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Gluten Free 101, Fat Elvis and a Menu Plan

Gluten-Free 101, Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom

Gluten-Free 101

Before I share this week’s menu plan, I want to let you know that I’ll be adding a new feature here at Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom called Gluten Free 101. A few times a month, I will get back to my glutadoodle roots by sharing a “just gluten-free” recipe or two, as well as a few lifestyle posts that might be helpful for the newly gluten-free. The recipes I’ll be sharing will most likely contain ingredients that I no longer use when cooking for my own family, so I don’t want there to be any confusion. No, I haven’t gone off the deep end and started ignoring my family’s additional allergens and sensitivities (in addition to being gluten-free, we are also dairy-free, and my youngest son is allergic to eggs while I avoid all grains, legumes and cane sugar).

So Why Go Back to Gluten-Free Basics?

Simply put, it’s for my sister and her family. Back in October, my middle sister was diagnosed with celiac disease and much as I expected, she’s having a difficult time adjusting to her new lifestyle. I can certainly empathize, I did in fact cheat on the gluten-free diet for 3 years after my diagnosis in 2005. I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past 6 weeks thinking about the underlying reasons as to why I began my blog in the first place…to help others avoid the mistakes I made and start getting excited about being gluten-free. It may not happen overnight, but I promise, this does get easier. Before you know it, being gluten-free will be as second nature as going through the McDonald’s drive-thru once was. Only better, because you will feel so much better than any greasy, genetically modified, chemical laden burger can possibly taste. And if I can do it, anyone can do it. 😀

I believe that you have to meet people where they are. Had I been told (at the time of my celiac diagnosis), that my gut had sprung a massive leak and my immune system was reacting to 90% of the diet I was eating at the time…you would have had to haul me out of the doctor’s office in a straight jacket! I had to climb Mt. G-Free Acceptance before I could even listen to the idea that there were more foods keeping me from complete healing.

Every Journey Begins with the First Step

I’m a baby stepper, a “one small change at a time” kinda person. You push me off the deep end without a floatie and directions to dry land, I’m going to get overwhelmed, give up and drown. Eventually I will resurrect my waterlogged self and come back fighting with a vengeance, I always do, but that whole process is emotionally and physically draining – and I don’t want others to have to suffer a similar path if I can help in some small way.

You have got to “get okay” with being gluten-free first, before you can realistically tackle all the other co-existing health issues and nutritional deficiencies that you might have as a consequence of eating poison for decades.

My attitude is this: gluten-free processed foods aren’t entirely unhealthy – please stick with me here for a moment – because when you are newly gluten-free, anything you eat that is free of gluten is inherently “healthier” than continuing to eat more poison. You could eat 10 pounds of fruits and vegetables a day – and just one half slice of gluten-filled French bread at night, and chances are you won’t be reaping any of the benefits of all those those fruits and vegetables because you aren’t absorbing the nutrients in them due to your villi being incapacitated.

I now eat a diet of whole foods which are naturally gluten-free and I wholeheartedly recommend working your way in this direction (it took me a good 2 years to get here). I drink Green smoothies for breakfast everyday, which are loaded with fruits and dark leafy greens (and I kid you not, they’re delicious!). For lunch, dinner and snacks, I eat nearly my weight’s worth in fruits, vegetables and lean protein. I no longer eat baked goods because I don’t crave sugar anymore, whole fruit is my dessert and believe it or not, I don’t feel deprived or hungry in the least.

My advice for the newly gluten-free

1). Focus on the positive. Dwelling on what you can’t do (or eat) will only make matters worse. I don’t know about you, but when I used to get depressed, I ate – often the noxious glutonium – or I drank one glass too many of Cabernet. Both of which only compounded the problem, not only making my gut leakier, but gluten is extremely damaging to the brain and not the least be helpful for depression (and not just for those of us with celiac disease, to learn more, download this article and this article by Dr. Marios Hadjivassiliou).

