Styling and photography by Baila Rochel Leine
When I was advised to go on a gluten-free diet for health reasons 14 years ago, it was a turning point in my life. Like most people, I had always relied on easy grab ’n go foods, like prepared cereal and bars, store-bought breads, pretzels, and crackers. Once gluten was out, so were most of the products I had always bought. The gluten-free section in the grocery back then was still bare-bones: basic rice cakes, some potato starch bread, and the major novelty of gluten-free brown rice pasta.
Because my access to processed foods became so limited, I was forced to begin incorporating more whole foods into my diet. A typical day morphed from cereal, sandwiches, pasta, and pretzels to eggs and avocado, grilled salmon and salad or rice cakes, tuna and veggies, and chicken with millet and green beans. Snacks became nuts and fruit or guacamole and veggies. Because of all the things I missed — muffins, cookies, and most of all, bread! — I rolled up my sleeves and got creative, eventually becoming a recipe developer and founder of my own line of wholesome bread and dough mixes.
But the gluten-free scene has completely changed since then. Now, entire sections in the grocery store are dedicated to gluten-free products. Today you can follow a gluten-free diet while still munching through your day on the grab ’n go foods you always relied on.
Gluten Free vs. Nutritious
Aside from celiac sufferers who absolutely must avoid gluten in order to preserve their health, most of those who try going gluten-free are just hoping to feel better — more alert and energetic and less bloated, headachy, and uncomfortable.
Gluten may or may not be the sole culprit, and exchanging processed wheat products for processed gluten-free products may or may not do the trick.
Just because a product is labeled “gluten free” doesn’t mean that it’s nutritious, easy on digestion, or beneﬁcial for those who suffer from autoimmune disease. “Gluten free” alone does not equal wholesome or healthful. In fact, many gluten-free products are highly processed and often contain additives and ﬁllers that improve their taste and texture. In some cases, the whole-grain original version is actually healthier — and more ﬁlling — than its gluten-free imitation.
Gluten-free originally gained popularity because so many people found they felt better when they avoided processed wheat products and substituted them with whole foods. Now that there are just as many processed gluten-free products out there, we might do better by shifting our focus from cutting the gluten to inserting more whole foods.
A great place to start is by aiming to incorporate more produce in your day. The more color on your plate, the better! Next, add some healthy fats and protein to as many of your meals or snacks as you can. For your starches, consider venturing out of the cereal, cracker, or noodle box and try throwing in beans, root veggies, and naturally gluten-free grains and seeds that offer a bigger nutritional bang per bite. (More on pseudo-grains coming next time!)
Whether or not you need to be on a gluten-free diet, it never hurts to explore nutrition boosters that can help your body function at its best. Incorporating more whole foods into your diet is a great start to ﬁnding the balance that works for you.
Wishing you the best of health,
Rorie Recommends: Gluten-Free Oats
Not all oats are gluten free. Most standard oats are cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains, which means they are unsafe for those with celiac disease and can cause discomfort for those with non-celiac gluten intolerance. The solution: certiﬁed gluten-free oats.
Many companies sell gluten-free oats in a variety of forms, from whole oats to quick oats to oat ﬂour and even oat ﬂakes. Make sure to look out for the gluten-free certiﬁcation. For those of you who are used to the old circled GF logo, it’s actually being updated over the next year to a more modern look.
This granola is delicious and so versatile! Make a double batch and store it in the freezer for a DIY (gluten- and grain-free) grab ’n go snack with really wholesome ingredients.
- 11⁄2 cups assorted mixed nuts (I used ¾ cup sliced almonds and ¾ cup pecan halves)
- 1⁄2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1⁄2 cup raw coconut chips
- 1⁄2 cup almond ﬂour or Rorie’s Grain Free Flour Blend
- 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
- 1⁄2 tsp vanilla sugar or almond extract (optional)
- 1⁄4 cup maple syrup (see note)
- 2 Tbsp chia seeds
Preheat oven to 325˚F (160°C). Do not use convection setting.
Line a baking sheet (preferably real metal for optimal heat distribution) with parchment paper. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until evenly combined. Spread mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir and bake for an additional 5–7 minutes until golden. Cool completely before breaking into pieces.
At this point, feel free to add in some cocoa nibs or chocolate chips.
Serve on its own as a snack, as a topping on chocolate bark, in a yogurt parfait, mixed with Greek yogurt with a drizzle of silan or honey, sprinkled over an oatmeal bowl with sliced bananas, mixed into chia pudding, or with apple slices drizzled with almond butter… The possibilities are endless.
Note: You can add an additional 1–2 Tbsp maple syrup to make it sweeter, or reduce to as little as 2 Tbsp.
(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 695)
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