Slim, Trim…and Healthy


Shed unwanted pounds on your special diet


Losing weight is a daunting proposition for most. Throw in a special diet and the challenge is compounded.

People diagnosed with celiac disease tend to puton weight after going gluten free. The primary reason? The body absorbs more calories and nutrients as the gut heals.

Another reason why celiacs and those allergic to wheat, eggs, soy or dairy gain unwanted pounds is simply because forbidden foods hold more appeal. We tend to crave baked goods and over-indulge on glutenfree or allergy-friendly substitutes—starchy carbohydrates full of empty calories.

It’s not easy to lose weight but it is simple: burn more calories than you consume. To lose one pound, you must expend 3500 more calories than you eat.

The best approach is to gradually up your level of exercise (begin walking 30 minutes a day, for instance) and cut back on food consumption so the weight is lost slowly. Don’t set a goal of dropping 50 pounds. Instead, do it in increments. Set short-term goals—say, 10 pounds—that are attainable within a realistic time frame. This way, you’ll experience success power to continue to your next goal.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to trim down in 2011, use these tips and tricks to help.

Know Yourself.

Understand what drives your appetite.Do you eat out of boredom, nervousness, habit, frustration? The next time you feel hungry, wait. There’s a good chance that the hunger pangs will disappear if you change what you’re doing—call a friend, take a walk, exercise, etc.

Once you determine when you’re really hungry, you can make informed choices about when to eat and when to stop eating. Most of us would lose weight if we followed one important rule: “Stop eating when you’re not hungry any more.” Don’t confuse this with, “Stop eating when you’re full.” It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that hunger has been sated, so if you stop eating when you’re not hungry, 20 minutes later your brain will catch up with the news and send out signals that you’re full.

Understand Portion Size.‌

What exactly is a portion? A single serving of meat is 3 ounces, the size of a deck of cards. A serving of rice is one cup, the size of a tennis ball. A serving of cheese is one ounce, the size of your thumb. A serving of green vegetables is the size of two fists.

The portion size listed on a box of pasta may state 2 ounces. When you cook up a pot of pasta as the main entree, chances are you’ll dish out more than 2 ounces per serving, so be aware of just how many calories you’re actually consuming.

You have more control over portion size when you plate the food instead of serving it family style. Use a smaller dinner plate to help keep portions small. Studies show that if you have more on your plate, you’ll consume more, regardless of hunger.

Make Healthy Choices.

Be open to new ways of enjoying food. Instead of butter and gravy, use hot sauce, salsa and spicy seasonings to flavor foods. Instead of

sugar-laden barbecue sauce, brush grilled foods with fat-free Italian dressing. Avoid the “extras.” Leave mayonnaise and ketchup off your hamburger and savor the taste of the meat with a little mustard.

Forego the lattes and frappuccinos, which are laden with calories. Drink plain coffee or flavor your java with a little stevia and low-fat milk of choice. Instead of a shake, make a fresh fruit smoothie.

Choose lentil pasta over white-rice noodles. And if you serve gluten-free pasta as a main entrée, toss it with a lot of sautéed vegetables or with grilled chicken so there’s very little actual pasta in the dish. The same goes for pasta salad. Add lots of fresh veggies and just a small amount of pasta, using fat-free dressing to blend the flavors.

Many foods reputed to be high calorie actually are not. It’s what we put on them that does the damage. One medium baked potato has 103 calories and just 0.2 grams of fat. It’s the butter, sour cream, melted cheddar cheese, bacon bits and other accouterments that pile on the calories. (For nutritional density, a baked sweet potato or yam is a better option.)

Know What’s In It.

Anyone on a special diet already understands the critical importance of reading product labels. In addition to allergens, be alert to empty-calorie ingredients. For example, avoid partially hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup.

If you purchase gluten-free baked bread that’s advertised as “whole grain,” check the percentage of refined flour used. Bread can claim to contain whole grains even if it’s highly processed and stripped of nutrients and fiber. This applies to crackers, too. Whole grains should be the first or second ingredient on the label. Look for 2 grams fiber or more per 100 calories.

Choose products with short ingredient lists. They usually have fewer flavor enhancers and empty calories.

Make It Yourself.

If you love good bread (who doesn’t?), chances are you’ll have a healthier gluten-free loaf if you make it yourself. Use brown rice flour in place of white rice flour and boost your gluten-free flour blend with nutritious, fiber-rich grains, such as sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, teff, millet, coconut flour, flaxseed meal, quinoa flour, bean and nut flours. (Go easy on the nut flours, if tolerated, because they’re higher in calories.)

When you bake gluten-free cookies, pies, cakes and other pastries, light olive oil can often be substituted for butter in most recipes. For every 1 cup of butter, use ¾ cup oil. Light olive oil doesn’t have a distinctive taste and is a healthier fat than butter.

Whenever possible, prepare and consume your meals at home. Then sit at the table every time you eat to reduce impulse munching. Speaking of which….

