It’s been three whole weeks since I’ve been gluten free, and aside from some indulgences on Valentine’s Day, I’ve stayed steadfast. No pasta, no bread, no cupcakes this whole time – a feat I would have thought impossible three weeks ago. So, how has it been?
I’ve lost 10 lbs, and that feels pretty great. I’d like to attribute this to equal parts working out, using my Lose It! App, and eliminating gluten. However, the truth is that I had been working out and watching food intake for a few months before this, and hadn’t lost anything. It wasn’t until I lost the gluten that I lost any weight.
The sad fact is that a bowl of pasta bolognese (of the size I want to eat) has something like four times as many calories than some roast chicken and potatoes – or even a steak - not to mention a ton of Evil Gluten. (I can’t say this knowledge makes me feel good, and I hope to filter it out of my brain over the next year or so.) Going gluten free might not have the same effects on someone who is less gluten-addicted than myself, but what I’ve learned is that if I want to trim down, breaking from bread is the answer.
I don’t feel as hungry as I thought I would. This is a side effect well-touted in Wheat Belly- that ridding yourself of the addictive gluten allows your appetite to normalize and curb your cravings. I think this might actually be true. The first few days are rough, but it gets better quickly.
I sleep better. A fact about me is that I am a really good sleeper, but lately I had been sleeping fitfully, waking up often, and not feeling very rested. This past week I’ve been dead to the world, even through the 2am-5am snow removal my town decided to perform outside my window. I rarely wake up in the middle of the night, and I feel annoyingly perky when I wake up.
My muscles are a lot less sore. I can’t tell if this is because I have adjusted to my workouts, or if what Wheat Belly says is true- eliminating gluten reduces painful and disease-causing inflammation in your body, making joints less sore. Either way, it’s worth a try if you have bad joints or muscle pain.
It did take three full weeks to feel all of these benefits of going gluten free, so if anyone is trying this and wants to give up after a week, I’d suggest sticking with it. Just remember- a LOT of different ice cream is gluten free.
This is a pretty satisfying meal, either for breakfast or dinner. The spices give the eggs more flavor, but use whatever combination you like. Note I do not use butter or milk in these eggs, but you can add either of those things in if you like.
Eggs and Avocado
1 lemon (see below)
1 avocado, diced and spritzed with lemon
1 tomato, diced
2/3 cup monterey jack cheese (half for each bowl)
tsp garlic powder
handful chopped parsley
optional add ons: sour cream, diced grilled chicken
Whisk eggs in a bowl, together with spices, salt, and parsley. Scramble eggs in a non-stick pan – if you use a non-stick pan you really don’t even need butter or oil. Your pan might be harder to clean but you save on fat content. Divide cooked eggs among the two bowls, then divide cheese, avocado, and tomato and top eggs with each. Finish with sour cream or grilled chicken, if desired.
My evening with Arctic Zero may have been a bust, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying Gluten Free frozen desserts. I found a much better alternative in Lifeway Frozen Kefir, available in many different flavors (Mango, Strawberry, Chocolate, Pumpkin, Pomegranate, Original, and Dulce de Leche). Kefir is a type of grain that ferments milk, and appears on your grocery shelf as a thick, milk-like drink or yogurt. It is loaded with good for you probiotics, and the frozen, ice cream substitute version has significantly less carbohydrates than regular ice cream (serving size: 1/2 cup)
Calories Fat Carbohydrates
Frozen Kefir 90 1g 18g
Average Ice Cream 260 18g 28g
A more fair comparison would probably be made between Frozen Kefir and Frozen Yogurt, but I don’t really like Frozen Yogurt, so I’m comparing with ice cream. Kefir is tangy, so fruity flavors are better, but the texture and consistency is great- just like ice cream. I could definitely be satisfied with this, though the Strawberry flavor was eye-squinchingly tart – mix it with the Mango or the Original.
Another thing to note is that a lot of regular ice cream is actually gluten free. Ben and Jerry’s even provides a list online. As long as you’ve been good the rest of the day, and you don’t eat an entire pint of ice cream, you can certainly indulge in a bit of the regular, fully delicious stuff.
To strictly follow the Wheat Belly diet, one is supposed to limit carbohydrates. But the truth is, you (or, at least, I) need that starchy feeling – one can not live on grilled chicken and lettuce alone. So I’ve been in search of some lower carb, gluten free options. Here are three – all are gluten free, all natural with no preservatives:
SERVING SIZE FAT CALORIES CARBS
Angie’s White Cheddar Popcorn 2 cups 10g 150 15g
Snikkidy Eat Your Vegetables Chips 13 chips 7g 130 17g
Enjoy Life Plentil’s (Lentil Chips) 31 chips 6g 130 17g
My hands down favorite of the three is Angie’s Popcorn. It doesn’t taste like a substitute food because it isn’t one. However, the tenets of Wheat Belly suggest that you shouldn’t be eating anything made with corn because of its effect on your blood sugar. This gets relegated to the “once and awhile” pile, but it is absolutely delicious. Slightly higher fat and calories than the other options, but good serving size, lower carbs, and totally worth it.
