If you haven’t read my previous posts about grains and why they are bad, please do so. They will also give you some background about why I have decided to go grain free. If you are thinking about trying it yourself, please talk to your doctor first to make sure that you know what health issues it could bring up for you. I don’t think there will be any, but I’m not a doctor. One thing to watch out for is blood sugar levels. If you don’t eat enough carbs, you may get low blood sugar and you’ll want to be careful of that. I have actually had positive results with my blood sugar and have not had a hypoglycemic incident (sudden drop in blood sugar) since cutting out grains!
So, let’s get to it! When I first started this grain free life about four months ago, I thought it was going to be impossible. I started by allowing myself one meal or day per week to eat grains. This allowed me to go grain free the other six days of the week and gave me motivation to not eat those cookies, breads, and other temptations during the week…knowing that I had a special meal to look forward to on the weekends. For me, it was Cracker Barrel’s Mama’s Pancake breakfast…YUM! After about a month I stopped having intense cravings and felt satisfied eating grain free seven days a week. In the months since then, I have had a slice of bread, bite of pasta, handful of tortilla chips, sushi rolls, and a couple of other things, but not on a daily or weekly basis. I have only “cheated” when I had no other choice, it wasn’t out of craving. I have easily looked temptation in the eye and not even blinked twice while people ate bread, muffins, and other forbiddens right in front of me. Some people unknowingly touted their grainy foods to me, commenting…”OH, this is so good!”; or “Don’t you want any?”; or “Yum, yum, yum!”…and yet I didn’t even hear that nagging “Feed me, Seymour!” voice coming from my stomach! I have never been one to fight off temptations, so I know this is not normal for me. I’m guessing that the cravings prior to this was my body’s reaction to the grains…when you eat them, you want more. I can also go much longer without feeling hungry than I have ever been able to in my life. Prior, I used to get hungry every few hours and I assume that was because of the way grains affected my insulin and blood sugar.
So, you may ask…”What the heck can you eat on a grain free diet?” A lot of things! If you were to Google paleo recipes, you can find an abundance of meals to make! Paleo foods should not include grains, legumes, nuts, dairy, or sugar. I may someday work my way up to that, but I am taking baby steps. If you are not cutting out dairy, sugar, nuts and legumes, then you have even more options for recipes you can make. Even though I plan to remove those things from my diet (as part of an elimination diet to see how they affect my health) for now I continue to eat them. This allows me to cook things with almond flour, which adds a variety of grain free substitute recipes to make. Visit Elanas Pantry at http://www.elanaspantry.com/ for a ton of gluten free recipes made with almond flour. Unlike most gluten free recipes, hers do not include the grain containing gluten free ingredients like rice flour, oat flour, corn, etc. I read somewhere on her site or in her book that she is grain free, so all of her recipes should be safe. Keep in mind that she uses agave nectar in almost everything! I HATE the taste of agave nectar and I have read that it may be higher on the glycemic index than sugar, so I avoid it. What I do use is coconut palm sugar. It is expensive, but I don’t make a lot with it, so I justify it as a luxury. I usually add about the same amount as what’s listed for agave nectar in the recipe, and add the same amount of water to compensate for the liquidity of the agave nectar. So far it seems to work well, but you may need to play around with the ratio. If you are not going sugar free, then by all means use regular sugar, honey, or any other natural sweeter…please don’t use the artificial stuff…they are just so bad for you (even splenda, but especially the others.)
For the past four months, I have had a base of rotating recipes that I use for dinner, and I will provide you with links to the recipes and my own recipes once I figure out how I want to organize them on here. For now, I’ll just give you an idea of how I approached this and what kind of foods I’ve been eating. If you are going to try this diet, do like I have been and don’t count calories, fat, or portion sizes…it makes it so much easier! And it works…I mean I have lost over 20 lbs this way, so there is the evidence!! You don’t need to feel hungry to lose weight.
