There are no free lunches.

white-horse-01My diet is a lot of “free” – including gluten. But my interpretation of “gluten-free” is very different from popular opinion.

A lot of people are ditching gluten because they want to lose weight. Yes, eating less grains will promote weight loss because it’s taking a lot of calories out of your diet (and possibly inflammation as well). Most people are inclined to eat more grains – and more calories than we need. It’s easy to eat more than we need of them because on their own, they don’t have a lot of fat which is one of the things that triggers satiety when you’ve had enough of it.

Being gluten-free doesn’t automatically translate to healthy. Or even weight loss. What you are eliminating in wheat and other gluten containing products, you are adding in other nasties like potato  and tapioca starches. If the ingredients on a bag of gluten-free bread are unpronounceable, a person might as well be eating Wonderbread.

That’s not to say that there aren’t decent quality gluten-free products. There are whole food options that don’t contain gluten like Silver Hills products, but the idea is to reduce the amount of grains, if calorie reduction is the goal. As well, you don’t need to get rid of all grains. Quinoa and brown rice are great grains that don’t have gluten and you can eat in moderation. And let’s be honest, brown rice isn’t that delicious that you are at risk of over-indulgence.

Adding more vegetables and fruits is key in maintaining a  gluten-free lifestyle. Yes, you can replace whole wheat wraps with collard greens. But if reducing grains is the plan, it’s time to think beyond the sandwich, the taco, the pasta bowl and so on.

A roasted vegetable platter with chickpeas and a quarter cup of brown rice is amazing. Blanched and sautéed rapini is perfect with a filet of salmon. Steamed kale chilled and served over romaine can make a great taco salad, eliminating taco shells. The opportunities are endless for vegetables.

If you are dairy tolerant and enjoy playing in the kitchen, Yotam Ottolenghi does a fantastic set of cookbooks with vegetable recipes. Produce Made Simple is a website with vegetable recipes and information on how to buy produce. There are numerous resources available for adding more vegetables.

So if you are looking at eating healthier, reducing calories or eliminating inflammation, take the advice of Michael Pollan: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

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