Gluten Free – Not Really For Me

I concluded my three week experiment with a gluten-free food plan this past weekend.  Although my intentions were admirable and motivation commendable, this program did not meet my expectations.  The purpose of selecting a gluten-free diet was twofold: to eliminate some irregularities in my digestive system and to lose weight.  While I was able to lose a few pounds within the three weeks, there was no significant change to my sporadic abdominal discomfort.  The discomfort wasn’t painful, only occasionally bothersome.

 The plan was not an entire disappointment however.  Some of the enjoyable parts of this trial were investigating cooking with different foods, learning to eat only at certain times utilizing healthy snacks in-between meals and realizing what my physical thresholds are.  Alternately I discovered that gluten-free products are expensive and not always tasty (sweet).  If indeed I was tested and diagnosed with celiac disease, I would search out health food stores or online sites to purchase gluten-free products at a lower cost than what the average supermarket charges.  I would also learn how to bake gluten-free desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth, which I did not do during this project.  Fortunately, that won’t be necessary at this stage and I applaud those who are afflicted with this ailment and may have to go through a lot of trouble planning meals they can enjoy. 

 With the knowledge I learned about a gluten-free lifestyle, I have a better understanding of how certain foods interact with the body, what to avoid and what I can indulge a little in.  Some of the new foods I tried and enjoyed were quinoa, avocados and soba noodles. 

It was suggested by two family members to try either the Forks over Knives or Paleo diets.  The Forks Over Knives diet is a whole-food plant-based plan with restrictions of animal-based and processed foods.  Yikes, no meat?  I’m not sure about that one.  I’ve always been a “meat and potatoes” type of gal and not sure I can switch to becoming somewhat of a vegetarian.

According to thepaleodiet.com website, on the Paleo diet, you are permitted “fresh meats (preferably grass-produced or free-ranging beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and game meat, if you can get it), fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthful oils (olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, walnut and flaxseed). Dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods were not part of our ancestral menu.”  Hooray, I can eat meat on this plan…oh, but no sugars? 

Well, since I’m into researching food plans, I’m off to the library for some books on both and checking out a few of the top-rated websites that boast these two diets.  I also plan to investigate opposing views to these plans.  I’m not sure which plan, if either, I’ll choose for my next experiment but no doubt it will be fun to move on to something new.  In the meantime, I’ll try and stick with avoiding fattening foods and sweets which will be challenging; Halloween is next week and I don’t give out apples!

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” ~ W. C. Fields

Gluten-Free Turkey and Spinach Meatballs

Yummie!  I was so hungry tonight after fooling around with Halloween decorations (still) all day.  Fortunately I remembered to defrost the ground turkey and frozen spinach.  In less than 45 minutes, most of which was waiting for the meatballs to bake, I had a tasty, gluten-free dinner.  Not much of a recipe follower unless I’m baking, I winged the recipe but hopefully you’ll be able to whip it up easily, should you find it’s worth a try.

By the way, since I did not have any gluten-free bread crumbs or special flours to use as a binder, I discovered the MixtBag GF Tortilla Chips, ground up, worked perfect!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (1-1/4 lb) ground turkey (I used Shady Brook Farms)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 carrot, grated, 1/4 onion, grated (your preference)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup GF tortilla chips, ground
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 jar Francesco Rinaldi Marinara Sauce

Directions:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Beat egg in bowl.  Add vegetables, cheese, chips (or you can substitute GF bread crumbs if desired), Worcestershire sauce, spices and spinach.  Mix well.  Add ground turkey, combine thoroughly and shape mixture into balls (about 20 – all depends on how large you make them). 

Place meatballs on slotted rack on aluminum coated baking pan.  Bake 25-30 minutes. 

Remove meatballs and place in heated sauce for 5 to 10 minutes while you prepare a salad or GF pasta.  Serve and enjoy.

You notice there is very little fat left in the pan.  The aluminum foil makes for easy clean up too!

These meatballs were moist and nicely seasoned.  All the products I used indicated they were GF on the labels, including the 2 sauces.

I went off my meal/recipe plan tonight but I thought I owed it to myself.  Sometimes you have to change it up a little and add some spice to your life!

“Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor.” ~ William Cowper

Gluten-Free Recap Week 1

Well, the first week, actually 10 days of my Gluten-Free meal plan has been okay.  I’m getting used to not eating breads which truthfully, bothers me.  I am a carb addict and have had some form of bread with my coffee every morning for decades.  Having yogurt with or without fruit in the morning or the occasional eggs does not make me a happy camper.  But I’m managing.

I am including two parts of my meal plan to date.  One is the 7 Day Menu and the other is a list of recipes.  Please Note:  After speaking with my dietitian, we agreed upon the Eating Well 1200 Calorie Menu each week for 3 weeks.  This is a plan I obtained from their website, www.EatingWell.com.   I have not made all the recipes yet but have stuck to the basics of the plan.  The meals have been tasty but I’ve tweated them somewhat, depending on my own tastes and what I’ve had on hand.  Two pounds lighter, I still feel I’m missing something.  My digestive problems have not ceased although they have not worsened, and maybe got a little better.  Could it be I’m waiting for that “aha” moment?  I’m not sure.

In any event, here is the plan I’m following.  Check it out or others on the website I mentioned.  I’ve done the footwork for you; putting the recipes in one place.  Feel free to let me know if anything appeals to you or if you have other suggestions.  

Later this week, I’ll increase my exercise a bit.  Halloween decorating and classwork has me a little preoccupied.  Trying to fit everything into my day can be daunting.  I vascillate between wanting to do so much and not wanting to do anything…I suppose I’m not unique.

Tonight, I’m taking a break and watching the Yankees!  Good times with my DH!  Looking forward to a nice, relaxing evening for a change.  Hope you have the same!

7Day Gluten-free Menu

Gluten Free 1200 Calorie Recipes

BTW, since I’m new to WordPress, if any of you techies have a better way for me to post recipes, I’d be thankful for advice!

What Not to Eat After a Workout

Here I am on Day 5 of my Gluten-Free meal plan.  Aside from going through bread-withdrawal, I imagine I’m doing okay overall.  Weigh-in is on Monday morning and even with the exercise, I don’t feel much has changed.  However, I’m hopeful that if I keep it up, something is bound to make a difference, one way or another.

I came across an interesting article today about what NOT to eat after a workout.  That thought never really crossed my mind.  After reading what Dina Aronson, RD had to say on Ivillage.com about this topic, I thought I’d summarize her findings.  Too bad my workouts aren’t strenuous enough to break a sweat; at least not for the time being.  Maybe I’m not pushing myself enough.  I’ll add a few extra reps or minutes with the jump rope tomorrow.  For now, here are a few pointers:

Foods to Avoid after a Workout

High-Sugar Energy Bars.  They may cause a spike in blood sugar.  Try low-fat yogurt with fruit instead.

Raw vegetables.  They aren’t substantial enough to help your muscles recover, keep your metabolism active or maintain energy levels.  If you want to snack on them, eat with hummus or yogurt dip.

Cheese is usually processed and high in saturated fat.  An alternative would be cheese-flavored soy chips.

Soda and fruit drinks.  Need I say more; may as well drink battery acid.  Sugar spikes blood levels and artificial sweeteners trick the body into craving more sugar.  Try iced herbal tea or water with fresh lemon or lime for a refreshing drink.

Salty snacks disrupt the body’s water/salt balance.  Low-sodium baked chips would be a better substitute.

Bread.  Here we go.  I didn’t even want to mention it.  I’m such a bread addict, it kills me not to be able to have it.  Bread has starch that quickly turns to sugar.  Choose a nutrient packed whole grain tortilla or bread slice with a little nut butter and a few banana slices instead.  Gluten-free choices are also available from health food stores.

Pizza.  Again, similar to bread dough, pizza has too much saturated fat and salt, not to mention white flour with little nutrition.  Try half a whole grain English muffin or pita with some sautéed veggies and a sprinkle of low-sodium cheese.  I’ll pass on gluten-free brands because they’re packed with additives and sugar as well as being expensive.

Candy or Chocolate.  We all know candy elevates blood sugar levels after a workout.  If you crave chocolate, have a piece of dark chocolate or a glass of skim chocolate milk (regular or almond).

Cereal.  Again, some contain too much sugar.  Substitute 1/4 cup low-sugar granola with fruit and nuts; no-sugar-added trail mix with 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk; or a 1/2 serving of unsweetened plain cereal, like shredded wheat or Grape Nuts.  I’ll skip all together for now.

