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Easy Ways to Make Meals More Nutritious

Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Summer Issue - Originally published July 7, 2014


Image: CC--Craig Dugas

Celiac.com 10/04/2016 - I have been following a gluten-free diet since being medically diagnosed with celiac disease as a toddler. My food choices have certainly evolved over the years. Many life experiences have influenced this evolution, including the loss of loved ones to cancer, experiencing my own health struggles resulting from celiac disease, and many surprising things I have learned from studying holistic nutrition.

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If I had to put everything I have learned over the years into one sentence, it would be, "Every bite matters." Those are words I live by now. After all, an overwhelming number of health experts agree that over 90% of our immune system exists within our gastrointestinal tract, so what we eat means more than ever. As a celiac with specific nutritional requirements, and being someone at risk of various deficiencies, this mantra can literally make or break me. I am always searching for new ways to maximize the potential of my food choices.
Here are some of my favourite ways to turn everyday eating into meals that pack a greater nutritional punch.

  1. Avoid pre-packaged foods, particularly with long ingredient lists. Virtually all packaged foods contain preservatives, among other unhealthy things we can live without. The words "packaged" and "preservative" go hand in hand. That means you are getting unwanted ingredients in your food. Also, avoid products that contain ingredient names that look unfamiliar to you. Unfamiliar ingredients usually equate with unhealthy additives, preservatives and chemicals. Try to avoid processed/refined foods, and foods that are high in sugar and high on the glycemic index. Instead, select local, in season, whole foods.
  2. Choose organic when possible. When you choose foods that are organic, you are not only helping the eco-system in many ways, you are also helping your gut in more ways than you'd think. Organic foods are clean and free from harmful chemicals, pesticides, genetically modified processes, antibiotics and anything that is unnatural—from start to finished product. I find organic foods taste significantly better as well.
  3. Wipe out white rice, refined flours and crusts. For example, make your own gluten-free flours by grinding mineral-rich seeds such as sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. Bake homemade pizza and lasagna with a layered eggplant base (you'll need to cook the eggplant first). Replace nutrient poor, refined white rice with nutrient-dense quinoa. Make a wrap with seaweed or collard greens.
  4. Kick sugar to the curb. Use natural sweeteners lower on the glycemic index, such as stevia or organic coconut palm sugar to replace refined table sugar that has been stripped of its minerals and nutritional value. Although maple syrup and honey are not considered low glycemic, they certainly have more minerals and health benefits than white, refined table sugar. Organic honey is preferable.
  5. Pick quality protein and heart healthy omega 3 fats. Adding lean, quality protein and heart healthy omega 3 rich fats to your meals and snacks will help you absorb nutrients better, and help balance your blood sugar levels, which is good for you in the short-term and long-term.
  6. Reach for raw. Increase your intake of raw, nutrient-rich vegetables (especially cruciferous and sea vegetable varieties) and fruit in a wide range of colours to receive the benefits of an assortment of vitamins. Grab more green, such as kale, broccoli and spinach. Try juicing to conveniently get more veggies into your diet.
  7. Make your meals super. Add super-foods rich in antioxidants such as chia seeds, hemp hearts, flax seeds, gogi berries and other kinds of berries to cereals, stews, soups and sauces. A variety of colors will ensure you are consuming a variety of vitamins.
  8. Be mindful of your B's. Iron and B-vitamin deficiencies are extremely common among celiacs, even those who follow a gluten-free diet. Try to eat foods high in these nutrients. Foods high in B-vitamins include leafy greens, beans, eggs, fish, nuts and poultry. Foods high in iron include red meat, poultry, squash, pumpkin seeds, beans and various nuts.
  9. Savour the Season. Now that Spring is here, there is no reason why you can't visit your local farmer's market or farm for fresh, in season produce. Imagine the goodness lost when produce is packaged, shipped, sitting on store shelves and even cooked. Those steps, not to mention the time involved strip plant based foods of their nutritional value, and they leave a significant footprint on the environment. Consider creating your own veggie garden so you can take advantage of food that goes from soil to plate.

