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A Gluten-Free Diet and Weight Loss, Part 2

A Gluten-Free Diet and Weight Loss, Part 2

by Laura J Hieb, ND on June 29, 2022

So if you go gluten-free, will you lose weight?

Well it depends--How do you plan to go gluten-free?

It's very natural for someone avoiding gluten to try and replace the gluten-containing foods that were in their diet with gluten-free ones: gluten-free bread, gluten-free cookies, gluten-free cereals, etc.

The thing about gluten is that, it is what makes bread, bread as we know it. It makes baked goods light and fluffy, instead of hard and dense. When baking without gluten, a combination of flours must be used to achieve similar effects. And these flours are often starches: corn starch, potato starch, tapioca starch, etc, which are basically sugar. Now, to be fair, wheat flour is also basically sugar. But all those starches add up and can trigger even more of an insulin response/blood sugar spike than white flour in baked goods. And that leads to weight gain, not weight loss.

I have had numerous clients who thought they would lose weight on a gluten-free diet, only to gain weight when they switched to non-gluten containing baked goods.

So, what to do?

First of all, explore naturally gluten-free grains. Try corn tortillas (preferably organic/non-GMO) instead of white flour ones, or rice noodles instead of wheat ones, although these are also very starchy--good, less starchy options include bean thread or kelp noodles--, or  risotto or polenta instead of pasta, or cooked quinoa hot cereal instead of oatmeal, etc.

Another option is to eat fewer grains in general, or even go grain-free. There are diets that are grain-free like the Paleo diet or the ketogenic diet. Even if you don't follow either diet, their cookbooks can be a wealth of ideas for going gluten-free (or grain-free)

If you choose to limit grains, you will most likely lose more weight.

But what will you eat if you don't eat grains? Will you feel full? Will you have enough food options?

Here are some ideas. And yes, and yes.

Always start your meals with 20-30 grams of protein and 2 or more servings of vegetables and 1-2 tablespoons of healthy fats. For example, a piece of meat or fish the size of a deck of cards, 2-4 cups of veg and add grass-fed butter or ghee, coconut (oil, milk), olive (oil) or avocado (oil).

Or make a smoothie with 20g of protein from a protein powder of your choice, 1 cup of spinach, 1/2 cup of chopped cucumber, 1/2 cup of berries, 1 cup coconut milk and a tablespoon of nut butter, in a high speed blender with or without ice.

Or 1/2 cup firm tofu  stir-fried in coconut oil with 1-2 cup veg, gluten-free soy sauce (aka tamari) and serve over cooked cauliflower "rice".

Here are some tips for eating gluten free:

If you eat out, asian and mexican restaurants are a good bet. And more and more italian restaurants offer gluten-free pasta and pizza.

Instead of sandwiches, try gluten-free wraps. Besides corn tortillas, there are rice, teff (the most similar to white flour wraps in my opinion) , and cassava wraps (cassava wraps are high in starch). There are also coconut wraps--they do taste like coconut--I like to spread nut butter and fruit on them and roll them up.

If you buy gluten-free bread, it generally tastes better toasted. Since most of it comes pre-sliced, you can store it in the freezer and have a slice when you want. Putting wax paper in between the slices helps.

For pasta, I find that corn pasta tastes the most like "regular" pasta. I told an italian friend about it and she tried it and agreed. But it doesn't stay soft when stored in the fridge after cooking, unlike "regular" pasta, just FYI.