Monday, September 9, 2013

Going gluten-free

Since living in South Korea (and being exposed to so many different eating styles) I have learned so much about food.  Living there, we really didn't have a chance to eat fresh food (because of the expense) unless it was grown locally.  Here in the US, we have so many fresh food delivered to the grocery stores from all over the world that we can eat produce all year around.  Not having that in SK really opened my eyes to what my family SHOULD be eating.  And also how we could afford the good food as opposed to the easy food.

It has been about two years since we have been in the US and I have learned and started feeding my family very differently in that time.  I could go on and on (and have - check out my past blog entries) about changes we have made, eating fresh and local produce, finding a raw milk farm, experimenting with vegetarian meals, but the biggest change I have made is dropping anything with gluten (mostly wheat and soy products) in the ingredients from my menu.

Let me be clear when I say my children are not on a gluten-free diet.  They still are offered bread, cereal and pasta (and anything else they want within reason) at their meals.  I have not decided that this would be a permanent lifestyle change yet, but am leaning heavily towards it.  This wasn't a fluke decision, it has been something I have researched for a while and have read and educated myself on from multiple different sources (my resources are included below).

I made this choice for multiple reasons:

 I am unhappy with the extra body weight I have gained in my midsection.
 I already wasn't on a carb heavy diet and this isn't really impacting my meals that badly.
 I am concerned about my nutrition and the impact gluten has on it.

I am unhappy with the extra body weight I have gained in my midsection.
I have never gained weight in my stomach before - hips, thighs, love handles (check, check, check) - so when I noticed a considerable bulge spilling over the top of my waist band I got a little concerned.  Since noticing it, I have done lots of ab work outs but it hasn't seemed to affect it.

I already wasn't on a carb heavy diet and this isn't really impacting my meals that badly.
Really this hasn't been that dramatic of a diet change for me.  It has involved more food research, digging into labels and researching healthy alternatives (more on that later), but it really hasn't caused me to make any major changes in my lifestyle.

I am concerned about my nutrition and the impact gluten has on it.
This was really the starting point for me on why I even started considering going gluten-free.  I read and read and watched and read until I realized everything I heard all sounded the same.  And I decided that this is the way I want to live.

My Resources:

If you haven't watched "Forks over Knives" yet I HIGHLY recommend it (it's on Netflix).  It was very eye opening into the world of food and how the industry has become corrupt.  

"FORKS OVER KNIVES examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn." -

"Farmageddon" is another food documentary that made me disgusted with the way industry has taken control of farms and production.  This is also available on Netflix and is what really started me looking into raw milk production and cow shares here in Michigan.

"The movie tells the story of small, family farmers providing safe, healthy foods to their communities who were forced to stop, often through violent action, by agents of misguided government bureaucracies.  The movie succinctly poses and addresses the question “why is this happening in 21st century America?”  Evoking both sympathy and anger for those farmers violently shut down by overzealous government policy and regulators, Farmageddon stresses the urgency of food freedom.  Though the film deals with intense scenes and dramatic situations, the overall tone is optimistic, encouraging farmers and consumers alike to take action to preserve individuals’ rights to access food of their choice and farmers’ rights to produce these foods." -
I read Wheat Belly - William Davis MD and it talked about the change in the actual wheat seeds and plants, how they have been mutated to where they offer little to no nutritional value anymore.  He explained how the new wheat and gluten we are accustomed to are causing high blood pressure, weight increases and diabetes.
I read A Feast Nearby - Robin Mather about the importance of supporting local farms and local economies and eating wisely on a budget.
I read Farmer Jane - Temra Costa about how women are taking a more active role in local farms and community supported agriculture programs.
I read multiple posts by one of my favorite bloggers Wellness Mama about how "grains are slowly killing us". 
What helped the most was this website The Gluten-Free Diet.  It was very informative and lists a ton of resources if you have further questions or concerns about going gluten-free.
So after I made the decision:
I started trying to figure out what I could and couldn't eat and this article was incredibly helpful:  Gluten-Free Food List  All in all, it is ten pages long but is incredibly in depth and provides links to lists of brands of gluten-free foods.  I love that it goes aisle by aisle in the grocery store to provide a full and detailed overview of gluten-free products.
Also I started looking and reading labels much more closely at our own grocery store.  
Things that you wouldn't necessarily think would have gluten in them:
BBQ sauce
Soy sauce
Premade Asian sauces
Prepackaged frozen meatballs
Candy bars (with wafers or cookies)
Ice Cream (with cookies)
Any prepackaged spice packets (taco seasoning, chili seasoning)
Tortillas and chips (check to make sure 100% GF)
Luckily, there are a few companies that have caught on to this gluten-free lifestyle change and have started offering alternatives.  Below are pictures of food products pulled from my pantry that we have been enjoying these last two months.
Soy sauce and Asian products really threw me for a loop at first.  I didn't realize how much of them contained wheat.  Thankfully Kikkoman has started marketing GF soy sauce and also this brand "San-J" sells GF soy sauce and other marinades and stir fry sauces.