Doughnuts and Pastries.  I know, but these were also on the list of foods to avoid, like we wouldn’t know that!  They’re high in saturated fat and sugar.  Try whole-wheat toast and peanut butter instead.

Pancakes.  Old fashioned ones sure taste great but between the white flour and typical toppings of syrup, butter and powdered sugar, fuggetaboutit!  Go for whole- grain, oatmeal or buckwheat pancakes toppings like bananas, blueberries, and strawberries, or toast a whole-grain frozen waffle served with nut butter and a few banana slices.  Again, there are gluten-free varieties but one needs to be careful for an overload of additives.

Fried eggs.  Anything fried contains too much saturated fat.  Try boiled eggs (I keep several hard boiled on hand in my fridge regularly) or an egg-white omelet with a few chopped veggies (sans butter) instead.

French fries.  Sounds counterproductive to exercise and then have French fries.  But they are a weakness of mine.  Thinking “grease” will make you change your mind.  Half a baked white or sweet potato with a tiny scoop of black beans and salsa would be a better choice.

Smoothies.   I love smoothies, especially after working out.  However, you’ll need to replace juice with skim or low-fat milk, regular or almond, some frozen berries or ½ banana with a small handful of walnuts, cashews, almonds or unsalted pistachios.  Blend well.

Bacon & Other Processed Meats.  These can be linked with the other foods high in salt and saturated fat. Try a fresh turkey or chicken wrap either in lettuce leaves or in a whole grain pita with tomatoes and a little seasoning.  Stay away from cold cuts or processed meat though.

After putting all the effort into maximizing a workout session, the last thing you would want to do is replace all the calories you just burned with unhealthy food.  Although it didn’t sound like I had many options, most of the above foods are readily available in my refrigerator and pantry.  I spent almost $20 more on my grocery bill last week from purchasing specific gluten-free products which seem to be extremely overpriced. 

Sixteen days remain.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  Now, if I could only have just one OREO cookie!

In the Beginning – My 3-Week Gluten-Free Experiment – Day 1

As I stated in previous posts, I am formulating a new meal/exercise plan based on my uniqueness; age, gender, physical health and ability, time, motivation, finances (yes, that’s important too) and future goals.  When most people decide to “go on a diet,” most of the previous considerations are not taken into account. 

With the thousands of “diets” on the market, I have not yet come across one which targets anything resembling a personal experience.  You’ll find plenty of plans for those with common medical conditions such as high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, celiac disease, lactose-intolerance, asthma or diabetes but none of them address the entire individual.  I’m proposing to address physical, medical, mental and emotional conditions simultaneously.  Since I’ve experienced occasional digestive problems for quite a while, I’m initially choosing a Gluten-Free approach to evaluate for several weeks.  

I’m not currently able to splurge on a gym membership so I’ll be starting my exercise regimen at home; with hand weights, jump rope, hula hoop, exercise band and workout video.  I had to laugh when I pulled out my selection of videos to determine which one I was going to use.  Three of the four were in VHS format from the late 80’s.  I cringe when I think I used to work out in coordinating leotards, tights and legwarmers.  The sad part is that they are making a comeback!  

I will be following the Biggest Loser series first.  Who knows, maybe I can sell the others on eBay.  The video begins with a 30-minute basic sculpting workout.  It offers two additional levels of intensity to add at your own pace.  I’m augmenting that program with two 15-minute routines using either the jump rope, hula hoop or exercise band throughout the day.  Motivation will be the most challenging part.  Hopefully, my determination and perseverance will overcome procrastination on the days I just don’t feel like moving too much.  I know I’m not alone in those occasional moments. 

Next is the cost factor of new ingredients I’ll need to purchase which I don’t normally stock such as dried beans and legumes (peas, green beans, edamame, etc.), rice pasta, quinoa, gluten-free baking products, condiments and canned items (which can be pricey).  I’ll incorporate these with the typically gluten-free foods I keep on hand such as dairy, lean meat, fish, poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables.  The most important factor in selecting gluten-free foods is to have a plan that incorporates the necessary amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats on a daily basis. 

