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Against the Grain: Tasty Ideas For a Gluten or Grain Free Diet

By Nicole McCarter, ND
 

Maybe you’re Paleo or trying to lose weight. Maybe you're pre-diabetic or have blood sugar issues. Maybe you’ve have had a recent diagnosis of celiac or gluten sensitivity. Or maybe your general health or digestive tract is a wreck and you’re experimenting with grain free to find relief. Either way, if you're grain free and at a loss for what to eat, you're not alone.

 

The standard American diet (SAD) is loaded with grains. Many people have cereal, toast or a pastry for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, then pasta or rice and possibly even more bread with dinner.  Yikes, that’s a lot of grains (the only food group that should get that much love from you is vegetables - eat your veggies, this is a topic for another time) So what are you to do without them? Don’t worry; after being asked this question countless times,  I’ve put together a list of my favorite gluten and grain free alternatives.

 

But before we get started let’s briefly talk a little more about grain free and what it means for your health.

 

You might be asking what’s the problem with grains? This isn’t a simple answer, because some people tolerate them just fine and others feel much better without. The best way to find out for yourself is to avoid them for thirty days and see how you feel.  But caution....possible side effects of a grain free diet include: weight loss, clear skin, improved digestion, decreased bloating, a decrease in inflammation (i.e. no more joint pain and lessening of autoimmune symptoms) and generally feeling awesome.

Here we go:

 

Tortillas substitutes: who doesn’t love tacos? One of my favorite things about moving to California has been the beautiful avocados, every time I cut one open it makes me happy...and want Mexican food.

  • Use a green or purple cabbage leaf: load it up with all of your favorite taco ingredients and enjoy.

  • These Siete Foods tortillas are made from either casava root flour or almond flour. They have almond flour, cassava & coconut or a new flavor cassava & chia. Almond Flour, Cassava & Coconut Flour. They are all delicious.

 

Rice: Sometimes you just need a good base to soak up curry or a quick and easy side.

  • Cauliflower wears a lot of hats, my favorite is cauliflower rice. Here is a quick and easy recipe or you can buy it pre "riced" at Trader Joes (the only down side is it's not organic). You can season it or doctor it up any way you would rice. 

 

 

Pasta: Pasta is a classic comfort food so fortunately there are a lot of alternatives

 

  •  Zoodles (zucchini noodles) have been popular in the raw food community forever and have gained popularity among the Paleo community. If you haven’t ever tried them you must. I prefer zucchini noodles for traditional pasta sauces (pesto, marinara, etc) but carrots are great for interesting salads. I recently upgraded to this spiralizer and love it.

  • Enoki mushrooms: You can use these in soup such as pho, tom kah, chicken noodle, etc.  I buy them at Whole Foods but am sure you could find them at Asian markets or health food store.

  • Black bean pasta: made with just one ingredient, black bean flour. I recently found organic black bean pasta at Trader Joes. My preference is to use things that are in their whole food form but sometimes its fun to experiment. 

  • Spaghetti squash: just cut it in half, remove the seeds, rub with avocado or olive oil, season to taste and back face down at 400 for 45-60 minutes. Scrap the "noodles" and sub for any of your pasta recipes. 

 

 

Sandwiches and wraps: Quick and easy, the sandwich is an American staple. It's about to get an upgrade...

 

  • Get creative with lettuce. Use a big leaf lettuce such as butter, romaine or even chard. Spread your favorite sandwich sauces (mayo, mustard, hummus, etc.) and top with the fillings: avocado, turkey, tomatoes, cheese, etc.

  • Julian Bakery Paleo Wraps: These wraps are made from coconut flour and oil. They make turmeric and plain, both are tasty. Even my sister and husband like them.

  • Roll ups: take a piece of deli mean and spread your sauces then pill on veggies then roll. This is helpful when you don't have any lettuce. 


Baked Goods:

 

  • Blueberry muffins: I really love these muffins, they are easy and delicious. I opt for an omega-3 pastured egg but am sure the flax egg is delicious too. I always end up adding way more almond meal  (at least a 1/2 cup) to make the consistency right but you probably won't have this problem if you use almond flour. Play around with it. 

  • Almond chocolate skillet brownies: yes please. 

  • Also just try having a piece of dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth. Dark chocolate lowers cortisol is rich in magnesium and antioxidants. 

 

Other: Once of the biggest complaints I hear when someone is first going grain free is they aren't full or satisfied from their meals. Here are grain free yet starchy foods. 

  • Squash: acorn, butternut, spaghetti, kabocha, kuru (see above spaghetti squash for instructions on how to cook).

  • Sweet potatoes: simply bake them, mash them, make fries. They are easy, delicious and rich in antioxidants (hence the vibrant color). 

  • Have half an avocado with your meal. It might sound unusual but avocados are packed with filling fiber and healthy fats that keep you satiated. 

Do you have any grain free tips or tricks? Leave them in the comment section below, I love to hear from you!