose weight. It reminded me of the late 90s when everyone was either doing the Atkins or The Zone Diet. But I think I might have misjudged these people.
I suffer from a chronic pain illness and after a recent flare-up of pain my doctor mentioned that he’s had a handful of patients report that eliminating gluten has reduced their number of flares and made them feel better overall. I rolled my eyes at his suggestion, but thought more about and figured why not give it a try? If it makes me feel better, that would be awesome! If it doesn’t, well, I wouldn’t be any worse off. I knew that if I tried to make a big change overnight, I wouldn’t stick with it. I started slowly, making just a few tweaks to things like snacks and reducing carbs at dinner. Here are some easy switches I made to help reduce the amount of gluten in my diet.
- Lettuce or spinach wraps. Instead of sandwich bread or wraps for my lunch sandwiches, I use lettuce or spinach to make a tasty sandwich. My favorite right now is grilled Portobello mushrooms, red pepper, hummus and cheese wrapped up in spinach.
- Spaghetti squash. A super easy substitute for pasta is using spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash with broccoli, chicken and marinara sauce is an easy weeknight meal.
- Rice pasta. Another substitute for pasta is brown rice pasta. Its texture is stickier than regular pasta, but the flavor tastes like regular pasta to me.
- Sweet potatoes. I was already a huge fan of sweet potatoes so it’s easy for me to replace regular fries or mashed potatoes with sweet potato fries or mashed potatoes.
- Mashed cauliflower. Another replacement for mashed potatoes is mashed cauliflower. You can follow your normal mashed potato recipe but use cauliflower in place of potatoes.
- Almond flour. Almond flour is a great replacement in recipes calling for flour. Not only is it very tasty, but very high in protein compared to traditional flour. You can use it in anything from pizza crust to cupcakes.
Of course with any dietary change there are things you have to look out for and make sure you aren’t missing. Gluten-free products tend to be lower in many nutrients–including folic acid and other B vitamins, fiber, calcium, iron and vitamin D—than their gluten-containing counterparts. One way to combat this is by not relying too heavily on processed gluten-free replacements (like breads, cake mixes, pastas, cookies, etc…) and focusing on eating more real foods that contain these vitamins and minerals such as leafy greens, broccoli, eggs, meat and poultry.
I’m not completely gluten free nor do I plan to be (I like a good bowl of pasta at least once a week) and it’s too soon to tell if it’s helped with my chronic pain issues, but I will admit that since I’ve reduced the amount of gluten in my diet, I feel more alert and have a better feeling of wellness overall. Whether that’s just from increasing my intake of fruit and vegetables or from actually reducing gluten, I don’t know, but if I’m feeling better, I don’t think it matters.