Monday, October 31, 2011

GUEST POST: The world doesn't have to end when you go gluten-free

Today I'm lucky enough to have Kim Wilson of Simply Natural Health sharing her tips for going gluten-free. I told Kim that I've been pondering whether to cut gluten out of my diet, as I'm just so tired all the time and think gluten might be contributing to that. However, the thought of going gluten-free is so daunting I don't know where to begin.

Here's what Kim says:

When a person learns that they need to remove gluten from their diet, it can easily feel overwhelming. The Western diet is based on foods that naturally contain gluten - things like bread, bagels, baked goods, crackers, pizza and pasta - they all contain gluten. To have to consume a diet without these foods can understandably feel pretty devastating.

When I teach classes on preparing a gluten-free diet, I try to encourage people with the following three thoughts:

1. People throughout the world subsist on diets that aren't so gluten-dependent.
The people of China, Japan, India and Africa eat diets that aren’t based on traditional breads, pastas and baked goods. When our family visited China I was struck by the fact that there was no bread. Did we suffer as a result of this deprivation? By no means! The food in China was amazing. 

When we can expand our diet to include more ethnic dishes, we can enjoy incredibly tasty and diversified meals without feeling deprived.

In thinking about how people in other parts of the world eat, we can also consider some alternatives to traditional breads. Our refined flour, yeasted breads are a relatively new innovation. Flatbreads, “pancakes” and bean-based “cakes” are bread-like foods that have been consumed in many cultures for centuries and can be prepared gluten-free quite satisfactorily.

2. Gluten only makes up a small part of the world of foods available to us.
Our family eats a vegan diet and even within this “limited” diet, I consider there to be five basic food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and nuts/seeds. So of these five “food groups” only one potentially contains gluten. That means we can freely eat of all the fruits, veggies, beans, nuts and seeds we’d like. And within the “grain group” we only need to avoid gluten-containing grains. There are still lots of tasty ones left, including: rice, corn, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, teff, oats (GF), etc. I’ve experimented with 14 different gluten-free grains and have found the ones listed here the most pleasant to work with.

3. You can do more than just purchase gluten-free versions of foods you’re familiar with.
There are several options for those eating a gluten-free diet. You can:
  • Do what most people starting out on a gluten-free diet do and purchase gluten-free versions of foods you’re familiar with: gluten-free breads, pastas, baked goods, etc. This is very costly, it usually means the gluten-free person needs to eat differently from everyone else and it is lacking in nutrition, fiber and flavor. I’m not surprised that people who have newly gone gluten-free get immensely discouraged. They go to the store and pay a lot of money for food that is completely dissatisfying. I’m sure they assume they wouldn’t be able to do any better at home making something from scratch. But they’re wrong. Gluten-free recipes made from whole foods are delicious and nutritious!
  • Prepare gluten-free foods from store-bought mixes. Again, these are expensive and nutritionally inferior.
  • Prepare gluten-free foods with common gluten-free recipes. These are usually highly dependent upon refined ingredients plus gums and starches that can be costly and hard to find (some of these recipes are down-right bizarre - 1 cup cornstarch, ½ cup tapioca starch, 1 Tbsp. xantham gum, . . .- yick!).
  • Prepare gluten-free foods from scratch with whole ingredients. Don’t be intimidated. This can be simple, affordable, tasty and, as an added benefit, the whole family can share the same meals.This is a significant point. By eating whole food gluten-free, you don’t have to go this alone! Most individuals who find they have to avoid gluten live in a setting where other people continue to eat gluten-containing foods. And because store-bought gluten-free foods are so costly, the person with gluten-issues find they have to eat differently from everyone else. If you prepare gluten-free foods from whole ingredients, you have a new freedom in that the whole family can eat the same foods. The foods are inexpensive and tasty enough that everyone will enjoy eating the same meals! Isn’t that good news?

Gluten-free recipes to get you started

Note: A couple of recipes contain light buckwheat flour. If you’re not familiar with this, it can be purchased already ground or you can simply grind it from hulled raw buckwheat groats in your blender. If you can’t find it, simply substitute sorghum flour or ground GF oats.