Having just returned from a six-day trip in the wee hours of the morning, I wasn’t feeling overly enthusiastic though I managed an exercise session.  Fortunately, after scouring the refrigerator for permissible foods without having to run to the grocery store, I was pleased to find I had enough items on hand for the moment.  My meals for the day consisted of yogurt, walnuts, fresh fruits & vegetables, eggs and ground turkey. Two of my favorites were the smoothie and turkey burger (minus the bun).  I’ll still need to shop for fresh produce and lean meats along with some pantry items so that I’m not left salivating over at all the prohibited foods that reside in my cabinets.  After all, I’m the only one on this gluten-free plan and don’t expect my family to suffer through this process with me, at least not for the time being.  I’d have a mutiny on my hands.

Sifting through the myriad of gluten-free related articles and blogs I discovered online, I spotted a post which I found amusing and a bit ominous.   After their name, the person included the following:

  • Born and raised in OR; Currently living in UT
  • Gluten-free since June 2006
  • Also living with Hypoglycemia since 1991
  • Dairy-free for good since summer 2008
  • Started IBS diet and probiotics at GI’s recommendation – Fall 2008
  • Also avoiding: potatoes, beans, crucifers, popcorn, most red meat, coconut milk 😦
  • Started eating a Paleo diet Spring 2011. Love it

At first I wondered what the heck this person ate during the day.  Then I realized I am among friends of a feather and certainly not alone in my endeavor.  On a separate page, most likely in the next day or so, I will be posting a feasible weekly meal plan I can live with and summarize my results at the end of each week.  Daily postings would be boring.  Believe it or not, my stomach still feels heavy even without having consumed wheat today.   I realize I’m looking for instant gratification.  Yes, I’m a bit impatient but excited nonetheless.  This journey is definitely going to take some serious resolve.  Here we go! 

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

The Gluten-Free Controversy Continues…

After all my research and choosing to follow a gluten-free diet for 3 weeks in an effort to alleviate digestive discomfort, I read the following article from HuffPost Healthy Living,dated July 31, 2012:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/gluten-free-diets-and-cel_n_1721467.html

I like to keep an eye on Mayo Clinic reports, although they are not the only resource I investigate.  The study claims that the majority of people adhering to a gluten-free diet either do not have Celiac disease or were never tested for it (like me) and chose a gluten-free diet believing it would help with the common symptoms associated with the disease such as, bloating, diarrhea, headaches and chronic fatigue.

Again, I’m still in the developmental phase of my nutrition/exercise plan, based solely on my individual lifestyle, medical issues, and the like.  I’m not surprised by the article especially where it indicates that those people who tested negative for Celiac disease do in fact experience “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.”  At the end of October, I’ll be able to decide if removing gluten from my diet has helped my digestive difficulties, primarily bloating and an overall feeling of abdominal discomfort.

Check out one of the GF Main Meal recipes below…

In addition to the formulating a 7-day meal plan which I’ll stick with for the 3 weeks; I’m incorporating exercise into my design.  My goal is several 15-20 minute exercise routines throughout the day.  This will help break up a normally tedious hour-long workout and I expect will also help maintain my energy on a more consistent level.

I realize it would perhaps make more sense to be properly tested (blood test and bowel tissue biopsy) before engaging in a completely gluten-free diet however I am not fond of the type of testing required; I don’t care for needles and haven’t had my first colonoscopy yet.  Additionally, gluten-free diets are not designed to help people lose weight which is what I really prefer to do.  My rationalization is that I’d rather deal with the abdominal discomfort issue first and then select a meal plan based on the results of prohibiting gluten from my diet.  The second phase of my goal is choosing foods that will help me lose weight as well as address other medical concerns I have.

First things first; I’m going to enjoy this coming weekend in NC with my family.  Upon my return, the real work will begin.  I have to say I’m looking forward to my experiment.  It’s only for 3 weeks.  I’m ready and willing, albeit apprehensive, to take on this challenge and make my evaluation.  This is the worst time of the year for me to be making dietary changes, with the holidays approaching.  It will be a true test of my fortitude, I can tell you that.  We will just have to wait and see!

