I get asked a lot about gluten free (GF) eating both by athletes and non-athletes, so I thought it would be an appropriate post: hopefully this will answer any questions you might have about pursuing a GF or low gluten diet. I have been eating gluten free for about 5 years now. It began in the fall of 2007 after Jarrod had qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games. He had been struggling with some cramping issues and our MAT (Muscle Activation Therapist) recommended that he try eating GF. Naturally, I figured I would try it too since doing something as a household, rather than solo, is much easier.
We made the change slowly, and started by replacing one thing at a time in our pantry. We didn’t throw anything away, but as we made the transition, we just didn’t repurchase any of the gluten items. We never realized how much junk we were eating! We loved Teddy Grahams, Goldfish, Keebler Cookies, and microwave pizzas. Honestly, we thought we ate healthy but eating GF completely cut out all the junk we were eating. We replaced our pasta with rice pasta or quinoa pasta. Our bread was replaced with Ezekiel. Breakfast changed from Mini-Wheats to oatmeal. We had to find new snacks and those became items like nuts, fruits, veges, rice cakes, etc. We started feeling really good, our digestion improved and the cramping went away. Eating GF sparked an entirely new way of eating for us. We started reading labels and asking ourselves: what are we putting into our bodies? So began the mission of trying to have “cleaner” diets. No more processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, or preservatives; if we can make it from scratch, we do it. Be careful though, some GF foods are extremely processed- so keep reading the labels. Just because it’s GF doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Next came the realization that in the process of eating so clean we were missing some important fats. We don’t buy low fat anything, if it’s natural form has fat in it, then that’s how we eat it. For us, this was really the last stage of really making our bodies happy. FAT. Don’t be afraid of it! It’s so important for our brain, muscles, recovery, etc. Some of the ways we chose incorporate fat are: a variety of oils (walnut, flax, coconut, olive, avocado, fish, etc), full fat dairy products (yogurt, milk, cheese, etc), nuts, eggs and meats.
I really enjoy baking; actually, let me rephrase that, I really enjoy eating baked goods. I missed cookies, cakes and muffins a lot when I switched to GF. There are lots of different flour substitutions that you can make for low gluten or GF baking. If I’m making something completely GF I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour. If you’re looking for low gluten flours I suggest spelt flour. I find that I can use either of these flours with any recipe and it turns out almost exactly the same. Another option is rice flour, but it is quite dry and doesn’t always create the yummiest baked goods. I’ve never tried quinoa flour, but I’ve heard it works very well too!
PLANNING YOUR MEALS
One of the biggest challenges when beginning a GF or low gluten diet is figure out what you’re going to eat. You have to give yourself options, and you can’t give your body the exact same foods every day. Here are some of my favorite meal options:
- oatmeal with almond milk, banana, and some sort of nut butter (nutella, almond butter, peanut butter, etc)
- 2 eggs, with pecan rice bread with butter and jam.
- Fage total greek yogurt, cottage cheese, berries (blueberries, rasperberries, blackberries or strawberries), granola and dark chocolate.
- I make some sort of sandwich with Ezekiel bread every day. I usually do cheese, natural lunchmeats with no preservatives, or tuna and pickles.
- Handful of mixed nuts.
- Salsa, hummus or guacamole with corn tortilla chips.
- Rice crackers
- Rice cakes with nut butter and banana.
- Mixed nuts
- Natural black licorice
- Yogurt with berries and nuts.
- Caprese salad (tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil, oil and balsamic)
- Alicia’s salad creation: (tomatoes, avocado, oregano, basil, mozzarella, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper)
Seared Tuna (or any fish) with crispy kale, guacamole, and polenta.
Udi’s GF pizza crusts with any toppings you like! My favorite is grilled chicken, kale, bacon and cheese.
Gluten free lasagna! It’s hard to find GF lasagna noodles, but if we can’t find them in stores we order them off Amazon. Take your favorite lasagna recipe and swap out the noodles.
Cook ground beef in a pan with your favorite seasonings (be careful of the packaged ones! There are some less than natural ingredients in some!) We use taco shells, add our favorite cheese, home made guacamole, salsa and we’re good to go! Make some rice with cilantro and black beans as a side and I promise you’ll find this meal more than satisfying.
- Vietnamese spring rolls
Chop up carrot, cucumber, romaine lettuce and cilantro and put it on a plate. Cook whatever protein you want in your spring rolls with some onion and butter: we like shrimp, beef and tofu. Cook rice noodles. Soak your rice paper and assemble much like you would a tortilla! Dip into a mixture of Hoisen sauce and peanut butter. ** Rice paper is hard to find in the grocery store: you may need to find it in a specialty shop.
We make a salad with every meal. We buy mixed greens and add our favorite toppings: mine is blue/ goat cheese, strawberries and pecans. Jarrod likes tomatoes, nuts and blue cheese.
- Organic ice-cream.
Ice-cream is simple to make, but thankfully you can buy organic ice-cream in stores now that have only 4-5 ingredients in them. Sometimes I’ll top my icecream with some dark chocolate, pretzels and fried plantains!
Gluten free/ low gluten eating seems daunting at first. My first barriers to success, were determining my new sources of carbs and figuring out what to eat! I really hope that some of meal ideas I've included provide the inspiration for your own GF eating. Twitter out to me at @AliciaKayeTri if you have any questions.
- Start slowly and ease into it.
- Plan your meals
- Be prepared to grocery shop more often
My next race is in Lifetime Chicago on August 25th. This will be the 4th race in the Lifetime Series. It will also be the first of two races in the Triple Crown. Due to the weather in Minneapolis, the Triple Crown has been reduced to Chicago and Oceanside. The weekend following Chicago, I'll be racing the Hy Vee 51.50 Championship in Des Moines, IA. It's going to be a very exciting couple weeks of racing. Thanks for reading!