Toaster: Free to Good Home

Posted on July 10, 2014 at 6:00 am

By Kim Harshberger

I hate the term gluten-free. It brings up a lot of negative connotations, misunderstandings, and sometimes, abject horror. It also doesn’t begin to describe the choice my husband and I have made for our family. To be clear, no one in the family has a negative physical response to gluten. We do not have celiac disease. But we are making a conscious choice to specifically avoid wheat products and generally reduce carbohydrates in our diet.

Toaster: Free to Good Home. One family's journey to being gluten-free(ish) by Kim Harshberger

After reading Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, the husband and I decided to eliminate wheat from our diet for 90 days, just to see what would happen. This was going to be tough, folks. We ate wheat products virtually every day. I am Italian. I grew up on pasta and bread. I love them dearly. It was going to be hard to say goodbye.

Having participated in Weight Watchers and spending time counting calories over the years, I had a pretty good idea of what foods I turn to in order to feel full, satisfied, and comforted. Wheat. Glorious wheat. In all its forms; pretzels, bread, pasta, crackers, cereal…you name it.

In Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis takes a hard stance against eating carbohydrates in all forms; he opposes all grains, starches, and sugars. I did not adopt that mentality for my family. But here is what I did change:

Wheat

Originally the husband and I were going to eliminate wheat. We quickly realized that was an unnecessary restriction for our family. So, we compromised and only eat wheat products on special occasions; i.e. birthdays, holidays, and eating out. It’s not to say that we have it on every one of those occasions, but we aren’t stringent about it either. So if my kids want to make sugar cookies for Christmas, we do. If we go to a birthday, they get to eat the cake. If we go out to dinner, they can order hamburgers. However, I would say that 90% of the time, we eat wheat-free.

Grains & Starches

Against the recommendation, I did not cut all grains or starches out of our diet. However, I did dramatically decrease the portion sizes that we consume and how many meals per day include grains & starches. As Dr. Davis suggests, we eat less that a half-cup serving for carbs like rice, potatoes, and oatmeal. And I try to limit us to no more than two meals per day that include a grain or starch.

Sugars

Cutting out wheat AND processed foods automatically decreased our refined sugars. Dr. Davis would have us sweetening with only stevia, but I feel more comfortable with sweeteners like honey and maple syrup, used in moderation. I especially try to avoid corn syrups and white sugar. We didn’t drink pop, juice, or any other sweetened beverages, so I didn’t have worry about cutting those out of our diet. But I now use honey in my coffee. I buy unsweetened yogurt to which we add jam, or maple syrup. I make this wonderful granola recipe that uses honey. Essentially I try to always be the one to add the sweetener to a dish so I can control what and how much goes into it.

Toaster: Free to Good Home. One family's journey to being gluten-free(ish) by Kim Harshberger

When we broke the news to the kids, they handled it better than I expected. Until we started talking about the specific things that would no longer be a part of our everyday diet. My oldest broke down into tears when we got to potstickers, but it was the toast that got to my youngest. We talked them through it and they mourned their faves. It has been a major adjustment for all of us. Being able to treat ourselves to the occasional slice of cake, piece of pizza, or cinnamon roll has helped. We have also filled our diet with delicious whole foods like nuts, cheeses, vegetables, and fruits to replace the lost carbohydrate calories.

So, while the naysayers may feel gluten-free is a trend or fad, I feel that my family made an educated decision about how our food contributes to our long-term health and that decision is here to stay for as long as the facts make sense. I simply tell people we are “gluten-free” because it’s the easiest way to get the conversation started (or ended).

Are you gluten-free? If so, how do you make it work for your family? If you are not gluten-free…do you want my toaster? It’s free to a good home.

Kim Harshberger

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  • Anastacia

    I’m not sure I could ever give up pasta and bread (especially not completely), but the idea of healthier eating is very appealing. How long has your family been taking this approach? Are you already noticing some benefits (more energy, easier time sleeping, whatever), or is it too soon to tell?

    • http://www.scld.org/ Kim Harshberger

      Thanks for your comment, Anastacia. We’ve been doing the whole gluten-free(ish) thing since October of last year. I noticed results just a short couple of months after starting; the biggest difference being that my two young daughters got sick far less than normal this last winter. I even had some sick time left over after flu-season (which never happens!)

  • Holly Williams Doering

    I applaud your courageous choice to be healthier even though you don’t have to. Having suffered from what I thought was “food poisoning” over a period of about 5 years, (on average three times per week) I finally figured out that I have developed a severe wheat allergy. My MD had no idea what was wrong with me – after reading books and keeping a food diary I diagnosed myself. People need to be aware that a ton of unnecessary gluten is added to our foods – and not just the ones you think. If wheat gluten makes you sick, stay away from “soy sauce” and any cheap, caramel-colored sauce, maltodextrin, etc. This includes alcohols like rum and whisky and soda pop like Pepsi and Coke. GF soy sauce is available if you can’t live without it.