New Year, New You: 20 Goals for Those on a Gluten-Free Diet
Ready for a resolution? Here are 20 (plus recipes!) that are sure to bring you a healthier, happier new year.
If you’re not feeling as happy, healthy and energetic as you’d like—even on a gluten-free diet— the New Year is a good time to assess where you are with your gluten-free lifestyle and how you might do better. And by doing better, we mean eating for enhanced nutrition and enjoying an overall happier gluten-free life.
We compiled 20 suggested resolutions and five healthy recipes that are certain to bring improvements and a fresh look in 2015. This approach isn’t a crash diet you follow for a month, only to revert to your old ways come February. Instead, it’s a full menu of ideas you can easily integrate into your life. Use the suggestions that make the most sense for you and your family. To up your chances of long-term success, get a consensus from family members to adopt them with you.
This list of new habits and recipes will help you live healthier, feed your family better, expand your menu, give to others and become more disciplined about the way you treat your body. All without feeling deprived.
1. Eat out only once (or less) per week.
You’ll save money and you’ll be better able to control the nutrition in your food. Less fat, less sodium, less sugar and, of course, fewer chances for cross-contact with your problem foods.
2. Play with your food.
Yes, food allergies and sensitivities are serious but preparing food doesn’t have to be. Lighten up and think about your meals creatively. Treat the plate as your canvas, the ingredients as your paints. It’s all about attitude. Have fun stuffing homemade ravioli, topping homemade pizzas, making noodles from spaghetti squash. Invite the kids to join you.
3. Add fiber to your diet.
Gluten-free whole grains, like certified gluten-free oats and flaxseed meal, can be stirred into existing recipes, sprinkled on cereal or yogurt, or can be served as the foundation of a meal. Try whole-grain quinoa, millet or sorghum in place of white rice as a side dish or the base for a tasty meal.
4. Eat more veggies.
Try roasting broccoli, invent a new way of making green beans, add avocado to your sandwiches, prepare some butternut squash soup in your slow cooker, make your own kale chips, add shredded zucchini or pumpkin purée to your desserts to kick up the nutrient count. There is no end to the vegetable possibilities.
5. Make your own flour.
Grinding whole grains in a food processor or coffee grinder to make flour is more economical than buying flour and it lets you use the whole grains in their natural form. Whole quinoa can be used in baking or as a substitute for rice at the dinner table; it can also be ground into flour. Gluten-free oats are both a wonderful breakfast food and a baking ingredient, and the groats can be ground into a fine flour. Flax seed is also easy to grind into flour; it stays fresh longer as a seed so grind only enough to use in a recipe. Whole millet adds a nutty crunch to quick breads and muffins, cooks up as a nice side dish and also makes a wonderful baking flour when ground.
6. Switch to healthy fats.
Use avocado oil, virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil in your cooking and baking instead of standard corn oil or vegetable oil.
7. Try a new fruit.
Starfruit, kiwi, mango, plantain, clementine—surprise your kids by packing a fun new fruit in their lunch boxes.
8. Drink your nutrients.
Try juicing veggies or adding fruit and vegetable smoothies to your daily routine. They are nutritious and filling.
9. Go meatless.
Make Friday or Monday (or whenever you like) a day without meat. Explore other protein sources like quinoa, beans and cold-water fish like salmon (if tolerated).
10. Start a weekly tradition.
Even if your family is too busy to eat together every night, choose just one evening each week when everyone can count on sitting down to the same meal.
11. Eat a better breakfast.
Make your first meal of the day count with a nutritious bowl of whole-grain cereal, scrambled eggs, yogurt, gluten-free granola—you get the idea.
12. Drink more water.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.Your body needs plenty of water to function properly. Resolve to drink eight glasses a day.
13. Choose healthy snacks.
Stop the junk food and reach for a wholesome snack. Oranges, grapes or bananas, homemade Chewy Granola Bars, natural applesauce or dairy-free yogurt are satisfying and offer health benefits.
14. Give up dairy.
And see how you feel. Up to 60 percent of adults are lactose intolerant and many don’t realize that dairy makes them feel yucky. There are amazing dairy-free products available—yogurt, ice cream, milk, shredded cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, butter alternatives.
15. Add nutritional yeast.
Just a tablespoon here and there on your popcorn, quiche or nachos adds B vitamins, fiber, protein and minerals, plus a subtle (and appealing) cheesy taste.
16. Stave off hunger.
Never leave home without a healthy bar or snack. When your energy level dips or your stomach starts to growl, you won’t be tempted to “cheat.” Gluten-free protein bars are portable and won’t go bad if you don’t eat them right away. Make your own Chewy Granola Bars.
17. Try a new recipe.
Resolve to do this at least once a week. You never know what new foods you might love or how much pleasure you can derive from making a meal yourself until you try. Look for recipe inspiration throughout these pages and at GlutenFreeAndMore.com.
18. Don’t deprive yourself.
Everybody deserves a cookie now and then. Go ahead and indulge—but do so in moderation. Hard-core deprivation is the fastest way to failure. Setting reasonable limits is the key to healthy living.