About the author

Kim Wilson has spent over 12 years working exclusively with whole foods to develop recipes that satisfy a variety of needs (for those just beginning to eat healthy, to serious raw-fooders, to those with extensive food allergies and health conditions like candida) - all in a tasty, enjoyable and affordable way.  

Kim's recipes don’t just avoid ingredients that contain gluten, but also a number of other foods that are problematic for many people (soy, dairy, eggs, sugar, yeast, animal products, etc.). Whereas most gluten-free products and recipes depend heavily upon refined ingredients and costly gums and starches (devoid of nutrition, fiber and flavor!) her recipes are prepared exclusively with whole foods. So when you prepare gluten-free recipes in this way, not only will you be eating gluten-free and allergen-free, but you’ll be eating better!

Be sure to sign up for her free weekly newsletter, Wholesome Tidbits, and keep updated on new recipes at Simply Natural Health on Facebook!


  1. I love the whole-foods concept! I am so disappointed in "health food" shops to see all the pre-processed gluten free food on offer, when you can make healthy gluten free meals from whole food. We don't avoid gluten completely, but I certainly try not to rely on wheat (or any food) too exclusively by trying to eat a range of grains and unprocessed/whole foods. I think its all about balance. I did a great detox under the guidance of a naturopath and that was the main thing she stressed - don't eat too much of any one thing. Thanks for sharing this and introducing me to another new blog Emma!

  2. Hey Liz, I would be interested to hear more about your detox. Will you post about it at some point?

  3. Yesterday my daughter and I were driving back from Whole Foods and she commented, "If it wasn't for Mrs. Wilson, I don't think we would know about such good foods that I could eat." She has multiple food allergies and Kim's recipes and friendship have made it all much easier. My daughter was eating a Rice Dream bar, which she had for the first time at Kim's house a few years ago.

  4. That's wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  5. This is a great introduction to gluten-free! Thanks, Kim! The first few weeks gluten-free were scary for me because our culture is so steeped in carbohydrates. Even though I only ate wheat maybe 3X/week, it was daunting to give that up (it was almost a withdrawal process)! Now, I'm not even TEMPTED to eat gluten because I don't miss the way it made me feel.
    I purchased a grain mill to grind the alternative flours and am slowly adapting to gluten-free cooking. For one starting out, I would suggest beginning with flatbreads and/or pancakes before moving on to muffins and cakes (which can be dismal failures with the wrong flour ratio).
    Now, my challenge is transitioning the kids (who are a lot more attached to their bread).

  6. great article. I have been gluten free for more than two years, and now diagnosed with Coeliacs. About a year ago i started getting really tired again all the time and had reflux (which had gone with getting rid of gluten) and discovered I was egg and dairy intolerant as well.
    Long story short, I eat lots of Real foods, lots of coconut oil, and can still enjoy the odd treat.
    If you ever want some more recipes, I have a stack... and have even made up some of my own ;)
    My 10 year old has recently started eating Gluten free and is doing GREAT! She is already very well clued up (as are my 5 and 8 year old).

  7. Interesting stuff. I sort of am in between with how I prepare/use gluten free food. Most often I make gluten free food at home using whole/real ingredients but I also often buy prepared GF bread and occasionally other GF prepared foods. I have moved away from the GF prepared cereals as I really feel there is not much nutrition in them. I try not to use GF pasta very often either. I do buy the prepared GF pizza bases but don't use them very often.
    I feel that I eat too much rice now - can that be a bad thing? No doubt it can.....
    Let us know how you get on with GF Emma - personally I did not notice a big change when I went GF (due to Coeliac diagnosis). People often say to me, "you must feel so much better" but I have noticed far more 'ills' since going GF than I did before - since my body is so much more sensitive to gluten (and maybe other foods).

  8. We are vegan but not necessarily gluten free. But with all the yummy recipes Kim has, we may need to go to gluten free desserts! I absolutely love her chili recipe, but maybe it's time to bring back some desserts:-) It's hard to find good tasting recipes that don't use dairy.

    Thanks for the great post, Kim and Emma!


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