4 Steps to Living Happily Gluten Free

By now, you’ve it heard over and over again – through the media, in national health magazines, and from nutrition experts far and wide – gluten is a healthy diet no-no. Whether you’re gluten intolerant or have a natural sensitivity to the protein found in wheat products, consuming foods containing gluten can wreak havoc on your body’s systems. If you’re trying to improve your diet by banishing wheat products and learning more about the impact that gluten has on your body, don’t think you’re alone in this journey to better health. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity and need to tweak their diets in order to maintain a happy, healthy gut.

Fortunately, finding gluten-free foods at your local grocery store is MUCH easier today than it was just a few years ago. Most of your favorite carbohydrates are made in gluten-free versions, such as cereal, crackers, sweets, and even bread! Other products that aren’t made in “gluten-free” versions can still be healthy for you, as long as you know what to look for.

Before I get into the four key steps to living happily gluten free, let’s examine exactly what gluten is and how it affects your body. According to Dr. Arthur Agatston, cardiologist and developer of the South Beach Diet, gluten is the major protein that is found in many grain products, as well as all forms of wheat, barley and rye. For those who are sensitive or intolerant, consuming foods containing gluten can make them feel ill, damage the lining of the small intestine, and contribute to a number of health problems, including chronic diarrhea, abdominal cramping, osteoporosis, and even cancer.

So how do you skip the suffering and keep your digestive system in tip-top shape? Start with these easy-to-follow steps for living happily gluten free:

1. Check the Label

Most gluten-free products today will specify on the package whether they are gluten-free or not. If it’s not obvious on the packaging with a circled “GF” symbol, check the ingredient list for your main culprits: wheat, barley, rye, etc. Some of my favorite gluten-free brands include Udi’s, Bob’s Red Mill and Glutino.

fruitsandveggies2. Eat Fresh

Maintaining a balanced diet chock full of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a healthy assortment of lean meats and cheese, is the most natural sure-fire path to a happy belly. Gluten is often found in highly processed foods found in plastic packaging or freezer aisles, so on your next visit to the grocery store, peruse the produce and be nice to your butcher!

3. Moderation is Key

Do you ever try to cut something out of your diet completely with good intentions only to find yourself binging on it three days later? Don’t fall into this all-too-common trap! Carbohydrates are a KEY part of a balanced diet, so DON’T feel like you have to ditch them all to stay healthy. Gluten-free grains come in all types of delicious varieties, including millet, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and popcorn, just to name a few. By allowing these into your diet – in moderation – you’ll satisfy your carb craving without offsetting your body’s balance.

Bobs Red Mill All Purpose Flour 5004. Make Substitutions

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of staying truly gluten free is when you’re dining out. Unless you’re planning on eating at a vegan, vegetarian or gluten-friendly restaurant, most establishments don’t offer gluten-free menu options. You can, however, ask for substitutions or modify your order to make it gluten free. For example, swap grains for veggies, skip the heavy sauces and stick to proteins. When cooking or baking at home, you can substitute all-purpose flour for white rice, millet or chickpea flour and still make the same great-tasting treats you grew up on.

Whether you’re grocery shopping, dining out or cooking at home, there are countless options to keep your menu free of gluten. The key is staying open-minded and keeping it creative. In the end, your tummy will thank you!

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THIS is the Most Important Relationship in Your Life

couple-with-food

When you first wake up in the morning, does your growling stomach send you dashing to the kitchen cupboard or do you cruise through your morning without a bite until lunch time? And what about that evening hour when you’re easing back after a long day and getting ready to shut your eyes, but your hunger pangs are just annoying enough that you could use one more quick bite before retiring for the night?

More importantly, how do you handle your body’s clear signals to your brain that it needs nourishment? Do you listen to them and allow yourself to quiet the rumbling, even if it’s your sixth meal of the day or do you ignore them and await your next scheduled feast?

Everyone has their own unique relationship with food and this very relationship can have the most impact on your health. Sure, romantic relationships, work relationships, friendships, and family ties are all critical to the health of your mind and body, but your relationship with food can solely determine how you function on a day-to-day basis.

For those of you with tumultuous, trying and somewhat dramatic relationships with food, the thought of your next meal may always be on your mind. You probably even find yourself scheduling everything else in your life around your next bite. If you make a commitment with a friend late morning, do you make sure you’re able to get home by noon so you don’t run late for your date with that chopped salad? Or do you get anxious when you know that your last meeting of the day will run late, setting off your whole evening schedule of meal prep, cook time and clean-up?

The very sustenance grown from this earth to keep you nourished and strong can also tear you apart – both physically and psychologically – if you don’t maintain a healthy relationship with it. On top of that, depriving your body of certain food groups can wreak havoc on your systems, causing your brain to slow down, your body to weaken and your emotions to spiral out of control.

Too many of us try to restrict our diet by limiting the amount of carbohydrates or fat we consume. While this may seem like a superficially effective way to keep your body slim and healthy, overdoing this can throw your whole metabolism out of whack, which will ultimately cause more harm than good.

So, what’s the solution? Sit down with the most important person in your life – yourself – and map out a balanced, healthy regimen that will not only work for your lifestyle, but will provide you with balance. Because at the end of the day, loving yourself and giving your body what it needs will keep you moving along the path of physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological health.