Gluten-Free and Fabulous

It seems like no matter where I am… grocery store, nutrition counseling clinic, REI, playground… I find myself recommending a gluten-free 10-day experiment to folks who are feeling zapped on energy, gassy, irritable, unable to focus, and unexplainably bummed out. So, despite feeling fantastic, focused, and strangely excited by everyday chores, I decided to do, track, and share my own dietitian-approved gluten-free day.

Gluten–which is the Latin word for “glue” (tasty!)–is the protein portion of a wheat kernel, and important in giving wheat flour it’s elasticity. You may have heard of Seitan, aka the “wheat meat”, which is pure wheat gluten, and pure protein. Gluten, unfortunately, is responsible for a whole variety of allergies ranging from very mild and often unnoticeable to extremely painful, disruptive, and seriously serious (such is the case with Celiac disease). Gluten also tends to cause inflammation, and while I’m personally quite a fan of the glue myself, it’s amazing how great people feel after ditching it for 10+ days. Here’s how my gluten-free day tasted:

Gigantic glass of water, 2 cups coffee with soy creamer & sugar
1 slice of DELICIOUS Udi’s Gluten-Free Whole Grain Bread (Know of any good egg-free, gluten-free breads?)
Hot cereal made with 1 cup cooked quinoa, raisins, chopped apple, vanilla soymilk, and cinnamon

AM Snack
1 Trader Joe’s FIBERFUL fruit bar
1 plum

1 cup baby carrots
Large arugula salad with 3 pieces of homemade baked tofu (recipe in upcoming Trader Joe’s Skinny Dish! book)
2 gluten-free Sesame Cherry Chewies (again in the upcoming Trader Joe’s Skinny Dish! book)
Rice crackers
2 small squares dark chocolate

PM Snack
Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snack (whole package)
1/2 Haas avocado w/ sea salt (HEAVENLY!)

Water (skipping the Hefeweizen, but could opt for a gluten-free beer)
2 corn tortillas with vegetarian refried beans and loads of stir-fried bell peppers

Late-Night Snack
1 slice Udi’s Gluten-Free Whole Grain Bread with peanut butter and sliced banana
Chamomile tea

What I Wanted to Eat But Had to Pass Up…
The kids’ leftover cinnamon raisin toast at breakfast, pretzel sticks, graham crackers, a whole grain tortilla, and a whoopie pie.

If you have the right ingredients on hand, this is totally doable, tasty, and energizing! Other glue-free ideas?


New Year, New Food! Hot Pants Cornbread

You may remember the No Fat Pants Nachos from Superbowl weekend, and are probably wondering if I can think of any recipe titles that don’t involve pants. I’m wondering the same thing! What I do know is that it took a nephew-meeting trip to Atlanta, and my sis-in-law’s veggie chili to get me to finally make a version of the Whole Foods favorite: Jalapeño Cornbread. You know the one you always sample, but never buy? Well don’t start now–just make it! It’s so totally easy, invigorating, and will definitely put a spark in your shorts:


Hot Pants Cornbread
Makes 9 servings

3/4 cup corn meal
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (whole wheat will add 20 days to your life)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup almond, oat, or other non-dairy milk, preferably “original” rather than vanilla
1 Tablespoon cornstarch vigorously dissolved in 2 Tablespoons warm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 jalapeño pepper, diced

Preheat oven to 400º F. Lightly oil a 9-inch by 9-inch baking pan. Mix all dry ingredients, then add wet ones slowly until all ingredients are moist. Pour into baking dish, sprinkle with diced jalapeño, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Tip: sprinkling the jalapeño on top of the bread rather than mixing it into the batter is a strategic way to accomodate hot pant phobiacs and kids. Just leave a small section of bread untopped, and you’ll know it’s completely fire-free!

What the critics said:
Bitchin’ Dietitian: “Like cake with spice, without being spicecake!”
Bitchin’ Parents, Brother, and Sis-in-Law: “Moist, and not overly spicy.”
1-Year-Old (if he could talk): “Ooh, cake for dinner! Is it my birthday again?”

Looks like yet another victory for pants. How do YOU ignite your cornbread?

Fun Food Fact Friday: Bagels!

Do you bounce out of bed on free-bagel Friday?! What is it about those round wonders that gets us pumped for the ball & chain? Could it be the ingredients?…  high-gluten flour, salt, water, yeast, and malt. That must be it: Drop the flour, and you’ve got beer. Or, is it the condiments? The tower of cream cheese, drippy margarine, or peanut butter & jelly combo.