Instead, focus on how LUCKY you are to be changing the course of your life. Take a good look around you the next time you’re out and wishing you could tear into {insert your favorite glutonium-filled food item here} like everyone else. Do those people look happy and healthy? Chances are, no they don’t. I’ve seen them. Heck, I used to be one of them. The food they’re shoveling into their mouth is often one of the few joys they have. They care more about the food than they do the company they’re with, what does that tell you? Foods can’t feel or express emotion – food cannot love you back, so focus on the people who do.

2). Do whatever you have to in order to embrace being gluten-free, even if that means eating a bunch of gluten-free goldfish crackers, gluten-free fried chicken, gluten-free pizza or even gluten-free “Hostess” cupcakes for the first six months or so (I have “gluten-free transition recipes” all over my website, try a few!). The important thing is that it’s GLUTEN FREE and you view this phase as a stepping stone towards further improving your diet.

3) Learn how to cook and have fun doing it – crank up some of your favorite tunes and dance while you’re at it (serving spoons make great microphones). 😀

4). Take baby steps if you need to, just as long as you continue moving in the right direction. Remember, Rome was not built in a day.

5). Join a support group, either locally or online. My Facebook page is a great place to start, you will find yourself with over 5,600 instant gluten-free friends who are more than happy to answer any question(s) you may have. Remember, the only “stupid” question is the one you don’t ask. Going gluten-free comes with a steep learning curve, and we’ve all been there at one time or another and I still don’t know everything there is to know!

Also check out:

Gluten Intolerance Group of North America

Celiac Sprue Association

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

Want more motivation?

Check this out (I really can’t believe I’m sharing this on the internet – I wonder if my therapist would classify this as personal growth or bonafide insanity?):

Me, at the time I was diagnosed with celiac disease…at a whopping 230 lbs (and a really bad hair hairdo). Yes, you can be obese, not have any gastrointestinal symptoms and still have celiac disease.

Sorry for the poor picture quality, there aren’t many photos of me from back then, I hid from the camera at all costs. And no, black is not all that slenderizing when you closely resemble the 1976 “Fat Elvis” (I mean no disrespect to the late King, I’m a huge fan, I’m simply referring to how bloated he became towards the end). I wasn’t always that large, in fact, I was a normal, healthy weight before I put on 80 lbs. after my thyroid ablation (due to Graves’ disease). I wasn’t absorbing any of the thyroid hormone medication due to undiagnosed celiac disease at the time. And that wasn’t all fat mind you, I was terribly bloated from all the inflammation going on inside my body, hence the Fat Elvis reference.

Me, today at 138 lbs.

When I finally quit cheating on the gluten-free diet 3 years ago, the weight didn’t automatically drop off. I was still eating the Standard American Diet…only the gluten-free version of it.  Once I began to slowly wean myself off of gluten-free processed foods, including diet soda and a ridiculous amount of sugar, the weight began to melt away.  Of the 92 pounds I’ve lost thus far, over 80 of them came off without exercise. I am by no means endorsing not exercising, but I was too sick with systemic immune infections and chronic fatigue at the time to do much more than prepare our meals each day.  The only reason I’m even sharing this fact with you is to demonstrate the enormous power of a healthy diet.

Hence, the reason I no longer view the gluten-free lifestyle as a burden.  Yes, it can be challenging at times, especially in the beginning or when you’re dining out, but I now view the gluten-free lifestyle as a gift. (Yes, you read that correctly).

I also view celiac as a condition, rather than a “disease.” I believe celiac is the condition of an amazing immune system that is screaming out for us to quit eating the “foods” (and I use that term loosely) that our bodies were never designed to eat in the first place.  My 8 year old son Sam is the perfect example.  We caught his celiac very early, before his intestinal lining was completely destroyed and the celiac “sidekick” diseases began to take hold.  As long as he remains on a strict gluten-free/casein-free diet, he will most likely never know how difficult it is to manage multiple autoimmune disorders like his mother, especially Type 1 diabetes. As long as Sam is eating the right foods, he is completely “normal.” In fact, he is BETTER than normal, because he eats healthier than every single one of his gluten-eating friends.  Sam plays football, basketball and baseball…and he is always one of the top players on his team (I’m not biased or anything).  He loves to go fishing and hiking, and plays with his Legos for hours on end.  Sam recently began playing the drums and his teacher said his focus is unrivaled for a boy his age (yea for me…my eardrums would appreciate a little less focus in that department!).  Sam is 100% boy, 110% of the time.  He is not sidelined by chronic illness like his mom was when she was a child, heck, he hasn’t even caught a cold in nearly a year!  I credit his healthy diet for all that he is now able to achieve and enjoy.  I am blessed.

