Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gluten Free is NOT a diet if you do not have a gluten allergy

Ok let me just set the record straight ...I have heard over and over again 'I am on the gluten free diet.' - well why?  Do you have Celiac disease - a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye?  'Well no'.  Do you have gluten intolerance - just like lactose intolerance but with symptoms similar to that of celiac disease without having the actual disease - vomiting, bloating, gas, diarrhea and in some cases, anaphylactic shock?  'Well no!'  Well then why are you eating a gluten free diet?  Because it is NOT a diet.

This is the most important thing to understand about 'gluten-free' THERE IS NO BENEFIT TO EATING GLUTEN FREE UNLESS YOU HAVE A GLUTEN ALLERGY OR INTOLERANCE. 

Gluten is a protein composite that appears in foods processed from wheat and related species, including barley and rye.  It gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture.  Gluten is a stabilizing agent in foods like ketchup, ice cream, marinades and salad dressings. 

Because of celiac disease (which I have) and gluten intolerance, people have to give up wheat products: whole wheat bread, whole wheat pita, whole wheat tortillas, whole wheat pasta - all whole grains that are part of a healthy, low fat and low calorie lifestyle.  Whole grains are essential for anyone trying to shed pounds and stay energized through workouts due to their slow burn digestion in your body.  Cutting these out of the diet is extremely difficult....but not impossible.  But it is pointless for someone without an allergy to cut them out of their diet.

Many people think that 'gluten free' equals 'carb free' which is not the case.  And furthermore - one should NEVER cut carbs out of their diet as your body can go into ketosis putting strain on the liver and ...when you start eating carbohydrates again - you will put weight back on. 

There are scads of gluten free products out there - gluten free cereal, pasta, pizza, crackers, cookies, cakes...but they all still have to have some form of carbohydrate in them so alternatives are used.  The alternatives include tapioca flour, rice flour (both white and brown), coconut flour, corn  - to name a few.  Many of these forms of carbohydrates are higher in calories and fat content than wheat products.  Just pick up a gluten free pizza crust at the store and look at the label -it contains double the amount of calories and fat than a whole wheat crust. 

Many of my clients who have celiac or gluten intolerance ask me if it is ok to eat gluten free cookies, pizza, crackers, pretzels and snack foods.  Well NO if you are trying to lose weight, put on lean muscle and get healthy.  These are STILL junk foods - they just have a different source of carbohydrate in them and still contain sugar and even MORE fat than usual!  Gluten free does not equal healthy.

Those living with celiac and gluten intolerance can still live a healthy lifestyle, shed weight, put on muscle, compete in fitness shows, run marathons...etc.  The right  foods must be selected though.  Complex carbohydrates must come from whole grain sources such as brown rice, brown rice flour, brown rice pasta, quinoa, gluten-free oats, sweet potato's, etc.  Protein sources should be purchased raw as many pre-cooked meats and pre-marinated meats contain gluten (and too much sodium at that).  Lots of fruits and veggies and minimal if not any processed foods at all.  This is the same diet I would put a regular client on who wanted to lose weight however the whole grain sources would include wheat products.

So if you think going gluten free is the newest diet craze, and that because Oprah went gluten free as part of a cleanse recently means you should also go gluten free...please save yourself the trouble and the day to day hardship those of us with gluten allergies must deal with when we cannot have healthy, low cal, energy sustaining whole wheat products.  Keep eating your wheaties :-)

In health,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Healthy Orange Chicken

I was inspired this past weekend while visiting my parents....they LOVE orange chicken from The Cheesecake Factory.  In their defense, they like to split the entree and have it as their cheat meal...perfectly ok for a once in a blue moon occurrence.  But at 1800 calories, over 50 grams of fat and triple your daily sodium needs - this dish is a big no no for a regular meal. 

So, of course, I had to research and create my own version.  And let me just say - there was not once ounce of food left on anyones plate!  With less than 400 calories per serving, less than 4g of fat and almost 2,500mg less sodium - it's ok to clean your plate with this meal!!

2 Whole oranges (juiced...I just squeeze them into the mixing bowl)
1/8 cup cider vinegar
1 TBS reduced sodium soy sauce (also comes in gluten free low sodium found at Whole Foods)
1/2 TBS Stevia (2 packets)
1 tsp corn starch
4 chicken breasts, sliced
1 garlic clove chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2-3 chopped bell peppers (I like to use red, orange and yellow for color and a bit of sweetness)
1 TBS sesame seeds

Bake the chicken in a 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes (I like to use just a few drops of soy sauce on each piece for added moisture).  Once cooled, chop into small cubes or strips.

While chicken is baking, combine orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, stevia and cornstarch in bowl until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes.
Spray a large pan with Pam Olive Oil cooking spray and add peppers and peas.  Cook until peppers soften (3-4 minutes).  Add dry mixture of garlic, ginger and pepper flakes and cook 1 minute longer.

Once chicken is cooked, add to pepper mixture in pan and pour juice mixture overtop, then add sesame seeds.  Cook on high heat 2-3 minutes.

Serve overtop brown rice (1/2 cup servings) or 2 ounces brown rice noodles or whole wheat noodles

Nutrition Info Per Serving (Makes 4 Servings)
1 Serving with 1/2 cup cooked brown rice