by Dr. Kaley Bourgeois, ND
Whether you’ve been advised to say “goodbye” to grains to treat a specific health condition, or you are considering it as a potential lifestyle change for general wellness, there are tips that can help you along the way.
A grain-free diet, when balanced with adequate amounts of fresh produce, protein and healthy fats can help support metabolism, reduce inflammation associated with gastrointestinal conditions and aid in weight loss. The transition can be a difficult one for the first few weeks, but often the outcome is worth the dedication. Below are some basic starter tips to help ease your transition into grain-free living.
Beat Cravings with Healthy, Carbohydrate-Rich Vegetables
The cravings for a baked treat or large plate of pasta can be a challenge for the first 2-4 weeks. For those going low-carbohydrate and grain-free for weight loss, this part is especially difficult and you will want to ease in gently. Enjoying healthy, carbohydrate-rich vegetables can help to curb the craving and prevent you from grabbing your favorite grain-filled snack.
Try adding a daily serving of sweet potato or yam to one of your meals to help meet your body’s carbohydrate desires. Combining this with protein will help to decrease blood sugar shifts that drive your cravings. Other helpful vegetables that can be eaten in abundance include zucchini, summer squash, and brussel sprouts. These treats are bursting with nutrition and healthy carbohydrate energy that can satisfy your cravings without spiking your blood sugar.
Also, consider adding a healthy fat to your vegetable of choice! Try a teaspoon of olive oil on your squash and brussel sprouts, or a teaspoon of coconut oil with cinnamon on your sweet potato.
Fiber Isn’t Just For Cholesterol
Make sure you are taking in plenty of soluble and non-soluble fiber to help curb cravings and keep your body happy. One of the common mistakes we make when switching to a grain free diet is too much protein, and not enough vegetables and fruits. The result is a slower digestive system which interrupts natural detoxification processes and causes discomfort.
Vegetables should be incorporated into every meal, and fresh fruit is an ideal snack choice. Remember to pair your fruits with proteins such as almonds which are also a healthy source of fiber. For additional support, add a couple tablespoons of freshly ground flax seeds to your meals each day.
Go All In, 100%
Your taste buds will become accustomed to the new, healthier meal plans you’ve chosen, but not if you are sneaking treats. On average, it takes at least 2-3 weeks to adjust. Fully cutting out grains from day one may seem more difficult at first, but it will make the transition easier in the long run. Avoiding sweeter dishes, in general, will also help during the first month. If you do get a craving, remember the carb-rich vegetables and good fats discussed above.
Cut Out Sugar & Limit Sugar-Spiking Starches
As if cutting out grains isn’t enough of a diet change, you should also be saying goodbye to sugar! Sweet treats and hidden sugars keep the cravings going, and they cause unwanted blood sugar fluctuations that disrupt metabolism and mood. Sugar also promotes inflammation throughout the body.
Try decreasing sweets altogether, even the grain free types, and enjoy an apple or a few grapes instead. When you simply can’t resist the urge for something sweet, try organic honey in moderation, or a bit of stevia with your dish. Also, beware the starches that spike blood sugar and mimic sugar in the body. Some of the biggest offenders include white or red potatoes and parsnips. Dried fruit should be eaten in moderation as they can also spike blood sugar, and remember, corn is a grain.
Fats Are Your Friend
Low fat diets are not healthy—diet low in bad fats and high in good fats should be the goal. The good fats actually support metabolism and keep your tissues healthy & happy, which is why so many doctors recommend fish oil and other sources of Omega-3 fatty acids for heart health, allergies and more. Below are a few examples of good versus bad fat options:
Friendly fat sources: Olive oil, coconut oil, nuts & seeds, fresh fish, avocado
Not so friendly: Saturated animal fats, hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, corn & peanut oils
Stock Your Kitchen with Easy, Grain-Free Snacks
Make your transition easier by stocking your pantry & refrigerator with quick and easy grain-less food choices so you aren’t tempted to cheat between meals. Consider filling your kitchen with the following:
- Fresh fruits such as applies, grapefruits, cherries, etc.
- Carrots or celery & nut butter
- Homemade guacamole & cucumber slices
- Pre-packed seeds, nuts & unsweetened dried fruit (2 tbsp: almond, pumpkin seeds, coconut, etc.)
- Home-baked sweet potato chips
- Dehydrated zucchini crisps