And the best part?  He will NEVER have know the emotional despair that his mother went through when she had to change her diet forever at the age of 31.  He will not have to bend over backwards attempting to recreate all his favorite childhood foods, like his mother did for entirely too long because the foods Sam eats today, are what his memories will behold.

One last thought to I’d like you to consider.

Make Your Home A Gluten-Free Safe Zone

This piece of advice is especially for families who have young gluten-free children living in the house, but I can also say that it made all the difference in the world for me when my husband suggested we make our home gluten-free after our son’s diagnosis. No one likes to feel left out and it is especially difficult when you have a lone gluten-free member of the family. I’ve been there, it’s lonely and it hurts, even as an adult. It can also make it extremely difficult on the newly gluten-free person who has to look at the foods that they not only once loved to eat (yes, you can actually crave gluten even when it is making you very ill) but it also has the potential to KILL them.

I know there are many different life circumstances to consider when it comes to feeding an entire family a gluten-free diet, such as finances and the amount of time one has to prepare meals, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Not if you do it right and cook naturally gluten-free meals that anyone would enjoy. No expensive gluten-free flours to buy, no contorted and twisted substitutions to make…just simply delicious food. In fact, with a little preparation and team work, it can not only be quite cost effective, but it can bring a level of closeness to your family that is hard to come by in this day and age of TV, iGadgets, and more extracurricular activities than one has hours in the day.

And with that, I leave you with my weekly menu plan which I hope can be a source of inspiration for all the naturally gluten-free recipes you can still enjoy together as a family.  For more recipe ideas, browse through my previous menu plans.

Menu Plan, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Casein-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Dinner, Recipes

Monday: Baked Chicken, Butternut Apple Soup and Salad

Tuesday: Beef Stew (I will use Kitchen Basics Beef Stock in place of the bouillon and water, sweet potatoes in place of the regular potatoes and arrowroot in place of the cornstarch) and salad

Wednesday: Stove top Jambalaya (I’m going to attempt this with cauliflower rice) and fresh fruit

Thursday: Maple Sausage Stuffed Apples (Whole Foods’ 365 brand Dijon Mustard is corn-free) and steamed broccoli topped with homemade dairy-free butter

Friday: Green Chile Stew (recipe to come) and homemade applesauce (I make this using 2 Tbs. of honey instead of the 1/4 cup white sugar)

Saturday: Chili Shrimp and Chicken with Avocado Salsa and fruit kabobs

Sunday: Everyday Paleo Salisbury Steak (I’ll use a chia egg in place of the real egg), mashed potatoes (mashed sweet potatoes for me) and salad

Have You Voted Today?

Top 25 Food Allergy Mom BlogsAdventures of a Gluten Free Mom is in the running for one of the Top 25 Food Allergy Mom Blogs for 2011. Please vote by clicking here. You may vote every 24 hours for the next 11 days. Thank you! 😀


  1. BRAVO! BRAVO! I am close to tears! Heidi, thank you for sharing all of this. I feel like I know you even better now. Knowing more of your story—where you've been and where you are now. So inspiring!

    For all of you reading: From time to time I see Heidi and I have to say that each time I do, she is more vibrant, healthy, full of life and not to mention, svelte!! She has really turned her health and her life around. She is a model mom in that she takes the care and feeding of her children seriously. She has my utmost respect. So impressed! SO impressed!

  2. Heidi- I know you must have been nervous about sharing that Before photo. God Bless You for sharing it. I have only seen the "current" Heidi, and it has been hard to imagine you looking any other way. This really gives me hope that I, too, can eventually get back to a healthy weight. You are awesome!

