What does it mean to be gluten-free and healthy? So many people who are not familiar with a gluten-free diet assume that it is a healthy diet. Those of us who live it every day know otherwise.
Fried foods, sweets and other not so nutritious foods, can all be part of a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free simply means nothing that contains wheat, barley or rye. It is a little more complicated than that due to the mystery ingredients that are made with wheat and barley, but the gist of it is, that breads, pastas, cakes and cookies made with regular wheat flour are out. My blog post on gluten-free labels has more information on how to tell if a product has gluten.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, there is a gluten-free replacement for almost anything you can think of. Gluten-free pasta, bread, pizza, bagels, cookies, cakes, muffins, donuts, frozen dinners are all so easy to find these days. These items can be as healthy or unhealthy as their gluten-filled counterparts.
In addition to the possibility of being filled-with empty calories, another problem comes with the absence of gluten. It’s gluten that keeps baked goods from crumbling and gives bread elasticity. To account for the lack of gluten, gluten-free baked goods almost always contain ingredients like xanthan gum, guar gum, or methylcellulose to keep them from crumbling. Those ingredients are highly processed and not always tolerated well. Some people experience digestive issues when eating products made with these additives. The good news is that those ingredients are used in very small amounts.
How do I eat healthy and gluten-free?
The same way I would if I were not gluten-free – eat protein, lots of fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, small amounts of starchy carbohydrates and occasional sweets. I eat very limited amounts of processed and canned foods while trying to cook from scratch as much as possible. This does NOT mean spending lots of time in the kitchen. I keep it simple. It’s amazing what the right cooking method and a little salt and pepper will do to bring out the flavor that is already in the food you eat. Check out my post on variety in a gluten-free diet for some quick and easy ways to add interest to your cooking.