Now that I've got you thinking differently, instead of reaching for what's inside the box, think outside the box and experiment with healthy whole foods. You might not love everything you introduce to your palate, however, you won't know until you try. One thing is certain—your gut will thank you.

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And this from Consumer Reports: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/11/arsenic-in-your-food/index.htm Rice aside, stop giving your kids apple juice too as it can contain high levels of arsenic too! Eat real apples -- not juice.

If I am in a bar and it is super busy, I ask for a "to go" cup. Why? If a dishwasher is not being used (or demand is overwhelming it), bartenders are cleaning all the glasses the old fashioned way ( sinks, wash and rinse with disinfectant). Good for killing bacteria I suppose, but maybe not for removing gluten traces. No bar is going to slow down drink orders ($$$$$) to wait for clean glasses from the dishwasher! Is this all true? I can not say. I am just speaking from experience when I was barmaid 30 years ago before there were dedicated bar dishwashers. http://www.servicethatsells.com/blog/how-to-clean-a-beer-glass/ Even if this is "all in my head", I feel better clutching my "to go" cup and can relax. ?

Check out this page and the advice on rice prep: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2F1MDzyW55pg97Tdpp7gqLN/should-i-be-concerned-about-arsenic-in-my-rice

Hi Rachel and welcome I think you've found the single best site on the web for help and advice. Hope it's of use to you. I tested negative for celiac so no referral. My experience with NHS however suggests it could be worth phoning your Gastro's office and asking the admin staff there to check on this. Things get overlooked... I would avoid anything with those warnings on. It's a pain in the arse because, for example, it recently appeared on a brand of nuts I like. However having some experience of production and marketing environments that warning will only be going on the pack if someone in the company thinks there's a chance of contamination. There's always other products to choose from so I don't take the chance. Walkers crisps have given me a reaction, yes even the sodding ready salted ones It's something to do with their production processes. I think Gary Lineker may dance through the factory each week spreading handfuls of flour for good luck. Whatever, I now avoid them. My energy levels improved over a few months after the diet. It took longer the second time after my challenge. I was still noticing improvements / weird resolutions of odd symptoms up to 9 months to a year later... Lots of good advice here: All the best! Matt

Ah.... Settles back, dons funny hat, smokes pipe, plays violin, injects heroin etc... I think you need to treat yourself as your own science experiment. If you're ok at home with all of the drinks then you can almost certainly rule out alcohol intolerance and thank your bodies burgeoning super coeliac powers of gluten detection for the reaction. Clearly your powers have grown in the past five years young jedi... In which case maybe there's a drink you can order which would reduce this risk, maybe asking for the bottle and a clean glass, forgoing ice, straws etc, anything to simplify matters and reduce the number of contaminant variables. One thing I'd avoid would be 'mixers' from the shared line. Not because there's gluten filled drinks going through them, typically its just coke, lemonade and soda water, but because the nozzle sometimes dips into the drink that's being filled. Paranoid? Maybe, but I avoid them now and pay the extra for a bottle. A word on glasses. Most bars have a dedicated glass washer and they're good, to a point. I've worked behind a bar in the past and the washers are only on for a very short time, they can run up to 35 times an hour... I've seen lipstick on glasses from them and whilst the chances of contamination are probably slight... Now if you're out for a night at different places, it will be very hard to work out where its happening. So my suggestion is to go out to one bar only and pick a decent one. Speak to a bartender or manager, explain to them just what a special snowflake you are and get one definitely clean glass at the outset then keep it for the evening and just get it refilled. Pick one drink only and stick to it. I'd suggest wine as maybe its easier on the stomach than the bubbly prosecco and you can get the little bottles without any chance of contamination but that may be nonsense See what happens... If you're ok, then you have an answer. You've become more sensitive and your reacting to trace gluten. *removes funny hat, discards pipe, hides syringe...