We’ve invited amazing nutritionist, writer - and founder of one of our fave foodie websites, The Healthy Apple - Amie Valpone to create a beautiful, delicious, easy-to-follow 7 day meal plan with all the tools you’ll need to thrive gluten free.
Here, she shares the trials and tribulations of her personal journey back to health, as well as a wealth of tips, resources, and deliciously healthy foods to stock your gluten free pantry.
It’s not easy being diagnosed with celiac disease or learning you have gluten intolerance or sensitivity. You suddenly realize that gluten is in everything from your favourite childhood cereal to soy sauce, and your kitchen is a minefield of foods that will upset your stomach. When I first started eating gluten free over a decade ago, it was a big shock to my system. I was in love with fresh bagels, hearty sandwiches, and pasta. I lived in a tiny dorm room that was stocked with college staples like ramen noodles and saltines. I couldn’t imagine how I’d suddenly stop eating all these foods I had loved for years, but I knew I had to choose health over comfort and start feeding my body what it needed to be strong.
I eliminated gluten along with processed foods that were loaded with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), growth hormones, pesticides, herbicides and loads of other toxic chemicals. I swapped my dairy-filled ice cream for coconut milk ice cream and fresh and frozen fruit; I stocked up on vegetables, gluten free whole grains, organic air popped popcorn, nut butters and raw nuts and seeds. Ten years before ‘gluten free’ became a household term I turned my dorm room into a gluten free living space that supported my health. It wasn’t easy, but it was totally possible - just like it’s possible for anyone to revamp their pantry with fun, healthy high-quality, organic foods that taste great and support the health of your body and immune system.
Going gluten free is getting easier and there are tons of alternatives to bread, pasta, cookies, pretzels, and other favourites that typically contain gluten. For my clients, one of the scariest parts about gluten is that it’s hidden in loads of products you wouldn’t expect, such as malt vinegar, beer, couscous, breads, cereals, crackers, salad dressings, instant coffee, vitamins, mustard, chocolate, canned baked beans, boxed soups, and much more. It’s important to start closely reading labels and looking for foods that are certified gluten free by the company. It’s also important to buy organic so you can avoid toxins that that contribute to inflammation and poor gut health. You can tell if a product is organic, like all the Nature’s Path products, by looking for the green and white USDA certified organic seal on the packaging.
In my years of eating gluten free and organic, I’ve learned tons of tips and tricks that simplify my life and allow me to get creative with my meals. Here are some of my favourite ones to get you started!
Stocking Your Organic Gluten free Pantry
Gluten is lurking in so many foods it can be a real headache poring over labels reading every last ingredient. The best way to avoid gluten is to stick to naturally gluten free whole foods such as lean proteins, healthy fats, and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables as well as your favourite gluten free boxed items like Nature’s Path Qi’a Oatmeal and Qi’a Cereal. For foods that do typically contain gluten such as bread and pasta, there are many gluten free alternatives on the market. Experiment with different products like quinoa pasta, rice pasta, organic corn pasta, or bean pasta to find the ones you like best. There are also many gluten free flours such as almond, buckwheat, coconut, and rice flour that you can use to make your favourite baked goods.
Choosing plant based whole foods not only makes it easy to stay gluten free, but it’s also the best way to keep your body generally healthy. A “whole food” is a food in its most essential, pure and basic form - an asparagus spear, a lemon, a scoop of quinoa. They contain only one ingredient so you don’t have to worry about what’s hidden inside. This is why I LOVE Nature’s Path products - their ingredients are super ‘clean’ and minimal! When choosing produce, pick up local, fresh, organic verities as often as you can; you’ll notice a huge difference in how your body feels compared to how it felt when it was full of artificial flavours, colours, preservatives, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats.
Whole, plant-based foods are the most nutrient dense foods and are most easily digested by your body. You don’t have to worry about counting calories because these foods are high in nutrients and vitamins that are vital to our health and well-being. Start reconfiguring your diet so that the majority of what you eat comes from plants, like raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and gluten free whole grains. Your body will feel satisfied and won’t have to spend energy dealing with the toxins found in processed, non-organic foods.
Let the flavours of nature inspire your cooking. Each week stock up on new healthy ingredients to experiment with. Build meals that contain healthy fats, lean protein, and fibre. For example, start your day with Oi’a Oatmeal from Nature’s Path. Add fresh berries, sliced banana, and a dollop of nut (or seed) butter such as creamy almond butter or sunflower seed butter. For a savoury alternative, add ripened sliced avocado, toasted pumpkin seeds and a dash of sea salt with a pinch of chili powder to your oatmeal. With each meal, focus on eating mostly plant-based foods and including enough variety of fibre-rich flavour that you won’t be bored.
Your options are limitless. There is a vast array of tasty gluten free foods waiting for you to try. Even better, these foods will have a huge impact on how you feel. Trust me; I’m living proof! Removing gluten from your life can be a blessing in disguise. Start making healthy tweaks and let nature guide you to your best life yet. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Vegetables - Organic Arugula, Beet Greens, Bib lettuce, Cabbage, Chinese cabbage, Collard Greens, Endive, Escarole, Frisee, Kale, Lamb lettuce, Mache, Mesclun, Micro Greens, Mustard Greens, Purple cabbage, Radicchio, Red Leaf, Romaine, Spinach, Sprouts, Swiss Chard, Turnip Greens, Watercress, Artichoke, Asparagus, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Fennel, Green beans, Scallions, Green pepper, Jalapeño, Jicama, Mushrooms, Onion, Radish, Red pepper, Squash, Tomato, Zucchini, Summer and Winter squash, Sweet potatoes
Protein - Organic Beans, Nuts, Seeds
Fruit - Organic Apples, Clementine’s, Dried cranberries, Figs, Mangoes, Oranges, Peaches, Pears, Pomegranate, Raisins, Strawberries, Melons, Berries, Kiwi, Bananas
Crunchy - Organic Almonds, Pecans, Pine nuts, Pistachio, Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts, Chia seeds, Flax seeds, Hemp seeds
Herbs - Organic Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, Mint, Rosemary, Chives
Whole Grains - Organic Gluten free Pasta, Quinoa, Rice, Millet Buckwheat, Gluten free Oats, Sorghum, Teff
Try your best to eat naturally gluten free with dairy alternatives like almond and coconut milk, coconut and almond milk ice creams, coconut and almond milk yogurts, lean proteins like raw nuts and seeds, healthy fats like avocados and fruits and vegetables.