I offered a workshop at the wonderful Atherton Market in Charlotte, North Carolina, earlier this month. The event was titled “Going Gluten-Free? Be a Nutrient-Seeker!” I was speaking from my heart as the mom of a family that avoids gluten because of Celiac Disease (daughter) and severe gluten intolerance (the rest of us). You can read our story HERE. The following is a brief summary of my workshop!
What is gluten?
Gluten is a general term for the proteins (gliaden & gluten) present in grains. Gluten is found in wheat (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, kamut, einkorn, etc.), rye, and barley. Gluten helps baked goods maintain their shape, acting as a “glue” that holds food together. Oats do not contain the offending gluten but are almost always cross-contaminated unless you can find certified gluten-free oats.
Is there life after gluten?
Absolutely! Based on our own experiences, there can definitely be some challenges at first. You may feel overwhelmed by the thought of meal planning and label reading. You may experience intense cravings and even a detox effect. You may also endure slightly snarky comments and some exasperating eye-rolls from ill-informed friends and family. Stay strong! You can do it!
What do I have against “gluten-free” foods?
While gluten-free substitutes can be helpful and comforting during the transition to a gluten-free diet, in my opinion they really are just “food-like products” that are typically composed of inflammatory starchy high-glycemic ingredients, tons of sugar or artificial sweeteners, and highly refined fillers such as xanthan gum and guar gum. Gluten-free substitute foods are always more expensive and, from my viewpoint, rarely nourishing. Soon after our diagnoses, I realized we should be concentrating on foods that nourish us and support our body’s ability to heal. We now seek nutrient-dense foods.
What is a nutrient-seeker?
Our ancestors were nutrient-seekers! Prior to the last 100 years, most food was hunted, raised and grown locally … not manufactured as is the current situation. Traditional cultures favored local foods (of course!) and took great care to utilize the whole animal, favoring animals fats & organ meats. In addition, traditional cultures consumed seasonal produce, lacto-fermented foods similar to my sauerkraut or kimchi, and raw cultured dairy. (Read more about traditional diets at WestonAPrice.org.)
Compare that to our modern day diet based primarily on subsidized, mono-cropped, hybridized, GMO, denatured, overly-processed, factory farmed/CAFO, food-like products. <grumble, grumble> Then throw in marketers, lobbyists, and misguided government recommendations. Do you sense my frustration yet? Read Death by Food Pyramid for more details on how & why things went so very wrong.
Where can we find nourishing, nutrient-dense foods?
Here are some of my suggestions for sourcing nutrient-dense food:
- Your own home! If you have a windowsill, patio, backyard or front yard, you can grow some of your own food!
- Your local farmers markets. I <3 our local farmers! Get to know them and support their hard work.
- Your local health food stores and co-ops.
- Grocery stores and big box stores like Costco, etc. (Diane Sanfilippo of BalancedBites.com offers a handy resource list to subscribers.)
What do my typical gluten-free meals look like?
I usually start with a small portion of pastured meat or wild-caught seafood. I LOVE my homemade bone broth, pastured eggs, tons of locally-sourced veggies & fruits, homemade lacto-fermented foods & beverages such as kombucha, water kefir & beet kvass, LOTS of healthy fats including my home-rendered lard, nuts & seeds, occasional non-gluten grains/legumes that have been properly prepared, raw cultured dairy, natural sweeteners, unrefined salt, and really really really dark chocolate 😉 I don’t count calories. I never buy anything labeled skim, low-fat or “100 calorie.” Note: this is not medical, nutritional or dietary advice.
Is this gluten-free lifestyle affordable and manageable?
I’ll admit, it’s a challenge. Our priorities have changed over the past few years and I often think of how our ancestors spent a HUGE percentage of their earnings on nourishing food. If you’re struggling to justify the cost of pastured meats and organic produce, compare the value of a nutrient-empty food (like soda or chips) to the nourishment of nutrient-dense foods!
Yes, you’ll spend a lot more time in the kitchen and may find that you eat out less. I encourage you to buy in bulk and prepare larger batches of food to eat over several days. Don’t waste food … and eat your leftovers!
How do I handle questions/comments from friends, family members and wait staff?
When you experience incredible healing and recovery in the ways we did, you may find that you want everyone to go gluten-free! And, let’s face it, that can be annoying for friends and family. I’m slowly … very slowly … learning to keep my mouth shut … sometimes. Okay, I’m really not good at keeping my mouth shut. But I’m working on it!
I always speak up if I run into an uninformed waiter or waitress. When a waitress sassed, “Is that gluten-free thing just a fad?” I spoke discretely and politely to the restaurant manager and and was assured that her remark did not reflect their food allergy training. When my daughter and I inquired about ingredients at a Charleston SC Italian Ice cart and the operator said, “You know that gluten thing is not for real, right?” I joked, “You know you don’t want me to come at you across that cart, right?” I’m sure he was shivering in his boots at the site of my scrawny arms raised and prepared to do battle.
But seriously, it’s a matter of standing up for yourself, gently educating others, and politely insisting on careful food handling when dining outside of your home.
What resources do I recommend for those seeking nourishing gluten-free and grain-free foods?
Well, those were the highlights of my workshop! Feel free to post your questions below.