On the weekdays I bring about ½ cup of 4% cottage cheese to work. I use these glass Wean Cube containers and fill them up as much as I can. You’d be surprised how much cottage cheese holds you over. Cottage cheese has a lot of protein in it, and protein will keep you feeling full and satisfied…remember that! I don’t like the taste of the fat free or 1% milkfat cottage cheese, so I was happy when I found Friendship 4% Milkfat Cottage Cheese. It’s delicious! If you don’t like cottage cheese, try yogurt or find something else that has lots of protein in it. I usually eat my cottage cheese around 9:00am, but that depends how busy I am when I get into the office. Most days I don’t feel hungry again until around 11:30 – 12:00. My fiance gets two hard boiled eggs, two slices of bacon, and about 1 cup of cottage cheese (he’s much bigger than I am, so the cottage cheese alone is not enough for him.) By all means, eat as much as you need to so that you feel satisfied, but not stuffed.
On the weekends we have a variety of options. Most of the time we will eat two hard boiled eggs, two strips of bacon and something else. The something else varies depending on how lazy I am. Lately I’ve been having an order of hash browns from Dunkin Donuts (because my fiancé usually goes there on the weekends to get an iced coffee to have with breakfast), but I just found out that they use cornstarch, so I am going to have to stop eating those! Plus I know they have a lot of other crap in them that I don’t want in my body, like Modified Cellulose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, and a ton of other crap I can’t pronounce! Oh well…I need to stop being lazy and just make my own hash browns (recipe soon to follow once I find a good one!) One of my other options is to make almond flour pancakes. I use the recipe in Elana’s Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, and I modify it slightly. This recipe on her website looks like it might be the same. I will post my modified version at some point, so you can wait for that if you are too afraid to test out your own modifications. This pancake recipe is delicious enough to satisfy me…and I have a snooty pancake palette from eating Cracker Barrel pancakes, so you know it must be good! Some days I will add chocolate chips if I’m feeling a little wild, but I bet blueberries, bananas, or anything else would just make these even more delicious!
If I don’t feel like cooking, we will go out to breakfast and have any combination of the following, eggs, corned beef hash, hash browns, bacon, sausage, omelet, etc. Just no toast, biscuits, pancakes, French toast, or anything else with grains. I thought it would be difficult to watch other people eating this stuff right next to me, but it’s not!
Weekdays I bring a lunch to work. If I don’t, unfortunately there are not a lot of grain free options that I feel are satisfying enough (for the most part it’s just salad), plus it’s more affordable this way. When I am hungry and just want to eat, that’s when I tend to make the bad choices and regret it later, so it’s safer to just brown bag it. Usually I eat lunch around 12:00 – 12:30, depending on when I got around to eating breakfast. So, up until this point, the cottage cheese has keep my satisfied. Before I used to eat a bagel or bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on an english muffin (both of which are way more food than the 1/2 cup of cottage cheese) and I was starving by lunch time! Sometimes I would even have to have a snack around 10:30 or 11:00. Lately my lunches have consisted of the following: About 1 cup of chicken or tuna salad (again, I don’t measure, but this is just to give you an idea of what I am eating), with full fat mayonnaise. Sometimes I’ll throw in some chopped green onions, grated zucchini, dried cranberries or nuts, etc into my chicken salad. Tuna will sometimes get relish, but I need to find another tuna recipe because I am getting bored with that! I’ve also done some roast beef or rotisserie chicken left over from dinner, or any other protein that I can find. I always have a handful of baby carrots with that, no dip because I just like them plain, but feel free to use dip if you want. I’ll also have a couple of handfuls of potato chips, usually less than what you’d get in the individual sized bags you can get from a vending machine, but sometimes more. Just make sure you check the bag for cornstarch, as some of the flavored varieties have cornstarch in the ingredients. Sweet potato chips or the mixed root vegetable chips are good too! Just no corn chips, popcorn, rice chips, or anything else with grains! Then I’ll have a piece of fruit, depending on what looks good at the market. Recently I’ve have satsumas, which I have never had before. They are so yummy! Today I have a plum in my lunch, but any fruit you like is fine. Then, if I am still hungry, I might have nuts, or something else depending on what I have in the house. Today I have walnuts and chocolate chips, but a couple of weeks ago I had mashed butternut squash. It all depends on what I feel like making on the weekends. I like to have stuff that is easy to make and throw in my lunch bag the night before. I make my fiance’s lunch and he gets the same stuff that I eat, just slightly larger portions, plus a yogurt and sometimes another piece of fruit.
