30-Days Gluten-Free!

I looked at the calendar on Tuesday and realized it marked 1-month of eating gluten-free! When adopting a gluten-free diet was first suggested to me I thought it would be really a hard change to make. But I've found that with a little extra time spent planning (which by the way, I love to do...); it wasn't as difficult as I anticipated. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that it was fun! I discovered a whole new world of books, blogs, and other resources to explore!

I created a new folder in my Google Reader for Gluten-Free/Allergy Free blogs and quickly filled it up with over 40+ new sites! It was a bit overwhelming, but very educational. Once I got a good idea of what foods contained gluten and what did not, I was able to develop a meal-planning process.

My Meal-Planning Process

Because I have so many GF feeds in my Google Reader, I don't always have time to read every single post. I depend a lot on the titles of posts to let me know if it's a recipe that I might find interesting. If the blog title draws my attention, I'll quickly scan the post and star it if it's one that I want to come back to. At the end of the week, I sit down and go through all the starred posts that I accumulated during the week. If I think I can pull off the recipe, then I'll add my "Recipes to Try" tag to it.

I scan through the tag and pick out 2-3 main dishes and 2-3 side dish/salad recipes that I want to make on Sunday. I try to pick recipes that make about 4 servings so that I have leftovers throughout the week. In total, I need 11 total servings to get me from Sunday Dinner, through Friday Lunch; less if I have plans to eat out during the week. I have no problems eating leftovers and find that it is a huge time and money saver.

Next I make a grocery list of all the ingredients that I need and then plan when I'll make each dish. For example, if a dish requires a long marinade, I usually make it on Sunday since I have extra time. I try to save the quick dishes for mid-week. To demonstrate what a monster planner I am, I organize my grocery list according to the floor plan of my grocery store. It makes for a quick trip and makes me less likely to pick up items not on my list. Also, if I have time, I try to go to the Farmers Market and pick up as many ingredients there first, then pick up the rest of what I need at the grocery store.

When I'm done cooking the dishes, I plate them into servings and store them in Tupperware so that I can easily pack it to take to the office for lunch, or throw in the microwave to heat up for dinner. I usually save salads for dinner so I don't have to pack all the little ingredients in my lunch bag.

So far, this meal-planning process has been the key to my 30-day success with eating gluten-free. It really has been a lot of fun to try new recipes and even discover new (to me) vegetables. Up until 2 weeks ago I had no idea what Fennel was, or even what it looked like - and now I love it!

The Challenges

There were a few times in the past month that I found challenging. And as you would suspect, they were times when I didn't have a plan.

For example, there was one day where I had to be in the office at 6 am. I just didn't have time to get my (GF) oatmeal and morning smoothie together so I figured, as per previous early AM meetings; I could run to Jamba Juice and pick up a smoothie and a cup of steel-cut oatmeal. But when I got there, the menu warned that their oatmeal contained wheat so there went that idea. I ended up having to get a smoothie and a couple of KIND bars, which I found are GF and just as delicious as all the other bars out there.

{Side note: I also joined the Picky Club and now I get a month's supply of GF and Dairy-Free bars mailed to me. They're a great afternoon, pre-workout snack. I keep a couple in my handbag so that I always have a snack on hand when I need one.}

Dining out was also a challenge at first. Lucky for me, I am not the only person in my family who eats GF. My cousin has been GF for years and the first few times I ate out, I was with him and was able to ask him if what I wanted had gluten in it. Now that I have a better grasp on this, I am pretty confident in making selections off of menus. I do have to improvise, and am not able to get some of my previous favorites (ramen!), but I've discovered new dishes that I can love just as much. Also, I was beyond thrilled to learn that rice is GF so I can still have all the sushi (sans the soy sauce) that I want! I am now the biggest customer at the Sushi Bar at AT&T Park!

Another thing I came to realize is that just because something is GF, doesn't mean that it's healthy. Many of the GF blogs post recipes of how to make desserts, breads and other foods that truly look so beautiful (seriously, they look pretty) and delicious. These GF treats taste just as good as the ones with gluten. Trust me; I developed an addiction to Cranberry-Pecan-Orange cookies! But not only are some of these recipes high in fat, they are things that I wouldn't have normally ate even if I was eating gluten. So it's something that I've had to reign in. But at least I know that there are options out there and I never have to feel deprived of anything.

The Differences

As I said in this earlier post, the biggest difference that I've experienced so far is sleep. Except for a couple of nights where work wrecked my sleep schedule, I have had the deepest sleep over the past month than I've had in years. If you have been reading for a while, I even started seeing my therapist because of terrible sleep issues I had had. This alone has made going GF worth it.

In addition to sleep, I also find myself making healthier choices in what I eat. Not that I ate "bad" before going GF, but now I find that I am eating a lot more produce. My meals are more balanced and cleaner.

My mood has been lighter and I feel happier and more energized.

And lastly, despite dealing with an injury over the past month that required complete lower body rest (I have only been allowed to do upper body workouts for the past 2 weeks!), I've lost 6 of the 9 lbs. I've gained since the start of the year.

Last week I did a little experiment and ate a meal with a lot of gluten in it. My body didn't have a very good reaction to it and the familiar bloating and upset stomach symptoms that I had stopped having returned. So I think I'll stick to GF for as long as it keeps working for me.

Recipes Made and Loved

And in case you're wondering, here are a few of the recipes that I've made over the past month. Once I've tried a recipe, successfully made it - and liked it - then I change the tag on the post to "Recipes Made and Loved" so that I can make it again!

Chicken Stir Fry - I used Chicken instead of Turkey - I used GF Soy Sauce - I did not use Sriacha Sauce

Grilled Salmon with Sundried Tomatoes - I baked this in the oven at 350 degrees for 20-min vs. Grilling.

Grilled Shrimp - I've already made this twice, including for the 4th of July!

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Gluten Free Popcorn Chicken - I used Shrimp instead of Chicken.

Grilled Chicken in Sundried Tomato Vinaigarette - I did not have Red Wine Vinegar so I doubled the amount of Balsamic Vinegar - I baked in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-min vs. Grilling

Confetti Quinoa Salad - I added Shrimp to this.

Sweet Potato Hash

And not from a blog, but shared with me from a friend:

Roasted Vegetables:

1. Slice Sweet Potatoes, Fennel and an Onion 2. Place them in a roasting dish or baking pan and drizzle with olive oil and other seasonings that you like (I added Garlic) 3. Cook in the oven at 400 degrees for 40-min

The aroma and flavors blend together so nicely - I loved it!