Eating Healthy On The Gluten Free Diet
With the gluten free diet continuing to gain popularity, in addition to celiac sufferers and those with gluten sensitivities, a great many others are giving up gluten for the supposed health benefits. What you need to remember, however, is that the gluten free diet is not necessarily healthier than a traditional diet for people who can already tolerate gluten. It is just as important to make healthy choices on a gluten free diet (if not even more so) to ensure that you nourish your body with essential nutrients and don’t go overboard on calories or other macro-nutrients that could cause weight gain or worse.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the health benefits of going gluten free and talk about tips to stay healthy on a gluten free diet. You’ll also receive sample meal plans for the gluten free diet with accompanying recipes so you can try the diet for yourself.
The Benefits of Going Gluten Free
Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is part of what gives bread its characteristic texture and, in other recipes, it acts as a glue that binds ingredients together. To quell a common myth, gluten is not inherently unhealthy or dangerous, but it can cause digestive issues and other problems in people who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten consumption and gluten intolerance encompasses a range of digestive symptoms related to gluten consumption.
If you have celiac disease, a gluten allergy, or gluten intolerance, going gluten free is the only true form of treatment. Within weeks or even days of changing your diet, you may experience relief from your symptoms. But what about people who can tolerate gluten? Switching to a gluten free diet may have benefits for those people. Not necessarily because of the removal of gluten from their diet but rather what other elements are often found in gluten-containing foods (e.g. carbohydrates and processed ingredients).
Here are some of the potential benefits you may enjoy on the gluten free diet:
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Increased energy levels
- Improved digestive health and regularity
- Reduced intake of processed foods
- Potential for healthy weight loss
- Reduced or eliminated digestive symptoms
Remember, removing gluten from your diet doesn’t necessarily make it “healthier”. Gluten free foods can be just as high in fats, carbohydrates and calories as any other food, so you’ll need to make healthy and responsible eating choices. Read on to learn some tips for staying healthy on the gluten free diet.
Tips for Staying Healthy on a Gluten Free Diet
Removing gluten from your diet is a big step, but that simple act alone isn’t enough to guarantee good health. You still need to make smart decisions about what and how much you are eating if you want to ensure that you get the right balance of nutrients and that you don’t go overboard with calories. Going gluten free is less complicated than you might think, but it still pays to learn some tips to make the transition a little bit easier.
Here are some simple tips for staying healthy on the gluten free diet:
- Gather as much information about the gluten free diet as you can so you understand what foods you can and cannot eat – you don’t want to rely solely on packaged foods because they are often high in fat and calories. That being said, having pre-packaged foods on hand can be helpful in emergency situations where gluten free food is scarce.
- Buy a gluten free cookbook. If you’re new to the gluten free diet and aren’t confident in your ability to make gluten free meals yourself, a gluten free cookbook will give you some ideas and help you learn enough to get you comfortable with gluten free cooking. Or, you can always refer to the hundreds of gluten free recipes we have available in our database for free.
- Learn how to read food labels and double-check everything before you buy. You want to look for gluten-containing ingredients, some of which are “hidden”, and you should also pay attention to the nutrition information to make healthy choices.
- Shop smart when you are at the grocery store – focus primarily on the outer aisles of the store where fresh foods and proteins are located. You should only be going into the inner aisles for pantry staples and gluten free convenience foods.
- Choose whole grains when possible. If you’re making your own bread from scratch or looking for the perfect side dish for a meal, consider gluten free whole grains like brown rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, and sorghum.
- Don’t skip out on dairy foods because they are high in calcium. If lactose intolerance is a side effect of your celiac disease, look for lactose-free options.
- Keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with healthy naturally gluten free foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables so you always have options – you’ll be less tempted to go off diet because you’re hungry and have nothing to eat.
- Be creative with your recipes and food choices so you don’t get bored – involve your whole family in the change and don’t be afraid to experiment with new recipes.
- Stay positive and think about the big picture regarding your health. If you are constantly thinking about what you’ve given up, you won’t enjoy the delicious gluten free foods you CAN enjoy.
Changing your diet can be difficult, especially if it involves removing almost an entire category of foods. Because it can be challenging, you may find yourself tempted to “cheat” from time to time. If you’re simply following the gluten free diet by preference, this might not be a big deal but people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance may suffer for it. The best way to stick to your gluten free diet is to have a wide variety of foods and recipes you can enjoy freely. Read on to see sample meal plans and recipes.
Sample Meal Plans and Recipes
Whether you’re new to the gluten free diet or a seasoned vet, you know that variety is the spice of life. If you’re restricted to gluten free foods, you may find yourself getting bored of eating the same meals. To add some intrigue to your diet while staying healthy, check out some of our sample gluten free meal plans and recipes below with serving sizes to accommodate yourself or the whole family:
Sample Meal Plan #1
Breakfast: Avocado Toast with Egg
- 1 small avocado, peeled and pitted
- 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- Salt and pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 2 slices Schär Artisan Baker Multigrain Bread
- Mash the avocado with the lime juice, salt, and pepper until smooth.
- Grease a medium skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.
- Crack the eggs into the skillet and cook to your liking then remove from heat.
- Toast the slices of bread then spread with the avocado mixture.
- Place an egg on top of each slice of toast and serve immediately.
