Gluten-Free: First Impressions

>> Tuesday, March 12, 2013

So, I've been gluten-free for all of two seconds. This isn't a post I write with any sort of authority whatsoever, but I wanted to give my first impressions on how it's going.

Overall feeling:

Generally I haven't noticed a gigantic difference in my energy levels. However, digestion-wise, yes. Definitely a change. I don't feel as complicated inside, if that makes any sense. I feel clean and less bloated when I wake for the day. I would attribute this to the gluten, but also to avoiding/being forced to avoid extra desserts, beers, etc. that I would normally munch on.

Now, as I mentioned in my race recap, I did  indulge in a doughnut, piece of pizza, and beer this weekend. In a way, I was majorly disappointed that after less than a week, I couldn't stick the course (I'm back on, btw). In another way, I ate far, far, far less than I normally would have because I'm thinking more about how much gluten I normally do eat. But it gave me the opportunity to see if eating these foods messed with me. I would say I didn't notice much of a difference or any sort of "reaction" having them.

I may try to inject a few foods containing gluten every now and again this month since I am experimenting with less gluten versus trying to combat a severe digestive issue with zero gluten. This way I can see if certain ones trigger any feelings in me. Isolated tests, maybe try pasta one time or naan another. I'm curious to see if it makes a difference for me.


Some of you mentioned that gluten begets gluten, meaning that the more of it you eat, the more you want. You all know I have a 7 PM cookie habit, but the days I've been gluten-free, I haven't had quite as strong the urge. This isn't to say I haven't had sweets at all, but there's a marked difference in my OMGNEEDITNOW cravings for them.

Beyond that, the usual suspects for my junk food eating are just off limits unless I go to great lengths to create them in the kitchen. In a way, it's liberating because I have eliminated many of those "oh, I shouldn't be eating this right now" conversations in my head. I can see how this point could be beneficial to me.


Along this same vein, eating gluten-free has forced me to eat a great variety of foods. I think I wrote in another post that breads and gluten were really a centerpiece of my diet. Without them, I am shifting to more veggies, specifically. For example, we are looking to make a cauliflower pizza crust recipe this week + we're stirring up more stir-fries.

Many of you have written to me about the Paleo diet. I just don't think I could go quiet that extreme at this juncture.

I still love having a side of rice or other grain with dinners. For those of you interested in the Paleo diet, I found this post helpful with identifying the foods you can eat versus not. Gluten-free and Paleo are two entirely different animals. There are far too many restrictions for me as a vegetarian.

Convenience (+): 

I think restaurants have done a good job trying to make not only the vegetarian + vegan dietary choices easier to find. I've also discovered the same goes for gluten-free. I've gone out to eat twice in the last week, the first to a local restaurant with its choices clearly marked (and generous, I might add) and to Chipotle, which offers.

Convenience (-):

That all being said, it's still really tricky being out and about and finding a variety of options. I've become aware of how gluten and grain-heavy our diets are, and I guess that surprised me. Unless you eat mostly salads, everything is wrapped or slapped between two pieces of bready stuff.

I would also say that if you want to do a great deal of baking GF, it can get rather pricey. For the first time I headed down the GF aisle, and whoa -- sticker-shock. But I'm trying to find my way using the ingredients I already have.

Diet versus Diet:

I have also discovered that, much like being vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free is certainly a diet change and not just a losing-weight diet. Sure, you could just stuck up on the processed, per-packaged crap, but if you are truly to go gluten-free, it requires a shift in thinking. For example, we don't eat lots of meat substitutes as vegetarians . . . and I imagine that true GF-ers don't do everything they can to replicate bread and other gluten-rich foods.

One of my major critiques before trying this out was that the people who do GF and don't need to are just using it as a way of restricting. I am seeing the error of my ways, so I have taken a step back on that way of thinking. So far, I don't think the diet is particularly good for weight-loss, but then again -- I am turning away from a lot of my favorite junk foods . . .

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Anyway, these are just my very initial impressions from trying gluten-free for about a week. I do think along with everything else, I have been showing some signs of detoxing from gluten, like broken-out skin, some digestion things, irritability. So, I may not have noticed much because my body is still acclimating. I am hoping that with  more time, I'll see more definitive changes/results to share with you.

In my next post, I'll be reviewing some of the foods I've tried that are marketed as gluten-free, as well as a few of my own recipes that I have adapted using ingredients already found in my kitchen. If there is a certain recipe of mine you'd like to see me tackle, let me know!

(A delicious recipe for gluten-free, vegan chocolate chippers is on the way this week!)

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