19. Share the love.
Invite some friends to your house for dinner and show them how delicious gluten-free and allergy-friendly eating can be.
Make gluten-free communion wafers for your church. Donate gluten-free or allergy-friendly food to a shelter or a soup kitchen. Helping others is a key to happiness.
Chewy Granola Bars
MAKES 28 BARS
Concocting your own bars is the ideal way to control content. Make this recipe your own by picking and choosing from the ingredients listed. Use these proportions as a guide for substituting. Keep bars in a zip-top bag at room temperature for a week or freeze them to enjoy later.
¼ cup ground flax seed
½ cup Jules’ homemade all-purpose flour blend
3 cups gluten-free rice flakes, quinoa flakes or certified gluten-free instant oats
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup grated carrots
¾ cup raisins (boiled in water and drained) or sultanas
½ cup dried apples, chopped
½ cup dried bananas, chopped
½ cup dried figs, chopped
½ cup grated unsweetened coconut
¼ cup dried dates, chopped
¼ cup dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries or dried berry of choice
1 cup sunflower seeds, whole-grain millet or chopped walnuts
½ cup honey, maple syrup or agave nectar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup blackstrap molasses
½ cup sunflower seed butter or natural peanut, almond or cashew butter
½ cup unsweetened apple juice or cider
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a jellyroll pan or low-sided baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking oil.
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together ground flax seed, flour blend, rice flakes, cinnamon, carrots, dried fruit and sunflower seeds until combined. Stir in honey, applesauce, molasses, sunflower seed butter and apple juice, mixing with a large wooden spoon until totally incorporated. Mixture should be wet enough to press together for baking.
3. Scoop mixture into prepared pan and spread it evenly by pressing down with the back of a rubber spatula or your wet hands.
4. Place in preheated oven and bake 30 minutes or just until edges begin to brown slightly.
5. Remove from oven and use a pizza cutter to cut into bars before cooled. To remove, let bars cool and lift out of the pan by the foil edges.
Each bar contains 183 calories, 7g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 25mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 16g sugars, 4g protein, 15 Est GL.
TIP For crunchy granola bars, combine ingredients with a wooden spoon or use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. For a smoother texture, combine all ingredients in a food processor. If your processor bowl holds less than 14 cups, divide ingredients in half and mix in batches.
MAKES 16 TO 20 TOSTONES
Also called tostones, these sweet morsels are delicious when served warm with dip or as a side dish.
2 green plantains
-Avocado oil or high-heat oil of choice, for frying
-Salt, to taste
1. Peel plantains and cut them into 1-inch-thick disks. (Each plantain should make 8 to 10 tostones.)
2. Place plantain disks into a very large pot so they’re not crowded. Cover completely with water and boil until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off heat.
3. Remove each plantain directly from the boiling water and place it on a flat surface. Flatten each very gently with the bottom of a glass, keeping each piece intact. Sprinkle both sides with salt. Work quickly so that tostones don’t dry out.
4. Place oil in a large frying pan, just enough to cover the bottom, and heat pan to medium-high. Fry tostones about 2 to 3 minutes per side until golden brown and crisp. Serve warm.
Each tostone contains 22 calories, 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 0mg sodium, 6g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 3g sugars, 0g protein, 3 Est GL.
TIP To avoid greasy plantains, use oil sparingly and fry them over medium-high heat.
Spaghetti Squash Pizza Crust
MAKES ONE MEDIUM PIZZA
Spaghetti squash makes naturally gluten-free “pasta” when cooked and combed. In this soft (not crisp) crust, it provides mild flavor that combines well with traditional herbs and cheese for Old World pizza taste. Use a fork to dig in!
1 (4½-pound) spaghetti squash (3 cups cooked “pasta”)
⅔ cup shredded mozzarella cheese or dairy-free alternative
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese or gluten-free nutritional yeast
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup Jules’ homemade all-purpose flour blend (below)
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic salt
-Black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Line a pizza crisper tray or another baking sheet with foil.
2. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and strings. Place each half, cut side down, onto foil-lined baking sheet. Add just enough water so that squash is sitting in a very shallow pool. Place in preheated oven and bake until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let squash cool until it can be handled. Comb through each half and collect the spaghetti-like strands in a large colander. Press strands with a rubber spatula to remove excess moisture. Spoon squash onto a clean tea towel and press to squeeze out more moisture. Repeat as necessary with additional towels until most of the liquid is squeezed out.
3. Place squash in a large bowl and stir in mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and egg until combined. Add gluten-free flour, basil, oregano, garlic salt and pepper, stirring until blended.
4. Spoon mixture onto prepared pizza tray, spreading it evenly to a ¼- to ½-inch thickness.
5. Place in preheated oven and bake 20 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness. Crust edges should be browning but not burning.
6. Remove from oven and top with your favorite sauce and toppings. Return to oven and bake an additional 10 minutes.
7. Remove from oven. Slide pizza off the foil onto a cutting board. Slice and serve.
Makes 6 servings. Each serving contains 96 calories, 4g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 46mg cholesterol, 276mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 2g sugars, 5g protein, 5 Est GL.
