Denver, CO (PRWEB) March 26, 2012
Eating nutritious food is important for people on a gluten-free diet to maintain good health. Carol Fenster, author of 10 gluten-free gluten-free cookbooks, offers tips for choosing the most nutrient-dense options while still avoiding gluten, a protein in wheat that makes some people ill.
“Knowing how to make nutritious, gluten-free choices is important,” says Fenster, author of Gluten-Free 101, “because not all gluten-free foods are prepared safely nor do all gluten-free foods supply the nutrients our bodies need for good health.”
Eat the Rainbow: All vegetables are healthy in their own way―and a plant-based diet is becoming more popular among gluten-free people― but try to maximize nutrient intake with a wide variety of brightly-hued veggies such as purple cabbage and eggplant, red bell peppers and tomatoes, orange carrots and squash, and green broccoli or kale. Make sure any sauces on vegetables―such as a white sauce, or toppings like crispy breadcrumbs―are gluten-free. Brightly-hued fruits such as berries, cherries, mango, and kiwi are excellent choices but make sure any dessert sauces, puddings, or pastries in which they’re used are also gluten-free.
Opt for Whole Grains: Eating whole grains is especially challenging for gluten-free people because most choices are wheat-based. Rather than a highly-processed, rice-based cold cereal for breakfast cook a batch of whole grains ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. Topped with honey and cinnamon, pre-cooked quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, or sorghum grains make a quick, hearty breakfast with important nutrients that other people get from wheat-based cereals.
Oatmeal is another good whole-grain choice, but must be gluten-free, say Fenster. The Whole Grains Council recommends three to five daily servings of whole grains, but a serving of cooked whole grains is only one-half cup so most Americans can easily get more than that at one meal.
Pick the Beans: “Beans are one of the healthiest foods on earth and especially good for gluten-free people,” says Fenster, “because of their fiber, B-vitamins, and protein.” They are also low in fat and sodium and very inexpensive. Conveniently available in cans, they only need to be rinsed thoroughly to remove excess sodium and then they’re ready to be used in soups, stews, casseroles, side dishes…or mashed into purees and used in baking. Fenster co-authored a booklet Pulses in the Gluten-Free Diet on how to use beans in gluten-free baking and cooking.
Make Healthy Snacks Accessible: Keep serving-size bags of nuts, dried fruits, gluten-free whole-grain crackers and healthy chips (such as those made from beans) on hand to avoid the temptations of less-nutritious snacks such as potato chips, cookies, ice cream, and candy. For example, keep healthy snacks in the car, or in a purse or briefcase, or on a special shelf in the pantry to avoid last-minute desperation that can lead to unhealthy choices.
Be the Baker: Bakery items like breads are greatly missed when people embark on a gluten-free diet. So, it’s tempting to over-indulge on gluten-free versions. However, cautions Fenster, many store-bought bakery items contain highly-processed flours such as white rice flour and have high sugar, fat, and sodium contents, but are low in protein and fiber. Instead, make homemade versions with gluten-free bread recipes that feature healthier flours such as amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, and teff. Home baking gives greater control over the fat, sugar, and sodium content in food. Be sure to read the labels of all ingredients to make sure they are gluten-free and measure correctly for best results, using Fenster’s video, How to Measure Flour, as a guide.
Beware of Sauces, Thickeners, and Coatings: Even the healthiest choices can be off-limits for gluten-free people if they aren’t made with gluten-free ingredients, says Fenster. For example, broccoli soup may be thickened with wheat flour. Roasted cauliflower may be coated with bread crumbs. Salmon may be marinated in wheat-based soy sauce. Pork tenderloin may be dredged in wheat flour before browning. Sauces are especially suspicious because, unless they are reduced (boiled down to a concentrated, thicker version) they must be thickened with something and that thickener is usually wheat flour, so always verify how sauces are thickened.
“A gluten-free diet can be extremely healthy,” says Fenster. “It all depends on the choices we make, so always opt for the most nutritionally-dense choice for maximum health.”