Healthy eating has been the subject of debate among parents, dietitians, physicians, and chefs for years. Each group, having studied their particular belief, is confident that they are correct. And there are facts to back up many points of view. Recently, an article written by a registered dietitian regarding commercial food trends mentioned that the “gluten-free trend” was about to fall and that people avoiding gluten-containing foods (without a diagnosis of celiac disease) often consume poorly balanced diets. The concern is that a gluten-free or gluten- and dairy-free (gluten-free/casein-free – GF/CF) diet is lacking in fiber, B vitamins, and calcium that are thought to be present in wheat and dairy products. Another concern is the high fat and sugar content of GF/CF foods. There is good reason to be concerned if the diet that is being abandoned is indeed nutrient-rich and well balanced. However, most parents before starting the GF/CF diet (or Specific Carbohydrate Diet – SCD), point out that their child’s diet is limited to few nutritious foods and revolves around macaroni and cheese, pizza, chips/crackers, and sweets. Many if not all of these foods are packaged, processed foods lacking in true nutrients. Replacing these foods with GF/CF substitutes is certainly not the complete answer for improved health and a nutritious way of eating. However, this diet may be a good place to remove problem foods and begin to add truly healthful foods containing needed vitamins and minerals that contribute to improved health.
Where to start?
Making the decision to change your child’s or the entire family’s diet is difficult, so think of solutions that allow you to transition slowly and adjust to new products, tastes, and better nutrition. The suggestions below are not specific to any “special diet,” are appropriate for all diets, and can be followed by the entire family with positive results.
1. Reduce sugar
Sugar is sugar – call it sucrose, fructose, or glucose – and Americans are eating too much of it. Unfortunately, many prepared GF/CF products are empty calories with starch and sugar and contain little or no nutritional value as did their gluten-containing predecessors (think cookies, crackers, muffins, pretzels). Look for products with the least sugar. Your goal is to eventually reduce the processed foods with a healthier snack option.
Avoid all high fructose corn syrup found in soda , juice drinks, and condiments including ketchup and sauces, salad dressings, juices, and nondairy milk, and all prepared foods (both sweet and savory). Read labels for added sugar and strive to have less.
Better sweeteners: coconut and date sugars, dried fruit, honey, pure maple syrup, tapioca syrup, and stevia. Use in moderation!
Read 146 Reasons Why Sugar Is Ruining Your Health by Nancy Appleton, PhD. For a list of her books and helpful information go to http://www.rheumatic.org/sugar.htm.
Better options for snacks and treats are fig-date balls with variations to meet your specific needs. Reduce snacking and eat mini meals that are nutritionally complete. Occasionally use GF/CF pretzels or crackers as a special treat – not with daily lunch.
2. Don’t eat damaged fats, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated – also known as “trans fats.”
Increase omega-3s, and reduce omega-6 fatty acids including corn, cottonseed, soybean, safflower and sunflower oils. Use healthy fats as your diet allows including olive and grape seed oils, avocado, and medium chain fatty acids: palm and coconut oils and ghee (clarified butter fat without lactose, whey, or casein).
3. Balance carbohydrates, protein, and fats with each meal and snack.
This means don’t eat an apple by itself. Yes, an apple (pear, carrot, or other fruit or vegetable) is a healthy carbohydrate with valuable nutrients – especially when it is organic and free of pesticides, but your body is still going to convert it into sugar. Eating the apple with a healthy protein like allowable nut or seed butter, a slice of MSG and nitrate-free turkey, hummus, etc. and fat will maintain a healthy blood sugar level and sustain energy for a longer period of time.
Balanced meal options:
GF/CF pancakes and chicken breakfast sausage, fresh seasonal fruit
Fruit smoothie with added protein
Hummus and shredded veggie wraps (GF/CF wrap: brown rice or teff tortilla; homemade GF/CF crepe or lentil pancake), fresh fruit with nut/seed butter
Kabobs of meat, fruit, and veggies
Turkey meatloaf, mashed sweet potatoes with curry seasoning, sautéed broccoli
Oven roasted tilapia/trout or salmon with mashed celery root or cauliflower, roasted tomatoes
Apple or pear; carrot or celery sticks with nut/seed butter
Cucumber and red peppers with hummus
4. Avoid processed foods.
Avoid foods containing chemicals, including all artificial sweeteners, artificial flavor/color and any other chemical additives. These are often added in disguised forms, such as natural flavoring, spices, yeast extract, textured protein, soy protein extract, etc.
5. Learn to enjoy cooking and eating good-for-you foods.
Make quality food a priority. Model healthy eating behaviors and share family meals – if you don’t eat your vegetables, don’t expect your child to eat them. Engage your family in the process – shop, cook, and dine together whenever possible (with the television off).
Start slowly and make a commitment to following a healthy GF/CF diet. Research cookbooks at your local library and try a few simple recipes. Develop a meal plan to reduce costs and simplify the process.
When cooking, consider how you feel about the task. If you are preparing a meal and feeling resentful, angry, or frustrated, the food will reflect your mood. Studies show that blessing, praying, or a holding a positive belief toward your food actually makes it taste better. Cook with love!