The Snikkidy Eat Your Vegetables Veggie Chips are not something to be eaten by themselves. This isn’t to say that they taste bad, but they aren’t all that exciting- this is a good gluten free substitute for potato chips or tortilla chips if you need something to use for salsa or guacamole. These are a good vehicle, but for the nutritional content and serving size, there may be a better alternative out there- I’ll keep looking.
The Plentils (Lentil Chips) were good! I tried the “Margherita Pizza” Flavor (Gluten Free snacks don’t always come in a “plain” flavor) and they can be enjoyed on their own, with a satisfying crunch. The flavoring is mild enough that these could also be used to dip into salsa etc. A good chip substitute or everyday snack, and the serving size is generous.
Yesterday marked 1 week of being Gluten Free, and the scale says I’ve lost 6 lbs. I would say this is motivation enough to go for another week. This diet has not been quite as hard as I thought, though it is still very present in my mind that this is temporary – the thought of pasta brings a tear to my eye and I may have spent a substantial part of my Monday daydreaming about cupcakes.
Aside from avoiding gluten, I’ve become mildly obsessed with recording my food intake on my new “Lose It!” App on my iPhone. The basic app is free, and it tracks your food intake and exercise per day and per week, showing you a pie chart of your total diet divided into carbs, fats, and protein. This is particularly helpful when you’re trying to watch carbs, as it does all the work for you, especially on things like fresh veggies that don’t come with a nutrition label.
The app took a few days to get used to, but now I love it. You can look up many restaurant foods – say “Starbucks Tall Skinny Vanilla Latte” and it will upload the exact nutritional information. Otherwise, you will probably have to build your meal – 8oz chicken, 2 cups spinach, 1/2 cup chick peas, etc. – but this teaches you how many calories each component is worth. I’ll admit, I really thought I had a handle on the “cost” of everything I was eating, but I’d gotten fairly out of touch.
Some foods aren’t exact, and the calorie ranges for some exercises aren’t perfect either- but if the label on the pudding you just ate said 60 calories in 1 cup, and the app says pudding should be 120 per cup, you can adjust the serving size down to reflect the accurate amount of calories. Likewise, if the “calories burned” listed for “Walking” don’t match your heart rate monitor, you can just increase/decrease the time. The app might not be perfect, but you can get it pretty close. I also find that the planning aspect of this app is great – if I know I’m going to have a big dinner, I can input the components in the morning and see what calories I have left to play with for the day. Often this leads to more motivation to go to the gym, so I can eat a little more and not go over my calorie count. Maybe this is backwards logic? Oh well.
I’ll admit that this kind of calorie counting is wildly out of character for me. I don’t love that I’m so into it right now. But it’s getting me some much needed results, so I’m going to keep it up for a while. Search for “Lose It!” on your iPhone and try it yourself.
Let me start with the Enraging Fact of the Day: The suggested serving size of regular, gluten-laden pasta is 2 ounces.
2 ounces of pasta is what I eat just to make sure it’s done. Enraging.
Here’s another fact: People who say things like “Spaghetti squash tastes just like spaghetti! It’s a much healthier alternative!” make me want to punch them in the face. Squash is not spaghetti, please stop talking and Leave. The. Room.
Which brings me to Day 6 of Gluten Free, and being just a tiny bit cranky. It was today that I really started eyeing the candy jar at work and wishing I could have a piece of pizza for lunch. So I decided to try a Spaghetti Showdown for dinner- the oft mentioned Spaghetti Squash v. the relatively new discovery of Shirataki noodles.
Shirataki noodles are found near the tofu in your grocery store, and are made from konjac root. One whole package contains 1 1/3 cups of pasta (which they suggest is two servings but is really just barely one), but has only 40 calories, 8 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, and no fat or gluten.
Spaghetti squash is a big yellow squash that has 43 calories per cup, no fat, 10 grams of carbs, and 2 grams of fiber. The innards of one squash is enough for one really hungry person (me, most nights), or two moderately hungry people.
Actual spaghetti (made with wheat flour, and thus, gluten), has 200 calories per enraging 2 oz serving, 1 gram of fat, and 41 grams of carbs per serving. God I miss spaghetti. But I can see why both squash and shirataki are healthier.
I cooked both and topped with a gluten-free vodka sauce and turkey meatballs, and was completely shocked to find that I preferred the squash to the noodles. For me, it came down to the consistency – Shirataki noodles are a little too mushy, and the squash was a little too crunchy, but I’d rather the crunch. And you can actually twirl the squash around your fork, which I appreciated. Neither one “tastes just like spaghetti!” but I will admit that both are legitimate substitutes. Check below for directions on how to cook each one.
Pre-heat oven to 375. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. Gently fork the squash so that it resembles long strands (or noodles) – just rake a fork through the middle and you’ll see that it starts becoming strand-like. Top with whatever sauce you are eating for dinner. Or, you can pull out the strands and mix with butter, herbs, and salt, and have a meal right there.
Rinse and drain thoroughly. In a non-stick pan, toss pasta over medium heat until dry, about 2 minutes. You may have to spoon out the water to aid the process. Add to whatever sauce or broth you are using, stir to combine.