Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Simple Gluten Free Lifestyle

Today's post is a guest post I wrote for Erin @ $5 Dollar Dinners earlier this year.
I thought my readers would enjoy the columns I shared with her back in early June about basic gluten free living. I hope for readers who are new to a celiac diease or are just starting a gluten free diet for health reasons, that this post will inspire you with simple, easy tips for a delicious gluten free life!

I started a gluten free diet in August 2007. I decided to go gluten free because I thought it would cure or at least reduce the terrible migraine headaches that I had been living with. I have had migraines as long as I can remember. Between migraines, panic attacks, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal distress I was not living well. My life was not healthy or fun.

In July of 2007 I discovered Shauna at her blog, Gluten Free Girl. After reading her beautiful thoughts on how she truly began to live after becoming gluten free I was inspired and intrigued. Upon further online research I found that many people either with celiac disease or a wheat/gluten intolerance had symptoms similar to mine: frequent migraines, GI distress, allergy-like symptoms: nasal/sinus congestion, etc... And by that point, I was willing to try ANYTHING to get rid of my migraines and simply feel better in general. I thought going gluten free could possibly help me.

Gluten Free For Life.

It took several months for me to see the full effects of how going gluten free affected my whole body positively. The results were not immediate, but over time I could tell that my migraines were fewer and I felt MUCH better overall. I felt healthy for the first time in my life. Despite being overweight, I felt like for the first time I was eating whole, natural foods that were healing my body. While my migraines did not go away completely until I began therapy for high blood pressure in 2008, I realized how incredibly sensitive I was to certain foods! Namely any foods with gluten, soy, and casein and/or dairy.

I am not diagnosed with celiac disease. But I am very thankful to be on the gluten free diet. Going gluten free taught me to discover how my body reacts to food. Certain foods cause reactions when I eat them and now I am fully aware of foods that make my body healthy and foods that hurt me.

Going gluten free is a process. I am continually learning new things and changing my diet to help my body to become more healthy. In this journey I have discovered many things:

- I love to cook!

- I love learning about food chemistry and how it works in gluten free baking!

- That there are many, many foods out there I had not yet tried or had the joy of eating! I now LOVE trying new things!

- That my body reacts in several ways to all forms of gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, and due to cross-contamination, uncertified oats. I get nasal/sinus congestion along with gastrointestinal issues. From 1-3 days later, I will often have a terrible migraine headache.

- That my body severely reacts to any form of soy protein.

- That my body also reacts to certain dairy/casein products.

- That my body treats most simple carbohydrates as a "drug" and I have to avoid simple sugars/carbohydrates, white gluten free starches, etc...

- A vast amount of foods are already beautifully, simply, and naturally gluten free!

I have found that for me following a gluten free diet is easiest when you eat simple, naturally gluten free foods. As much as I enjoy baking, I don't often have the time it takes to do so, nor it is necessarily good for me due to the simple carbohydrates found in many gluten free flours. Meal preparations at our home have to be fast, quick, and healthy due to our work schedules. Our meals are usually based around fresh vegetables, a lean protein (when I'm not following a vegan diet), and a small portion of complex carbohydrates such as whole grain brown rice, sweet potatoes, or black or red beans.

Here are some examples of naturally gluten free meal choices that are frugal and healthy and in our meal rotations:

A few Naturally Gluten Free Breakfast Options:

- eggs, boiled, scrambled, etc...
- breakfast meat such as turkey bacon, sausage, etc...
- fresh fruit
- certified gluten free oatmeal -or- homemade corn grits
- breakfast wraps with scrambled eggs, a few tablespoons of salsa, and green onions wrapped in a warmed corn tortilla
- naturally gluten free cereal such as Rice Chex
- green smoothies made with fresh greens such as kale and spinach, plus fresh fruits added in along with hemp milk

A few Naturally Gluten Free Lunch Options:

- fresh homemade salads with homemade dressing
- sliced vegetables such as avocados, grape tomatoes, celery, green peppers, carrots, etc... with homemade dressing
- fresh apple slices with natural peanut butter -or- almond butter
- lettuce wraps with ham or turkey slices with sliced green peppers, mushrooms, etc...
- boiled eggs
- hummus with celery sticks and carrot sticks

A few Naturally Gluten Free Dinner Options:

- simple grilled or baked chicken with freshly steamed broccoli and baked sweet potatoes
- homemade caesar salad with grilled salmon -or- boneless pork chops served with steamed carrots
- super easy stir-fry using frozen vegetables and chicken or beef served over steamed brown rice
- easy homemade marinara sauce served over freshly roasted spaghetti squash with green beans
- simple crustless quiche served with a garden salad and roasted red potatoes
- quick ground beef tacos or taco salads using corn tortillas served with black beans and corn

One of the best things about following a naturally gluten free diet is learning the vast array of foods that you CAN eat! Take a simple walk around the perimeter of your favorite grocery store and search out new vegetables you have not tried before, try different grains, try new cuts of meat, learn how to oven-roast vegetables so that they caramelize in the oven. There are SO many wonderful food choices that are available to you!

Being gluten free has been a true joy for me and my family. We have learned how to cook and enjoy real, whole, and nourishing foods! In the next few weeks I will be sharing very simple, naturally gluten free, budget-friendly meals with you! Being gluten free does not mean that you will need to spend a fortune on food, you will simply need to learn what foods to buy that are safe and healthy for your family!

Here's to a healthy gluten free body!
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