On the weekends lunch is tough if I don’t plan ahead. Sometime we get up so late that we eat breakfast and dinner, no lunch. Other days, it’s basically the same options that I have for dinner, but these have usually been the times when I have cheated. This is due to my lack of planning for weekend lunches and when we get hungry and we are out, we might end up eating something with grains. My plan is to come up with a list of grain free foods we can eat at local restaurants to help on these occasions. We went to Cilantro Mexican Grill this weekend and I was glad to find that you can get salads! So, I ordered a salad with steak, sour cream, guacamole, pinto beans, salsa, and cheese…it was so yummy and way more than I could eat! That’s one place to add to the list, until I stop eating legumes that is.
Way before I started the grain free diet I decided to make a weekly dinner menu. I can plan quick meals for our busy nights, and leave the more complicated ones for the not so busy nights. I found that before doing this, even if I had a meal planned, sometimes I would just feel too overwhelmed or lazy to make dinner because I felt like I had to think about it too much. At that time I was also making different meals every week. Having a routine and planning it out, really makes it seems less daunting and more manageable, and helps make writing the shopping list must easier too. I tend to keep the same weekly meals for a few weeks until I get bored and then I might change only one or two meals a week to keep things simple. First I had to find recipes we both liked to eat and make. Meaning, tasty and simple! So, by the time I get home, take care of some odds and ends, and cook, we eat dinner anytime between 6:30 – 8:00. This really depends how busy and lazy we are. And for the most part I am not hungry until around 6:30. This could never happen before going grain free. I would be starving and usually have a snack around 3:30, and then I’d be starving again around 6:30. If I was to not have a snack at 3:30, then I would have had a hypoglycemic incident before 6:30. So, that’s a positive sign to me!
Here is a sample:
Grass fed steak with brussel sprouts, and cauliflower/carrot mash.
Salmon with tomato, mozzarella, avocado salad.
Chicken legs with roasted cabbage and carrots.
Hamsteak with asparagus and apple sauce.
Chicken legs with roasted beets and swiss chard.
Almond chicken with broccoli and mashed sweet potatoes.
Salad with chicken, tomatoes, avocado.
These are not in order and sometimes I’ll switch up the side dishes or seasoning on the protein. I am planning to test out a couple of new recipes next week because I am bored with a few of these (all of which I will share with you soon.)
We usually have some type of sweets for dessert after dinner. I really look forward to this every day…I love my sweets! Usually around 8:30 – 9:30 is when we have dessert, depending on when we had dinner. This is not out of hunger, it’s out of craving the sweets, so I will see if this craving stops when I give up sugar at a later date. For now, dessert usually consists of a cupcake, or bowl of ice cream. I have a recipe from Elana’s Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook for cupcakes that I have modified to replace the agave nectar and they are delicious! My fiance loves them and I brought them to a party with a yummy homemade cream cheese frosting, and got rave reviews! I have also made some of her cookies from this book and they are good too, but I keep going back to the cupcakes because they are super quick to make and taste so good.
I hope these foods sound good to you, but just know that there are a ton of options out there. Check out the links below for good recipe sites I’ve found. Keep in mind that some of the substitute recipes (like paleo breads, etc) are not always tasty. I have tested a bunch and been very unhappy with them. Elana’s Pantry recipes so far have been the best, with modifications for the agave nectar and grapeseed oil. I have not yet found a bread recipe that I like for sandwiches, but after four months of being grain free, I have found that I am not craving bread like I was in the beginning. She does have a good almond flour bread that is tasty with jelly for breakfast though…just not good with roast beef! For now I am not concerned with finding a good one, but I plan to test out her newest bread recipe and I’ll let you know what I think.
So, is it something you want to try, but its seems overwhelming to you? Well, it doesn’t have to be…just take it one step at a time. If you are having health problems, then what have you got to lose by trying this? All your doctor is going to do is give you medication, so it’s your choice.
In the meantime, here are some recipe sites for you to get lost on!
http://www.elanaspantry.com/ (Great recipes)
http://wellnessmama.com/recipe-index/ (One of my favorite blogs! Great recipes and advice.)