We also buy most of our crackers and chips from the brand "Food Should Taste Good."  I love that they include quinoa in their products for added protein.  We usually get the big bags of crackers and tortilla chips from Costco for really reasonable prices.  The tortilla chips are vegan too!

Thai Kitchen is the foremost seller of rice noodles in the Asian aisle of our grocery store and so we usually get those when we cook Pad Thai or other stir fries.  I really like the Rice Sticks, they remind me a lot of the glass noodles from South Korea (but be prepared for a more sticky consistency).  For regular Italian dishes, we usually use Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta for our noodles.  I like that they still have the same consistency as wheat noodles and are cheaper than some other brands available.  You can order quinoa pasta in bulk directly from Ancient Harvest cheaper than from Amazon, but I have found that the price per box is relatively the same price as what I pay in our grocery store.

For all our baking goods, I have been buying the individual packs of Bob's Red Mill GF flours and mixes.  We can get two to three full sized pizzas from one of these packs, so I think it ends up being worth the price of the mix.  

I am seriously looking into buying a Vitamix as they can grind rice, almonds and oats into flour to make my own all purpose GF flour - and no more buying individual mixes.  But I haven't gotten to that stage yet.  

Lastly is alcohol.  If this area is no concern to you, that is great!  But this is one section I had completely overlooked until I got to my Dad's cottage and decided I wanted a cold beer by the lake.  That's when I discovered Angry Orchard hard cider.

I also discovered a whole new world of beer and ciders that I had never even heard of!  

Fox Barrel, Ace, Angry Orchard, Woodchuck, Bard's, New Planet, New Grist (not pictured), Crispin (not pictured) ...
All of these are delicious and all are GF!

There are lots of gluten free alternatives out there, but what I have read mostly leans away from eating prepackaged GF food and choosing healthier options.  Lettuce wraps instead of bread (try a hamburger in a lettuce wrap - will blow you away).  Veggie and protein noodles instead of wheat noodles.  Corn tortilla chips instead of flour ones.

If you are thinking about starting this as a lifestyle change, I advise you to try it out.  I started with going 30 days wheat free.  If you are worried you won't be able to make it completely off gluten, try limiting it to one meal a day.  Wait until you start running low on a wheat item and buy a GF one instead.  

It has been 11 weeks since I started and I really don't miss it that much.  It would be easier to eat wheat sometimes like at family get togethers or out to a restaurant.  But how I feel afterwards reminds me that I am making healthy choices.  I have noticed since giving up gluten that when I have eaten it (on accident and purpose), I get symptoms similar to food poisoning, headaches and exhaustion.  Obviously the gluten has some kind of affect on my system, so why would I want to poison my body with that?  So instead we save money and don't eat at restaurants or I bring my own food alternative with me.

While it would be easy to pick up and order a pizza, if you are eating GF you really have to plan your meals accordingly to make sure you always have something you can resort to.  I try to plan out our five meals for the week and have extra protein items (like deli meat, cheese, eggs and peanut butter) to make a go-to meal.  I have noticed that if I keep a box of pasta or cooked rice and beans aside, it is really easy to whip something up that the whole family can eat rather than prepare something GF and non GF.

The kids have started asking me about food, if it has gluten in it, why I don't eat it.  As of now, I have resorted to letting them make their own choices.  Gabe has decided to eat a little of both, he really enjoys lettuce wraps and rice with beans, but prefers not to eat quinoa.  Zander and Calla are still a little young to decide for themselves.  If we are doing something I know is a favorite (like Jimmy John's), I expect them to stick to eating a sub sandwich with bread and am not encouraging or discouraging the lettuce wrap option.  Like I said before, I haven't decided if this is going to be a full lifestyle change yet or if I am going to be the one that sticks with it.  I don't feel comfortable making this decision yet.

I hope this helps answer any questions or shed any light on my decision to go gluten-free.  I am not fully advocating for every single person I know to abandon wheat, I am stating that this has helped me.  This has helped my body and my journey in eating as healthy as I can.  There are a ton more resources out there and I am constantly finding new and awesome recipes for gluten-free food!  Make sure to follow me on Facebook and on Pinterest so you can stay updated too!

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