Gluten-free isn’t always healthy

When people first hear my household has gone gluten free, they almost always say the same two things: 1. “I’m so sorry — that must be hard!” and 2. “At least you’ll lose weight!”

People who haven’t shopped for gluten-free food assume that the hardest thing about going gluten free will also be the best for your waistline — no more bread or pasta will mean less you on the scale. But in fact, there are lots of carbs available to those who keep gluten free. And just because an item is gluten free doesn’t mean that it will be healthy. For example, did you know that Cheetos, pork rinds, Almond Joy bars, Kool-Aid and crème brûlée are all naturally gluten free? Not exactly what you would call health food!

Many gluten-free recipes and products also have to swap out healthy ingredients for other, less healthy, options. The gluten in wheat flour helps create the wonderful structure we associate with hearty breads, moist cakes and chewy cookies. Many of the pre-baked gluten-free cakes and cookies use sugar for moisture and fat for texture; gluten-free breads are often significantly lower in fiber than their whole wheat counterparts. In fact, a gluten-free diet is often low in B vitamins, iron and fiber.

Who needs vending machines?

One of the hardest times of the day for healthy eating is the time between lunch and dinner: the dreaded “snack time.” When you need to eat gluten-free, even the healthy vending machine options are usually off limits. With that in mind, here are some gluten-free snack options that are good for your gluten-free diet and for your overall health. One is naturally gluten-free and the other has been gently tweaked to be gluten-free. But both are safe to snack on and, in moderation (always key for any food), will help you stay on a healthy course!

Gluten-free Curry Chex Mix
An old party standby, Chex Mix is easily made gluten-free! This recipes easily doubles (or triples) for a crowd.

Makes 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Rice Chex
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free pretzel sticks (I like Snyder’s Gluten-free Pretzels)
  • 1 1/2 Tbs grapeseed oil
  • 2 tsp gluten-free Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins is gluten-free)
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Cover large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine cereal and pretzels. In a small bowl, combine nuts, oil, Worcestershire sauce and curry powder. Add nuts to cereal and toss well to coat cereal with wet ingredients. Spread mix on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely and store in airtight container.

 Teff-Almond Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from a recipe in Terry Walters’ “Clean Eating.”

Gluten-, dairy-, egg- and soy-free, high in fiber and iron, these are the healthiest cookies I know!

Makes 30 1-1/2 inch cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups teff flour (Bob’s Red Mill makes this, available at Whole Foods)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup natural unsweetened almond butter (smooth or chunky)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (I love Enjoy Life mini-chips: gluten-, dairy- & soy-free chocolate!)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl. Blend almond butter, almond milk and maple syrup in another bowl; pour wet ingredients over dry and blend until just combined – don’t over mix. Gently stir in chocolate chips. Drop batter by heaping teaspoon onto cookie sheet. Use a fork to make a cross-hatch design. Bake for 12-13 minutes – don’t over bake! Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.

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