How To Go Gluten-Free Without Giving Up Your Favorite Comfort Foods

6 Lessons Easy

About this course

Fifteen years ago, I was living in New York City, eating oversized bagels with cream cheese on Sunday for brunch and chomping away at monster blueberry muffins on my way to work. I thought I was healthy.

A few years (and two kids) later, we were experiencing horrible digestive issues and belly bloating. I felt permanently sluggish and let’s just say my skin had seen better days. My three-years-old son was complaining about tummy pains after meals and my one-year-old was diagnosed with asthma. So the three of us paid a visit to Dr. Sue, my Naturopath, to see what the heck was wrong with us. After an evaluation she proclaimed:

“Have you tried switching to a gluten-free diet ?”

My response : “W hat the heck is that?”

And so, with some hesitation and worry that we would never eat amazing breads and pancakes ever again, we began our education and journey toward cleaner eating. It’s been a little more than a decade and we’ve never looked back.

What makes you interested in trying out a gluten-free lifestyle?

Maybe you have Celiac Disease or are gluten intolerant, meaning that this new way of eating is a medical necessity. Perhaps you’re trying to tackle ongoing belly bloat. Or maybe you’re just looking for a way to ditch a couple of those pesky pounds. Whatever the case, I’m excited to help you kick off your Gluten-Free (GF) journey.

Before we go any further, let’s quickly chat about gluten—what it is and what it means to eat “gluten-free.”

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is the name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, spelt, barley, triticale (a cross between wheat and rye) , malt, brewer’s yeast, and wheat starch. You may have heard people refer to the substance as a “sticky protein.” That’s because gluten acts like glue, helping foods maintain their shape and texture—just think of a brick loaf of bread or perfectly round muffin.

While gluten is technically a protein, you may associate it with the carbohydrate family since it’s most commonly found in bread, pasta, pizza crust, crackers, cereal, muffins, pancakes, cake, etc.

The Evolution Of Gluten-Free Eating

When I look back at the gluten-free diet 10 years ago compared to today, it's astonishing how much it’s evolved.

When I first transitioned, my family and I had to give up many of our favorite comfort foods. That was before gluten-free eating became the trend.

Back then, grocery store shelves didn’t look like the ones today, stocked with ready-made gluten-free breads, frozen meals, real Italian gluten-free pasta, and dozens of flour substitutes. When my family dined out, restaurants didn’t feature a gluten-free section on their menu, let alone have entire restaurants dedicated to gluten-free dining.

Today, gluten-free eating is so much more doable than it’s ever been. By applying a little flexibility to your regular cooking, you don’t have to give up any of your favorite foods. And, these days, gluten-free treats can be just as delicious as their gluten rivals (if not more so…but hang on, I’m jumping ahead) .

As the ease of eating gluten-free continues to grow, so too do the misconceptions about it being a “healthier” choice. Because processed gluten-free foods are so readily available, going gluten-free alone isn’t necessarily a ticket to better health.

The Naturally Gluten-Free Diet

I use the term “naturally gluten-free” to represent the way GF eating used to be, and how it should still be about 85-90% of the time. Naturally gluten-free eating include clean, wholesome foods such as:

  • Meat and Poultry
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Dairy (if you include dairy in your diet)
  • Healthy Oils

There are also a number of naturally gluten-free grains and starches. They include:

  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Potato
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat
  • Arrowroot
  • Amaranth
  • Teff
  • Corn
  • Tapioca
  • Sorghum
  • Soy

This means your meals should look more like oven-roasted chicken with quinoa and broccoli rather than gluten-free pasta with sauce and cheese. Most of the time anyway.

Going-Gluten-Free The Healthy Way

Rather than asking yourself if you should adopt a gluten-free diet or not, a better question is: What foods am I actually piling onto my plate?

It’s important to note that just because a cookie is gluten-free, doesn’t mean it’s healthier. A naked baked potato is naturally gluten-free, but that doesn’t mean you should eat five in one day. Potato chips may earn that “gluten-free” stamp of approval, but if you blow through a whole bag in one afternoon, it’s not going to serve your body.

