Have you seen the gluten free shelves in the supermarket expanding? Many people are aware of their gluten sensitivity or even have coeliac disease. And the gluten-free food industry is eagerly stepping in. Which doesn’t mean that gluten free products are necessarily healthy: they’re almost always highly processed and contain lots of sugar, soy and processed oils.
So what to do if you want or need to go an a healthy gluten free diet? Here are some tips to help you transition:
Shop on the outside aisles of your supermarket. That’s where the healthy foods are usually located. So stock up on organic fruits and vegetables, lean meats and eggs among others.
Read labels!When you buy packaged foods, it’s important to understand what they contain. Foods that include wheat, rye, spelt, barley, or kamut contain gluten. Also, look for words like “spices,” “flavoring,” “modified food starch,” “maltodextrin,” “glucose syrup,” and “citric acid.” These can all contain gluten. Be sure to read the ingredients list and also the “contains” section of food labels.
These are the grains you can eat: quinoa, teff, buckwheat, brown rice, millet and amaranth. If you want to try oats, look for the gluten free ones. They’re not more processed than the regular ones, just grown and rolled in a safe way.
“Gluten-free” doesn’t necessarily mean ‘healthy‘. Especially stay away from gluten-free cakes, sweets and biscuits. They contain often loads of sugar and processed flours and are low in nutrients.
Don’t buy any ready-made sauces and dressings. Make your own so you make sure they are healthy and without any gluten, sugar or processed ingredients.
Go back to the kitchen and prepare your own meals. Chopping your veg and preparing your meal is a great way to unwind from a busy day. And it’s a lot cheaper as well!
Find some great websites and blogs. Cooking healthy and delicious meals is so much easier now with all the inspiration you can find online. I love the Deliciouslyella blog. Her recipes are also dairy and refined sugar free. Mynewroots is another great and very creative one. And if you love baking and sweet treats, have a look at Livia’s kitchen. Start with two or three easy meals at first. Once you feel comfortable, move of to more challenging or time-consuming recipes.
Get prepping. Make a big pot of soup and freeze it in portions. Make a batch of your favorite snacks with a friend. So that when you’re tired or uninspired you won’t be reaching for the not-so-good stuff. You’ll find more ideas in my free Healthy Eating on the Go guide.
Know which alcohol to avoid. Gluten-free alcohol includes cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port and liqueurs, but remember that beer, lagers, stouts and ales contain varying amounts of gluten.
Over to you! What are your top tips for going gluten free?
I’ve always loved making kefir and yoghurt with cow’s milk and really missed it when I decided to go dairy free. I missed the taste as well as the tons of beneficial bacteria that help my gut flora. No idea what kefir is? Have a look here.
So I started making kefir from plant based milks and I much say it was a bit of a messy experiment. I tried different kinds of coconut, using canned coconut milk until I discovered it had BPA (a hormone disrupting chemical in plastic) in the lining of the can. I then tried creamed coconut, that comes in a block, that you dissolve in hot water.
The problem for me with making kefir from coconut is that there’s quite a lot of (good) fat that’s solid at room temperature and that makes it hard to strain out the kefir grains once the kefir is ready.
But now I’ve found an easy way to make nut milk kefir with cashews!
I soak 1 cup of raw cashews in water for about four hours, together with two dates. These don’t have to be expensive medjool dates, any organic dates will do.
I then rinse them and add three cups of filtered water to the soaked nuts and dates and whizz them up in my nutribullet for about two minutes. That’s all: my cashew nut milk is ready.
Next step: I put a heaped teaspoon of kefir grains in a jam jar and add the nut milk and leave it on my kitchen counter for 24 hours. I store the rest of the nut milk in the fridge for later use. It keeps for about three days.
It’s then easy to strain our the kefir grains through a plastic sieve, pop the grains into a clean jar and add the nut milk I kept in the fridge.
I like it for breakfast with a grated apple, some nuts, ground linseed and cacao nibs.
Because of the mild weather there’s still lots of chickweed growing at the moment! It has been said that there is no part of the world where Chickweed is not to be found. It’s one of the first greens available in winter and the tenderest of wild greens. It’s available most of the year round, but gets stringy around midsummer. As the name suggests, poultry love it.
Chickweed is readily distinguished from the alike plants by a line of hairs that runs up the stem on one side only, which when it reaches a pair of leaves is continued on the opposite side. As you can see in the picture.
Chickweed can be eaten raw. Most obvious is eating it as a salad. Or how about liquidised in a green smoothy? It makes a nice pesto as well. But the best recipe I’ve come across is chickweed pakoras…
Chickweed pakora From: Hedgerow – John Wright
Don’t be too precise on quantities: it’s hard to get this one wrong…
100 gr gram (chickpea) flour
1 tbsp medium curry powder or to taste
½ tps baking powder
½ tsp salt (or more)
About 120 ml water
50 gr chickweed, washed, dried and roughly chopped
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic or a handful of wild garlic
Vegetable oil for shallow frying
– Mix flour, curry powder, baking powder and salt
– Slowly stir in enough water to form a paste with the consistency of mustard
– Mix in chickweed, onion and garlic
– Heat a thin layer of oil in a heavy-based frying pan
– When hot, spoon in heaped spoonfuls of the pakora mixture to form little cakes. Space them well apart
– Cover with a lid and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until crisp and golden brown on one side.
– Turn over the cakes and brown the other side
– Drain on kitchen paper and serve!