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The Gluten Free Experiment: 5 Things I Learned

Posted Nov 27 2012 11:59pm

It has been about 10 days since my three week gluten free experiment was up (a day early because of my Native Foods event ). I’m sure you are all wondering how it went, how I felt during and after, and what I’ve decided for the future.

As a reminder, after my WellnessFX blood tests showed that my cholesterol was a little high and my thyroid was a little low, my nutritionist suggested in my follow up consultation that I try a gluten free diet for a few weeks. She thought that it could improve my cholesterol and thyroid numbers, get rid of the random pain that I get under my rib, and possibly even help my migraines. She also suggested that I eat less starchy carbs and add more vegetables.

I was actually kind of excited to try a gluten free diet. There is only one way to find out if you have sensitivity issues, whether it is with gluten, soy, or other foods. That is to take them out of your diet for a while, see if you feel better, then, try adding them back in to see if your troubles return.

My excitement lasted about five days. I did prepare . The first four days were great as I had planned ahead, used leftovers for lunches, changed some old habits (cereal and rye bread for breakfast, for one), read labels even more thoroughly that I already did. Then I went to Las Vegas , where it was very challenging to eat both vegan and gluten free on the road.

I was more successful the following week when we traveled to Malibu . I didn’t write a post about it (busy, busy!), but, along with bringing appropriate food for snacks while Alan was working, the Los Angeles area has many more dining options that Lake Las Vegas. We had dinner at Hugo’s , which has an extensive vegan and gluten free menu.

Gluten Free

Green Tamale Plate
( [Can be Vegan] )
Two spinach infused sweet-corn tamales covered with our tomatillo sauce, mozzarella or Daiya vegan cheese and pico de gallo. Served with tomato chipotle black beans and turmeric basmati rice

Gluten Free Vegan

Apple Crumble
( [Can be Vegan] )
Spiced apple-maple mixture topped with a lightly sweetened, Energy Nut crumble. Dusted with organic powdered sugar, topped with vanilla ice cream and a mint leaf. (Substitute vegan whipped cream for ice cream upon request)

We also got to stop for lunch at the Veggie Grill in Santa Monica, which is an all vegan restaurant that clearly marks their gluten-free options .

Gluten free vegan

Urban Plate
Gluten free. Blackened
tempeh-carmelized onion-portobello
mushroom stack, steamin’ kale,
sliced tomato salad, chipotle ranch

gluten free vegan

Sweetheart Fries
Scrumptious sweet potatoes with chipotle ranch.

gluten free vegan

Chocolate Pudding Parfait
Made-from-scratch pudding,
topped with chocolate sauce,
crushed cookies, walnuts + VG Crema (ordered without cookies to make it GF)

At home I stuck with the tried and true. I’m not much of a baker and even my cooking time is limited (the reason why my recipes are fast and simple!), so I didn’t make a lot of the dishes from the various blogs that specialized in gluten-free, vegan recipes. If gluten free were to become my permanent lifestyle, I certainly would get more creative and try different things. Some of the recipes looked and sounded delicious. But, for my three week Gluten Free Experiment, I stuck with the KISS method, Keep it Simple, Silly.

So, breakfast was usually a smoothie with a slice of gluten-free toast, mid-morning I’d have some oatmeal (remember, you need to find gluten free oatmeal). Lunch was a salad or leftovers. For dinner I was a little more creative, varying from grilled tofu or tempeh, veggie “pastas” made from zucchini or spaghetti squash, and big salads. I did make burritos once, made with beans, tofu, potatoes, rice, and salsa, wrapped in rice tortillas.

So, after three weeks did I decide to make a permanent change in my diet? First, here are the things I learned about being a gluten free vegan.

1. It is hard. I should say that it is harder than I want it to be. I really wanted to say that it was such an easy transition, no problem, etc., but, in all honesty, I had a hard time. As a vegan, I never feel that my diet is restricted..there are so many delicious, simple foods out there to eat. But, when I added gluten-free to the mix, suddenly I couldn’t wrap my mind around what I was going to eat. I’m sure that if I remained gluten free it would become second nature. But, for three weeks, for me, it was hard.

2. There is a lot of gluten free junk food out there. Remember that just because it has no gluten doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. The same goes for vegan prepared food. Easy, yes. Healthy, not necessarily.

3. Planning is vital. Having a meal plan in place can make it so much easier. I am really not organized enough to do so, but I’d recommend sitting down and planning out a week at a time. Include snacks too, because otherwise you will find yourself between meals, hungry, and not sure what to eat.

4. If you goof up, don’t give up. When I was in Vegas, I finally settled on a cheese-less pizza for dinner one night after a long day, when neither Alan nor I felt like driving anywhere to search down a better meal. It wasn’t until I sat down to wait for my ordered pizza that the little light went on over my head that said (something like), “hey, pizza dough = gluten.” I did eat my pizza, and I enjoyed it. But I didn’t use it as an excuse to give up on my gluten free experiment. I jumped right back on the wagon.

5. Be honest with yourself. In spite of the hype these days, not everyone has gluten “sensitivities.” If you feel better without gluten, that’s wonderful. If you don’t notice any difference in how you feel, don’t worry, you’re still special. Be grateful that you don’t have a true disease like Celiac, which would force that gluten free diet upon you.

As for me, in case you’re wondering, I did not notice any difference in how I felt while following my gluten free diet. I had the same amount of headaches (darn it–I was hopeful!), I had my little random ghost pain once or twice, which is about the same frequency as always. After my three weeks were up (actually one day early due to the Native Foods Pre-Opening party ), I didn’t see the need to continue on a strictly gluten free diet.

After plunging deeply at Native Foods, I’ve settled in to a more moderate version of my previous diet. While I do eat gluten, I am more aware of what I do eat. I’m still skipping the cold cereal in the mornings, opting instead for smoothies, oatmeal, fruit, with just maybe a slice of toast with peanut butter. I’m eating more vegetables, less starches and I feel really good about that. For example, dinner last night was gluten free without even trying.

gluten free vegan

Spaghetti squash with olive oil, tomato, garlic and tarragon.

gluten free vegan

Massaged kale salad.

So, that’s the story. I’m anxious to know your stories. I know some of you follow a gluten free diet. I’d love to hear your experiences.

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