When you gather at the toaster today, here are a few facts to help you choose the best “beygel“. Get as close as you can to the following: 300 calories, 0 grams of fat & saturated fat (since your topping will no doubt have some fat), and <5 grams of sugar. Red and Green lights are indicated:

Nutrition info from Einstein Bros Bagels and Panera Bread

Asiago Cheese: 360 calories, 3 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 71 g carbs, 4 g sugar, 2 g fiber
Chocolate Chip: 370 calories, 3 g fat, 2 g sat fat, 76 g carbs, 10 g sugar, 3 g fiber
Cinnamon Raisin Swirl: 350 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 78 g carbs, 14 g sugar, 2 g fiber
Everything: 340 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 75 g carbs, 5 g sugar, 2 g fiber
Honey Whole Wheat: 320 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 71 g carbs, 11 g sugar, 3 g fiber
Pumpernickel: 320 calories, 0 g fat, 68 g carbs, 3 g sugar, 3 g fiber
Sesame: 310 calories, 3 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 59 g carbs, 3 g sugar, 2 g fiber

As for toppings, reduced fat cream cheese saves you 50 calories & 6 grams of fat, but still adds 130 total calories to your circular sammidge. To go even lower, top your toasty with jam, which adds only 70 additional calories. And how about this?! Hollow-out or “scoop-out” the bagel guts and save yourself 75 calories! 

How did YOU eat it this morning?

Will FUN DIP Ever Be Healthy?

Isn’t it great when all of sudden something you loved but kept for special occasions is actually found to be good for you? Take dark chocolate for example. Up until a short time ago, chocolate of any kind was considered the kiss of death. But now, you SHOULD eat dark chocolate… Life can begin again! It’s got antioxidants and MUFA’s. ANTIoxidant? PRO-me!! MUFAs? Loofah me up!

So what about some of the joys from the 80’s? Growing up in a house where dessert was a peanut butter spoon, and sugar cereals had to be mixed in a 1 to 4 ratio with bran flakes, I long for the day when we find out the Kool-Aid kids down the street had it going on. I may be waiting a long time. Being an optimist, however, there must be something good about FUN DIP!? How about this: You’ve got diabetes, you’re on insulin, and you’re crashing… FUN DIP to the rescue!!!?

While sugary treats comprised solely of sugar and Red 40 may never get the green light, it’s comforting to know that there are a few strategies for satisfying your sweet tooth, preserving your health, and steering clear of the dentist’s office. (Yes, you can try the “everything in moderation” route, but when you’re indeed trying EVERYTHING in moderation–including street drugs–you may need to re-evaluate.) So, until further notice, get cozy with dried fruit, dark chocolate, and these scrumptious kitchen concoctions.

Need a dessert recipe healthified, or a more nutritious alternative to satisfy that Swedish fish addiction? Leave a comment, and I’ll work my magic.

Welcome Back, Instant Mashed Potatoes

I've missed you

Thanks to the Atkins Diet and other high glycemic food phobiatics, white potatoes have gotten a bad rap. “You don’t need to quit the turkey legs and hot dogs, it’s those potatoes that are doing you in.” Well, I’m here to not only give white potatoes immunity, but to also let you know that in order to eat more of them more often, Potato Buds and the like can return to your shopping list. I do happen to be married to an Irish enthusiast and also happen to have mashed potatoes on my Top 5 Favorite Foods list, but this is pure nutrition science here.

It’s true. White potatoes without the skin in pure isolation DO have a high glycemic index (meaning the carbohydrates turn into sugar very quickly in your bloodstream). So, for those of you who pound skinless white potatoes without any other food in your meal, you may be in trouble. But, for the other 100% of the population, adding some high-fiber foods along with those white potatoes and keeping the fatty potato condiments down, you may actually benefit from eating white potatoes.

Here’s how: Add a generous amount of frozen chopped spinach and garlic to your mashed potatoes. This will not only further satisfy the Irish in the house, but also the nutritionists. Spinach is essentially flavorless and garlic is wonderfully flavorful, so kids will even enjoy this combination. And, when following the instant potato instructions, skip the butter part and use a touch of olive oil instead. You can even earn extra points by using an unsweetened non-dairy milk or water instead of the regular milk.

Or. How about a heaping side of steamed vegetables next to those mashed potatoes? Yum. And if you do want to make mashed potatoes from scratch, leave the skins on — that will add a ton of fiber, some crunch, and if you don’t wash them well enough, maybe even some vitamin B12-rich soil.