Eating whole, nutritious foods as part of an overall healthy diet can be an easy and inexpensive way to go gluten-free. Purchasing foods at local farmer’s markets or along the perimeter of your local grocery store can provide a wealth of nutrients that will appeal to your taste buds and your wallet.
How to eat a naturally gluten-free diet:
* Buy fruits and vegetables in-season to enjoy bold flavor at a reasonable price. Produce purchased in the season it is grown is fresher and often locally-sourced. This allows for greater retention of nutrients such as vitamin C that are lost in transportation and storage of food. Have a craving for blueberries in the dead of winter? When fruits and vegetables are not in-season buying them frozen is a great solution. Or freeze your own berries in the summertime so they will be available year round. Freezing produce at the peak of harvest preserves both nutrients and taste.
Tips for buying produce in-season:
- In general, during the springtime look for asparagus, strawberries, artichokes, peas, leeks, broccoli, kale, apricots, arugula, fennel, and even fiddleheads.
- In the summertime there is a wealth of tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, bell peppers, eggplant, figs, melons, watermelon, and zucchini.
- The fall harvest provides a bounty of pumpkins, apples, pears, spaghetti and acorn squash, kale, broccoli, beets, endive, garlic, turnips, and sweet potatoes.
- Come wintertime savor blanched vegetables frozen at the peak of harvest and frozen fruit either from the grocery store or your own garden. Beets, endive, broccoli, kale, carrots, winter squashes such as spaghetti squash, and even onions also survive into the early part of winter and are widely available.
- Availability of produce may differ according to your geographic location. Check your local cooperative extensions or websites such as http://www.nrdc.org/health/foodmiles/fullyear produced by the Natural Resource Defense Counsel for a state-specific listing of fresh produce during each season.
* There are many gluten-free whole grains which are increasing in popularity and availability. These include but are not limited to quinoa, millet, teff, sorghum, and amaranth. Pair whole grains with a meat and vegetable for a complete, nutritionally balanced meal. Or add grains to soups, salads, and stews. Oats are naturally gluten-free, but may be grown and/or processed in close proximity to wheat. Look for specifically labeled gluten-free oats before enjoying a bowl of oatmeal.
* Meat is naturally gluten-free unless it was processed with potential contaminants or gluten containing foods such as in some deli meats. Eating whole cuts of unprocessed meats is a great way to avoid hidden sources of gluten and gives more bang for the buck. Avoid sticking with just boneless, skinless chicken breast instead include lamb, veal, and beef to everyday meals. Save time by using a slow cooker or crockpot to cook meat. Throw lamb chops, ground chuck, beef shanks or spare ribs in the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 1-3 hours depending on the toughness of the meat. Slow cookers are also a great way to reduce costs by purchasing less expensive, tougher cuts of meat and cooking them until tender.
* Beans and legumes are another source of protein along with meat that adds flavor and fiber to meals. Make hummus in a food processor with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, and garlic, add lentils to a hearty winter soup or make a three-bean cold salad.
* Eggs are an important part of a whole foods diet. Eating the whole egg provides essential nutrients including vitamin K2, lutein, protein, and fat. The amount of cholesterol in egg yolks in minimal and has not been shown to significantly affect blood cholesterol levels so enjoy those yolks along with the egg whites.
* Lastly, organic dairy can provide important nutrients in the diet such as calcium, B12, and protein. Choosing organic can reduce the risk of receiving hormones in your dairy products.
Incorporating whole foods into your diet can be delicious, nutritious and does not have to be expensive. Buying in-season, locally, and purchasing whole cuts of meat can cut down on costs and provide naturally gluten-free foods. For more information and inspiration consider purchasing a gluten-free cookbook that focuses on whole foods or look through past issues of GIG publications.
Written By: Katie Abrahamson, Dietetic Intern, Bastyr University