“I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.” ~ Author Unknown

Beef and Green Beans (Slow Cooker)

 Ingredients
  • 3 pounds chuck roast
  • 1/3 cup rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 16 ounces frozen slender green beans
Instructions
  1. Cut the roast in to strips about 3/4 inch wide. Trim most of the fat.
  2. Combine the strips of roast, flour, salt and pepper in a greased 6 quart or larger slow cooker. If using a smaller cooker, cut the recipe in half.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix them together.
  4. Cover and cook on low 6 – 8 hours or high 3 – 4 hours.
  5. Serve with rice or pasta.

To Be or Not To Be – Gluten Free

Humans are creatures of habit.  I believe that because I generally wake up each morning at the same time and go through my routine like clockwork.  There is a comfortable rhythm to it and I could probably go through all those motions in the first fifteen minutes with my eyes closed.  What happens when my routine is interrupted?  It seems to throw the whole morning off. 

 It’s the same with any change though.  For the past year or two I’ve noticed changes in my body that, while minor, are nonetheless disturbing.  Did I mention it to my doctor at my annual check-up?  No, because I didn’t feel it was important enough.  I got a clean bill of health after my blood test results came back so why ask questions?  The fact that I feel bloated all the time must be because I drink coffee in the morning.  The reason I make so many trips to the bathroom during the day is because I drink a lot of water.  I feel full after a small meal because I had too much fiber.  I offered many excuses for the reason I wasn’t feeling my best and was slowly gaining weight every couple of years; I was “getting older.”

 Being a creature of habit, I did not want to change my routine.  However, after making mental notes and eventually keeping a journal, I noticed my digestive problems were directly related to either certain foods I ate, when I ate them or how much I consumed.  Before reporting these findings to my doctor, I chose to play detective.  If I changed what I ate, when and how much I ate, I should be able to determine which of the foods I consumed on a regular basis is the culprit.

 My first attempt at discovery was trying Activia brand yogurt.  The claim on their website http://www.activia.us.com/ is that Activia “is made with the exclusive probiotic culture, Bifidus Regularis® (Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010) and can help naturally regulate your digestive system.”  After two weeks, I actually felt worse, so that didn’t work.  Then I tried to eliminate cheese, ice cream and other milk products from my diet to see if I was still Lactose-intolerant as I had been throughout my teens and twenties.  Two weeks later, no change.  My third trial will begin the first week of October when I’m back from a short vacation and more able to carefully assess what I eat and how it affects me.

 This third experiment concerns gluten.  The reason I may be having digestive problems could be that I have Celiac Disease.  “Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001280/

With the help of a registered dietitian, I intend to follow a gluten-free diet for three weeks.  We are developing a meal plan which takes into account information from medical journals, research studies and scholarly reports. 

 I first heard of this disease from a baker on a segment of a Martha Stewart show.  She described how she was diagnosed with Celiac disease several years prior and created a cookbook with dessert recipes which were gluten-free.  Shortly thereafter, I heard one of “The View” talk show hosts speak of her ordeal with the disease.  I thought to myself, this may be the ailment I have.  The only way of knowing for sure without having to undergo formal testing is take the route similar to allergy testing.  I am going to avoid foods containing gluten for three weeks and see if I notice a change.  Then I will contact my physician and advise him of my findings.

 Here comes the difficult part.  As previously mentioned, it is tough to change a habit or routine.  I’ll need to stay positive and focus on how good I’ll feel once I eliminate gluten from my diet if in fact gluten is the cause of my problems.  Personally, the most challenging part will be avoiding bread, cakes, cookies, pasta, salad dressing, sauces and soups plus a few other food products.  That pretty much covers everything I’m used to eating.

 In order for me to feel better, I’ll need to be committed to change.  Replacing foods in my diet with those my digestive tract can handle will ultimately help me achieve optimum health.  I am still not certain I do have Celiac disease.  On the other hand, what could be so bad about revising my diet for three weeks?  If it doesn’t work, I can always revert to my prior dietary habits.

 In the meantime, I’m having fun putting together a variety of meals that I’ll enjoy making and eating.  I am equipped with an arsenal of cookbooks and products specially designed for those who must follow a restricted gluten-free diet.  One drawback to this plan is that it is more expensive.  Foods that are marketed to the “health conscious” generally cost more.  Time will tell if my little investigative plan succeeds and so will my waistline.  I’m hoping for the best.

 “Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”  ~ Victor Hugo