Dear Leah Renee,
My doctor just told me I need to stay away from gluten. I know you lead a gluten free life. What was your experience and what may help me? ~Lisa, NY
It seems like everywhere nowadays we see “gluten free” labels on products at the grocery stores, and “gluten free” menu options at our favorite restaurants. Living with a gluten intolerance can (at times) be challenging and frustrating! Click here for a description of what gluten actually is. I was personally diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2002, and first 6 months (OK, maybe year!) were pretty difficult. The mere smell of garlic bread or pizza sent me over the edge. Yes…I’ve actually cried. Upon diagnosis, my doctor handed me a sheet of paper. On the top it read “foods to avoid”. It listed EVERYTHING I currently consumed on a day-to-day basis. Not a good start! Now what?!
Although I was not happy about it at first, it has completely turned my life around for the better. Don’t get me wrong, I felt sorry for myself for awhile, but then I realized that it was something that I’d have to deal with forever, so I began to change my perspective and turned it into something more positive. I started to research how food truly affects our body and that old saying “what you put in is what you get out” rings true. I realized how in control I was of how I felt on a day-to-day basis, both mentally and physically, based largely around my diet.
Gluten free has come a long way from ten years ago. There have been more people diagnosed (many cases go undetected for years), and more food companies have modified or created products to cater to the gluten free population. There are people who have simply committed themselves to a gluten free diet to ‘be healthier’ or ‘lose weight’. A gluten free diet can be healthier than one consisting of refined grains (rather than the healthier whole grain option), fast foods, and baked goods.
A gluten free diet alone will not lead to weight loss! If that were the case, I’d plant myself in the gluten free snack aisle and go to town! Seeing a label that says gluten free is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s nice to have those options, but they’re best to be had in moderation. The real key to keeping a gluten free, healthy diet, is to shop along the parameter of the grocery store–sticking to items that came from the ground, a tree, an animal, or the sea. The aisles are best for your whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, oats), beans (who knew they could be used for gluten free desserts too?!), condiments (if you don’t make your own!)….and nuts, seeds, and nut butters.
Realizing there was plenty to eat and enjoy without consuming gluten, and without relying on companies to supply me with gluten free products has completely changed the way I think about food. Its broadened my horizons and left me feeling healthy and energetic. Sure, I’ll enjoy some gluten free cookies or crackers from time to time, and you should too! It’s about striking a balance and doing what feels best for you.
If you’re in the LA area, try one of these fab restaurants that offer many delicious gluten free options.
Are you gluten intolerant? Gone gluten free? What are some of your favorite gluten free foods?