  3. Thanks for sharing. I am in the transition phase right now where I still want to eat things that I'm used to, but gluten free. I had gluten free pizza this weekend and while I didn't feel as bad as I do after "normal" pizza, I didn't feel so great either. And you are right, those substitutes are expensive! Hoping I can ease through the transition quickly, and get to a happy grain free place like you. 🙂

  4. I was diagnosed in May and have had a really tough time with the transition. I'm not one of those people who feel so much better after going gluten free…so that makes it even harder.

    In my search for finding out what else I can do to heal my body, this post has been really helpful.

    Thank you~


  5. Congratulations and thanks for this post! I'm another of the "obese" before diagnosis people and many find it had to believe. I too went from a high of right around 230# (a size 18) and am now down to 145 (a size 4) with little to no exercise. The weight just fell off.. at nearly 5 pounds a week for the first 60 some pounds! It was amazing. Although I did have symptoms, they were curiously undiagnosed for years until about 4 years ago.. since then, my life has changed drastically and I can only say that becoming gluten free is one of the most positive things that has happened for me. I routinely tout the fact that finding out I had to change my diet wasn't hard at all because I felt so much better almost immediately, that I know I NEVER want to go back.

    Congratulations on your improvements both physically and health wise. You look fabulous.. and I know you probably feel even BETTER! Lisa

  6. Hi Heidi, Great post. I am meeting more people who are suspecting gluten is affecting their health. I love having things like this to share with them. I found a website today that is new to me Are you familiar with this? If so, do you or any of your readers know anything about Dr. Osborne and his "The Glutenology Heath Matrix"? I'm interested but hate to spend the $69 without knowing more. I did sign up and started watching the video. It contains important information about ALL Grains. I know you have mentioned you don't eat grains. Now I know why. Another pantry cleanup coming up!

  7. Heidi, you are AMAZING! And this is DEFINITELY called personal growth! That is just a stunning portrayal of how health can change your life in every way! I am SO SO proud of you, and SO SO grateful to call you my friend!



  8. Fabulous, must-read post, Heidi. You are smokin' hot! I confess that when I realized we had to give up a lot more than gluten to get well, I got a little judgmental about more mainstream gluten-free diet recipes. It was my grief and frustration talking and I, too, have come back to a saner way of blogging and living that you describe where there is a spectrum of people living gluten free and making those baby steps. We need to be kind and gentle with ourselves and everyone else on the gluten-free healing path. I learned that the hard way, but you have always been gracefully and honestly sharing your journey. Thank you!

  9. Franchesca says

    I was diagnosed in late April, and have been gf since May 12. I have since found out that I am also sensitive to dairy and soy. And, it seems like I am still reacting to some foods so I don't think we are done yet! I am eating much healthier but have a hard time not feeling deprived, and I just haven't been able to wean myself off sugar yet. I know I'm still eating way too many baked goods. I feel like I'm missing so much I just can't give up sugar too. And yet, I know that I need to, or at least restrict it more. I've been angry at myself for my lack of discipline but seeing this gives me hope that I just might be able to get there, over time.

  10. Tracy Pfeiffer says

    Wow Heidi! This post came just in time! I recently went gluten free due to not feeling well all the time. I am not celiac, or so the blood test says. You look great and most importantly I read that you feel great!!!! That is so awesome. I am with you, I need to do the weaning of both my son and myself from processed foods. Um, do you or your kids get chelitis (sp?), the cracking sores on the side of the point where your lips open? Just wondering, I give a multi vit to my son, who has this, but no help. thanks, tracy

  11. You are so sweet to do this blog and offer so much information, inspiration, guidance, and love to those who are struggling with gluten intolerance. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  12. Heidi, you are simply inspiring! Thanks so much for sharing your story with the rest of us.

  13. I am crying right now reading this post. I have finally found a site/someone that can help me. I am a graves patient of almost 7 years now. no thyroid. constant auto-immune issues. constant undiagnosed stomach issues. to the point now, i can't eat much more than yogurt, toast and soup. i am going to give GF a try. this has got to be the solution. i am told no celiac… but i'm just not so sure…. thank you so much for sharing your story….


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