Lunch: Roasted Veggie and Provolone Sandwich
- ½ pound broccoli florets
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced
- 4 ounces sliced mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 6 ounces marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
- 4 ounces sundried tomatoes, drained and sliced
- 2 packages Schär Baguette
- 2 ounces sliced provolone cheese
- Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling while you preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Add the broccoli and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Drain the broccoli and rinse with cold water then drain well and set aside.
- Toss the onions and mushrooms with the oil and spread on a large rimmed baking sheet.
- Season with salt and pepper then roast for 20 minutes until browned.
- Transfer the veggies to a large bowl and toss in the broccoli, artichokes, and sundried tomatoes.
- Slice the baguettes in half and scoop some of the bread out of the middle of each half.
- Divide the veggie mixture between the baguette pieces and top with provolone slices.
- Place the baguettes on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes until the cheese has melted.
- Sandwich the halves of the baguettes together and slice to serve.
Dinner: Zucchini Mushroom Pasta
- 1 box Schär Gluten Free Spaghetti
- 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
- 1 clove minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- Fill a large saucepan with 4 ½ cups of water.
- Add the Schär gluten free pasta along with the mushrooms, peas, garlic, and thyme.
- Season with salt and pepper then bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the pasta is cooked to al dente and the liquid has reduced, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in the parmesan cheese and heavy cream then serve immediately.
Sample Meal Plan #2
Breakfast: Zucchini Banana Oatmeal Cups
- 3 small bananas, overripe, peeled
- 2 cups grated zucchini
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- ¼ cup almond butter
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and grease 2 muffin pans with cooking spray.
- Mash the bananas in a medium bowl then stir in the grated zucchini.
- Add the almond milk, almond butter, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla extract.
- Stir until well combined then stir in the oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
- Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups, filling them almost to the top.
- Bake for 24 to 28 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes then remove muffins from tins and serve warm.
Lunch: Mushroom Quinoa Burger
- 12 ounces crimini mushrooms, chopped
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup diced red onion
- 1 ½ teaspoons rice wine vinegar
- ¾ cup cooked quinoa, cooled
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 4 Schär Gluten Free Hamburger Buns
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Combine the mushrooms, walnuts, garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper in a shallow baking dish.
- Bake for 20 minutes until the mushrooms are tender then set aside to cool.
- Transfer the mushroom mixture to a food processor then add the onion and vinegar.
- Pulse until almost smooth then transfer to a large bowl.
- Stir in the quinoa and cornstarch then cover and chill for 2 hours.
- Remove the mushroom mixture from the fridge and shape into 4 patties.
- Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet and cook the patties for 2 to 3 per side to sear.
- Transfer the burgers to the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until heated through.
- Toast the gluten free hamburger buns then serve the burgers on them with your favorite toppings.
Dinner: Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu
- 36 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets (3-ounces each)
- Salt and pepper
- 6 slices ham, cut in half
- 6 slices Swiss cheese, cut in half
- 1 large egg plus 2 egg whites
- 1 bag Schär Gluten Free Bread Crumbs
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Cooking spray
- Preheat the oven to 450°F and grease a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Wash the chicken and pat dry with paper towel then pound flat between two pieces of parchment paper.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper then lay flat on a work surface.
- Place a slice of ham on each piece of chicken then add cheese and roll the chicken up around the filling.
- Whisk together the eggs, egg whites, and water in a medium bowl.
- In a separate bowl, combine the Schär Gluten Free Bread Crumbs and parmesan cheese.
- Dip the chicken pieces in the egg wash the dredge in breadcrumbs.
- Place the chicken pieces seam-side-down on the baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Serve hot.
Sample Meal Plan #3
Breakfast: Berry Yogurt Smoothie
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- ½ cup frozen blackberries
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 whole banana, frozen and sliced
- Add the blueberries, blackberries, and almond milk to a blender.
- Pulse several times to chop the ingredients.
- Add the yogurt and banana then blend until smooth.
- Thin, if needed, with more almond milk then pour into glasses to serve.
Lunch: Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad Sandwich
- 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
- ½ cup diced red onion
- ½ cup diced apple
- ½ cup red grapes, halved
- ¼ cup dried cranberries, unsweetened
- ¼ cup chopped almonds
- ½ cup Greek yogurt, plain
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- 8 slices Schär Deli Style Seeded Bread
- Toss together the chicken, red onion, apples, grapes, cranberries, and almonds in a large bowl.
- Add the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and toss well.
- Adjust seasoning to taste then serve between slices of gluten free bread.
Dinner: Easy Pasta Primavera
- 1 (12-ounce) box Schär Gluten Free Penne
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 cups broccoli florets, chopped fine
- 1 medium red pepper, diced
- 2 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup shredded or grated parmesan
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the gluten free pasta.
- Cook to al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes, then drain (reserve ¾ cup of cooking water).
- Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion and carrot then sauté for 2 minutes.
- Stir in the broccoli and red pepper then sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Add the zucchini and sauté for 2 minutes or until all of the veggies are tender.
- Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, and seasoning then cook for another 2 minutes
- Transfer the veggies to the empty pasta pot.
- Add the pasta, lemon juice, and some salt then stir in the cooking water a few tablespoons at a time to loosen the pasta as needed.
- Garnish with parmesan cheese and parsley then serve hot.
Now you have all of the resources to cook and eat a healthy gluten free diet, head over to the Schär shop to stock up on pantry staples such as gluten free breads, bread crumbs, and more!