Just because it’s gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s good for you. I found that out from personal experience.
Today I love my gluten-free, dairy-free diet, but seven years ago? I hated it. I felt my diagnosis meant all the joy had been taken out of what I could eat. I had a lot to learn about gluten-free and dairy-free foods (and healthy eating in general), and I had to absorb it in a hurry. When you’re 19, your first thought is usually where you can get quick and cheap (and sometimes, free) food. All of a sudden, mine was where I could get wheat-free food.
Unfortunately, there was no Whole Foods open in my area yet (one would open by me in 2010: five years after my diagnosis). And a gluten-free diet hadn’t become a pop culture phenomenon. So where did this leave me?
Well, with every piece of food labeled “gluten-free” my mom could get her hands on. Don’t get me wrong, it was the sweetest, kindest effort. My mom would go to Trader Joes and buy anything and everything with the GF logo. It didn’t matter what it was, if I could eat it, it went in the cart! (This phenomenon reoccurred years later when I started dating my husband. His family would send care-packages for us, and it usually came with any gluten-free treats they could find.)
What this left me with was a diet full of brown rice bread, gluten-free cookies and crackers, and some frozen meals.
While these foods solved my immediate problem, it wasn’t a very sustainable diet. All the weight I had lost during the year I was living with undiagnosed Celiac Disease came right back on in about a month of eating my new “healthy” diet. Many of my new foods contained way more fat, sugar, and carbohydrates than I needed.I lived like this for awhile. Eventually, the epiphany came: if I just ate more whole, natural foods, I wouldn’t need to rely on ready-made, processed “gluten-free” products. Turning point: reached! Once I began eating more foods that were naturally gluten-free, my diet became more satisfying, and far more nutritious.
For breakfast, I replaced bagels and breakfast bars with eggs and oatmeal. For lunch, I enjoy salad meals, or gluten-free wraps with protein and veggies. Dinners now include staples like turkey sloppy joes, sweet potato wedges, homemade meat sauce and gluten free pasta, turkey and veggie quesadillas, and homemade veggie and chicken sausage pizzas.
There are still some gluten-free convenience items I’ll shell out the big bucks for, but they help me build a healthier, sustainable meal. Tortillas, pizza crusts, and pasta always make the cut, but the days of a ready-made, microwavable gluten-free dishes are long gone.
For me, it’s about eating mostly naturally gluten-free products, with a smattering of convenience thrown in to make my life easier. I’m not about to start baking my own bread any time soon (it looks hard), but as far as eliminating the processed middle man…well, he’s as good as gone.