For Egg-Free Crust, omit 1 egg. Add ½ teaspoon baking powder and 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder to dry ingredients. Combine 1 tablespoon flax meal with 3 tablespoons hot water. Let cool. Use this mixture to replace the egg in step 3.
Gluten Free Hearty Pancakes
MAKES 8 TO 10 PANCAKES
Enjoy these nutritious pancakes and get more out of breakfast. Serve them warm with pure maple syrup or fruit.
¼ cup uncooked quinoa
½ cup gluten-free uncooked oats
¼ cup ground flax seed
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons Jules’ homemade all-purpose flour blend
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ cup milk of choice, more as needed
3 tablespoons safflower oil or melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey, more syrup for serving
1 large egg, lightly beaten
-Berries or chopped nuts of choice, optional
1. Place quinoa in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir periodically while heating to ensure the seeds do not burn. When quinoa begins to pop, keep stirring for another minute. Then remove from heat to cool.
2. Place cooled quinoa in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse until seeds are mostly ground into a fine flour. Measure out ¼ cup flour to use for pancakes.
3. Place oats in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse until oats are ground into a fine powder. Measure out ¼ cup to use for pancakes.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together quinoa flour, oat flour, ground flax seed, flour blend and baking powder.
5. In another bowl, stir together ½ cup milk, oil, syrup and egg until combined. Add dry ingredients, stirring to combine. If batter is too thick, gradually add more milk. Batter should not be runny.
6. Grease a large griddle and heat to medium-hot. Spoon ¼ cup batter onto hot griddle to form pancakes. Add berries or nuts to the pancakes, if desired. Flip when lightly browned on the bottom and cook briefly until done.
Each pancake contains 163 calories, 7g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 23mg cholesterol, 125mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g sugars, 4g protein, 11 Est GL.
For Egg-Free Pancakes, omit 1 egg. Combine 1 tablespoon ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons hot water. Let sit until slightly thickened. Add this mixture to recipe in step 5.
TIP Sprinkle extra quinoa flour or oat flour on your cereal or dairy-free yogurt for added protein or save it for another recipe. (Store flour in the refrigerator until used.)
Thai Quinoa and Veggies
SERVES 4 TO 6
For this dish, use these veggies or your favorites. Add protein (chicken, shrimp, tofu), if desired. Choose any color quinoa, sprouted quinoa or Kañiwa. If you can’t tolerate peanuts, use gluten-free Indian curry sauce instead of Thai Peanut Sauce. This scrumptious, nutritious meal is ready in 30 minutes.
2 bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 zucchini, cubed
1 onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, halved
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 ears corn, cooked and cut off cob
¼-½ cup gluten-free Thai Peanut Sauce or Indian curry sauce
1 cup uncooked quinoa, sprouted quinoa or Kañiwa
-Water (per quinoa package instructions)
2 tablespoons avocado oil or other high-heat vegetable oil
2 tablespoons gluten-free Thai Peanut Sauce or Indian curry sauce
½ pound raw chicken (cubed), raw shrimp (deveined, peeled) or tofu, optional
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Spread peppers, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes and corn evenly in a baking dish or roasting pan. Drizzle with enough Thai Peanut Sauce to lightly coat, tossing to coat. Place in preheated oven and bake about 30 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes. Do not overcook.
3. Boil water in a lidded saucepan per quinoa package directions. Add rinsed quinoa, stir and cover, reducing heat to simmer. (Follow package directions.) Quinoa is cooked when the white spiral-like germ has popped out of each seed and water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork when cooked.
4. Place oil and 2 tablespoons Thai Peanut Sauce in a large pan and heat to high. When pan is very hot, add your choice of chicken, shrimp or tofu. Sauté 2 to 3 minutes or longer depending on protein, until cooked. Chicken will be white; shrimp will be pink; tofu will just start to brown on the edges.
5. Reduce heat to medium-low and add roasted vegetables and cooked quinoa. Toss to combine. Add more sauce, if desired. Warm evenly and serve at once.
Each serving contains 417 calories, 14g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 887mg sodium, 63g carbohydrate, 8g fiber, 17g sugars, 15g protein, 34 Est GL.
MAKES 4 CUPS
To make very fine rice flour, process rice flour in a food processor or a clean coffee grinder until very fine.
1 cup cornstarch, tapioca starch or arrowroot powder
1 cup potato starch, tapioca starch or arrowroot powder
1 cup very fine white rice flour, sorghum flour or buckwheat flour
½ cup corn flour, millet flour, sorghum flour or brown rice flour
½ cup tapioca starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder
4 teaspoons xanthan gum or guar gum
1. Whisk ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Free for All Cooking: 150 Easy Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly Recipes the Whole Family Can Enjoy by Jules E. Dowler Shepard. Available from Da Capo Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group 2010. Jules’ ready-made flour blend is available at gfjules.com.
Associate editor Jules Shepard (jshepard@GlutenFreeAndMore.com, gfjules.com) is author of Free For All Cooking; The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free; and Nearly Normal Cooking for Gluten-Free Eating (Da Capo Lifelong Books).