Prepare for Snack Attacks.

The urge to snack is real, so plan for it and have healthy munchies on hand. Store cut-up fresh veggies in the refrigerator with a container of hummus. Stock the pantry with corn tortilla chips and salsa, rather than potato chips and sour cream dip. Spread low-fat peanut butter or Sunbutter on thin slices of apples or pears. Buy plain fat-free yogurt and stir in fresh fruit or a tablespoon of all-fruit spread to make your own flavored yogurt; freeze it in 3-ounce paper cups to enjoy as dessert instead of ice cream. Try Chex cereal with raisins, spices and a splash of gluten-free Worcestershire sauce baked at 250 degrees for 15 minutes.

Don’t waste time eating rice cakes; they’re puffed air with negligible nutritional value. If you feel you absolutely must have something decadent, like salty potato chips, choose baked (not fried) chips and only eat as many as will fit into the palm of your hand. Never reach your hand into a bag of snack food—you’ll consume too much. Instead, pre-measure servings into small, re-sealable snack bags (they’re smaller than sandwich bags).

Veggie chips made with carrots, spinach, kale and even exotic tropical vegetables aren’t necessarily better for you. Look closely at their ingredients. If the vegetables are at the bottom of the list, they contribute less by weight than items on top, like oil. Many seemingly healthful snacks are loaded with calories: A 4-ounce bag of carrot chips contains 600 calories, as much as potato chips.

Beware of snacks made with “real fruit.” Few provide any fiber and many have the same calorie count (mostly from sugar) as candy. A single-serving box of raisins is a better option.

Choose carefully when buying gluten-free “health” bars. Some are basically candy bars in disguise, containing high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats. Select a bar that has at least 3 grams of fiber, with less than 11 grams of sugar and no partially hydrogenated oils. Better yet, make your own bars using uncontaminated oatmeal, whole grains, sesame and sunflower seeds, and chopped dried fruit. Go to for recipes.

Ultimately, the battle of the bulge is an individual fight. A friend or significant other can encourage and support you but only you control the outcome. You’re already on a special diet so forget about restrictive “dieting” to lose weight. We’re talking lifestyle. This is a mindset. Make a conscious decision that this is a permanent change in your eating habits. Then not only will you lose weight, you will be healthier.

There are multitudes of fresh foods and delicious dishes that you can prepare and enjoy. Here’s a sample of one day’s meals.

A Day of Dining

This menu, which includes bread, pasta, muffins and cookies, illustrates that you can eat delicious food on a special diet without loading up on calories. It contains 902 calories, 29g fat, 2004mg sodium, 104g carbohydrates, and 49g protein. (Note: Maximum recommended nutrition count for a low-fat diet is 1500 calories for women and 2000 for men).


Breakfast Ham and Egg Cups


Most people don’t have time to make a big meal in the morning. Fortunately, this recipe can be assembled in moments.

4 slices deli ham
1 small tomato
4 eggs
– Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease four custard cups.

2. Put a round slice of ham in the bottom and up the sides of each cup.

3. Cut tomato into 4 slices. Place 1 slice of tomato on top of each piece of ham.

4. Break an egg into each cup. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

5. Place cups in preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes or until egg is cooked.

Each serving contains 107 calories, 6g total fat, 460mg sodium, 2g carbohydrates, 11g protein.

Reprinted with permission from Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Cookbook for Kids and Busy Adults (2nd ed ©2010 McGraw-Hill), by Connie Sarros.


Gluten-Free Orange Muffins

Gluten-Free Breakfast Orange Muffins


Stir up a batch of these muffins and keep them well wrapped in the freezer so you’ll always have some on hand. To defrost, pop one into the microwave for several seconds.

⅓ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons orange zest
¼ cup applesauce
⅓ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons low-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
½ cup brown sugar
2 cups gluten-free All-Purpose Flour Blend
1¼ teaspoons xanthan gum
2 tablespoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together orange juice, zest, applesauce, oil, mayonnaise, vanilla and eggs until well blended. Stir in brown sugar. Add flour blend, xanthan gum, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir just until all ingredients are completely blended.

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out dry.

4. Let muffins cool 10 minutes before removing them from pan.

Each muffin contains 191 calories, 7g total fat, 276 sodium, 30g carbohydrates, 1g protein.

Reprinted with permission from Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Cookbook for Kids and Busy Adults (2nd ed ©2010 McGraw-Hill), by Connie Sarros.


Gluten-Free Lunch Bruschetta


Bruschetta can be served on almost any kind of gluten-free bread or cracker. It’s a delicious alternative to a sandwich and makes an ideal hors d’oeuvre.

2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 green onions, sliced thin
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon gluten-free Italian seasoning
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
4 slices gluten-free bread
½ cup shredded provolone cheese or dairy-free cheese replacement

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Place tomatoes, onions, oil, Italian seasoning, pepper and vinegar in a medium bowl, stirring to mix well.

3. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and broil for 1 to 2 minutes until top is slightly crisp.

4. Spoon tomato mixture onto bread slices, dividing evenly. Top each with cheese, dividing evenly.

5. Broil 1 to 2 minutes to melt cheese.

Each serving contains 80 calories, 2g total fat, 96 mg sodium, 7g carbohydrates, 3g protein.

Reprinted with permission from Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Reduced Calorie Cookbook (©2004 McGraw-Hill), by Connie Sarros.


Raspberry Salad

Raspberry Tossed Salad

Makes 8 one-cup servings

For variety, replace raspberries and raspberry spread with mandarin oranges and orange marmalade.

2 cups fresh baby spinach
2 cups endive
2 cups red leaf lettuce
2 small onions, sliced thin
1 cup fresh red raspberries
½ cup fat-free gluten-free Italian dressing
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons all-fruit raspberry spread
2 tablespoons dried sunflower seeds

1. Tear spinach, endive and leaf lettuce into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl. Add onion and raspberries and toss well.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together Italian dressing, pepper, raspberry spread and sunflower seeds. Pour over salad and toss to coat evenly. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Each serving contains 53 calories, 1g total fat, 235mg sodium, 9g carbohydrates, 2g protein.

Reprinted with permission from Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Cookbook for Kids and Busy Adults (2nd ed ©2010 McGraw-Hill), by Connie Sarros.


Dairy-Free Cottage Cheese

Gluten-Free Lunch Corn Chowder


A quick, easy version of an old-time favorite, this soup can be made ahead and refrigerated.

1 (14½ ounce) can gluten-free chicken broth
1 cup chopped onion
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated skim milk or milk of choice
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (12 ounce) can corn with sweet peppers or regular canned corn
1 (6 ounce) can minced clams, undrained, optional

1. In a medium saucepan, combine broth, onion and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until onion is tender.

2. In a small bowl, stir together milk and cornstarch. Stir into broth mixture. Cook mixture, stirring until thickened.

3. Stir in corn and clams with juice, if using. Heat through.

Each serving contains 163 calories, 1g total fat, 449mg sodium, 22g carbohydrates, 15g protein.

Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies (Wiley), by Connie Sarros.



Gluten-Free Spaghetti Pie Dinner


This recipe can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated, covered, until baked. Follow package directions for preparing the pasta. Gluten-free pastas tend to get mushy and fall apart if overcooked.

4 ounces gluten-free spaghetti
1 tablespoon butter or Earth Balance buttery spread
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese or dairy-free cheese replacement
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese or Dairy-Free Cottage Cheese
½ pound 90% lean ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (8 ounce) can gluten-free tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese or dairy-free cheese replacement

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch pie plate.

2. In a large saucepan, cook spaghetti according to package directions just until tender. Drain well.

3. Return pasta to saucepan and stir in butter or Earth Balance until melted. Stir in egg and Parmesan cheese.

4. Press spaghetti mixture onto bottom and up sides of prepared pie plate, forming a crust. Spread cottage cheese over the crust.

5. In a skillet, cook beef, onion, green pepper and garlic until onion is tender and meat is browned. Drain off fat. Stir in tomato sauce and oregano and heat through.

6. Spread meat mixture over cottage cheese. Sprinkle top with mozzarella.

7. Place in preheated oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly.


Gluten-Free Spaghetti Pie Dinner

Dairy-Free Cottage Cheese


7 ounces silken tofu or medium tofu or coconut yogurt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1½ tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Place tofu or yogurt into a medium bowl. If using tofu, mash it with the back of a fork.

2. Add remaining ingredients and continue mashing until mixture has a cottage cheese texture. Chill in refrigerator until used.

Each serving of spaghetti pie contains contains 196 calories, 8g total fat, 392mg sodium, 16g carbohydrates, 15g protein.

Reprinted with permission from Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Reduced Calorie Cookbook (©2004 McGraw-Hill), by Connie Sarros.

 Dairy-Free  Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Chocolate Cranberry Cookies


These cookies are definitely addictive. Freeze the extras so you won’t be tempted to over-indulge.

2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
¼ cup butter or dairy-free Earth Balance buttery spread
1 cup sugar
2½ teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup gluten-free All-Purpose Flour Blend
1¼ teaspoons xanthan gum
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (see Shopping List)
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup powdered sugar

1. In a medium saucepan, melt chocolate and butter over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat and whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour blend, xanthan gum, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Stir in chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula. Stir in chocolate chips and cranberries.

3. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets.

5. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in powdered sugar to coat. Place dough balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets and bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes. Cookies will be soft. Cool them on baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.

Two cookies contain 112 calories, 4g total fat, 96mg sodium, 18g carbohydrates, 2g protein.

Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies (Wiley), by Connie Sarros.

Connie Sarros, author of six gluten-free books, lives in Fairlawn, Ohio.



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