So how should you get started toward a path to better, gluten-free living? Follow these simple tips:

1. Limit Gluten-Free Treats to Occasional Splurges

Okay, so this course is called “How To Go Gluten-Free Without Giving Up Your Favorite Comfort Foods.” And, as you may expect, in the upcoming lessons, you will learn all about gluten-free baking and creative ways to re-create healthier versions of your favorite meals. With my flexible food philosophy, I believe we should all be able to enjoy a little bit of everything in life (even wine , chocolate, and your favorite treats).

Here’s the general rule: Follow the 90/10 way of eating, where you eat a clean diet 90% of the time and splurge about 10% of the time. Think of building a natural diet with a foundation of vegetables, fats, and healthy proteins. Then add in the occasional splurge with GF treats reserved for a once-and-a-while indulgence.

2.  View Sugar As ‘Just As Bad’ As Gluten (Or Worse)

Refined sugar is lurking in practically all manufactured boxed and bottled foods. It’s even included in crackers, condiments, dressings, and other food items you may not expect. Then, there are the natural sugars found in fruit, honey, and maple syrup. Add it all together and even the most health conscious person likely eats more sugar than they think they do.

The problem?

Studies show the white stuff can lead to a rainbow of health issues, including diabetes, obesity, cancer, leaky gut syndrome, inflammation, tooth decay, and skin issues.

And it doesn’t end there.

Researchers have found sugar stimulates certain brain pathways and can actually become addicting. In fact, sugar cravings are compared to those induced by addictive drugs like nicotine and cocaine. This is a huge problem since the average American diet is loaded with sugar.

If you think you’re addicted to sugar then try going cold turkey for a few weeks. No sugar—not even fruit . By eliminating the sweet stuff for a period of time, you’ll actually put your taste buds in training to stop yearning for the super sweetness. Once you reintroduce sugar into your diet, keep your intake at a moderate level. If you’re consistent, the elimination of sugar may eventually even stop you from craving it altogether!

3. Consume An Abundance Of Fresh Foods

Once you eliminate the filler foods then you’ll have room on your plate—and in your stomach—for the good stuff. When organizing your meals for the week, I recommend including some type of vegetable in every meal—yes, even breakfast. Maintain a well-rounded diet by also including quality proteins, good fats, and a moderate amount of starches.

When it comes time to dig into your meal, I recommend eating your vegetables first. Try eating a salad before your main course and then move onto the chicken, fish, meat, or whatever featured protein is on your dish. Save the rice, potatoes, or other starches for last. This way, if you get full before scooping the last bite of food onto your fork, you can feel good knowing you prioritized the most nourishing elements on your dish … and you might be so full you’ll pass on the last few bites.

4. Always Have A Healthy Treat An Arm’s Length Away

When you’re starving, you’re likely to reach for a fast fix. Oh yeah, we’ve all done it. My poison of choice is chips; for my kids it’s a bowl of sugary cereal when they come home famished from school.

To avoid impulse eating, fill your pantry with various nuts, seeds, and nourishing snacks to munch on. Cut up some vegetables and keep them in an easy-to-find shelf in your fridge. Also, I’m a huge advocate of whipping up fresh snacks and storing them in the freezer for later.

Lesson Challenge

Keeping in mind tips 1-4, spend the week cleaning out your kitchen. Remember: A healthy kitchen provides the foundation for a healthy you. Just think about it—if all you have in your fridge is kale and salmon then you’re going to eat kale and salmon! That’s why, one of the first things I encourage you to do when transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle is give your kitchen cabinets, pantry, fridge, and freezer a through cleaning.

Start by getting rid of all the gluten-filled foods that you no longer want to eat. If it doesn’t serve you in some way then just toss it!

Next, arrange your food so all of the fresh and nourishing items are at eye level. On the flip-side, if you have any gluten-free junk food that you plan on keeping to munch on during splurge days then keep it tucked in the back of your pantry or some other place where it’s out of direct eye sight. You know what they say: Out of sight, out of mind.