Does gluten free mean healthy? Andrea gives us some advice on the options.
Spare a thought for the nutrient content – Make the gluten free options work for you!
A throwaway comment recently hit home on the reality of all things convenience, gluten-free or not! As a friend munched on a cleverly marketed food product I heard ‘oh it must be healthy it’s gluten-free’.
There are of course brilliant gluten-free options out there that promote health, awareness and have substantial benefits. But that’s not always the case. Let’s leave the more obvious ‘treats’ be – at least we know what we’re getting and they won’t be winning any wellness awards. I’m thinking more of everyday items, particularly those touted as healthy. These can sneak up on us with consumption mounting over the months which can potentially impact our overall health.
The composition of gluten free convenience foods is no different in some ways to mainstream products and simply requires the same scrutiny. They can often be high in refined carbohydrates, low in protein or beneficial fats. Instead of supportive nutrients you might be getting an empty calorie kick and be paying more money for the pleasure. When gluten is removed from foods, fillers and questionable additives might be added or extra sugar for enhancing taste.
In my nutrition workshops I love a bit of interaction and during a recent children’s health discovery session we uncovered that a seemingly healthy gluten-free breakfast cereal had 3.5 teaspoons of sugar per portion! Adding sweetened almond milk, strawberry yoghurt or a concentrated juice drink could easily mean a child (or even an adult) would be over the government’s recommended daily maximum sugar intake by 9am.
Healthy options don’t always equate to extra preparation time, so mix things up by testing a few of my favourite nutrient rich options below:
- Collard green or other leafy vegetable as wraps
- Apple slices and nori seaweed sheets are fun bread alternatives for children’s sandwiches
- Seek out nutritious flours including coconut, almond and chickpea – great for pancakes and muffins
- Vary your grains – sample quinoa oats, buckwheat crackers and amaranth pudding
- Change a staple rice pasta for lentil/bean pasta
- Try cauliflower rice and squash/courgette noodles
- Use cauliflower or chia seeds for making up a quick pizza crust
- Alternate potato chips with kale crisps, sweet potato wedges and aubergine chips
There’s so much gluten-free inspiration available these days, both natural and conveniently packaged, so aim for optimising health by choosing wisely…
By Andrea Carroll Langan MSc BSc mBANT CNHC reg
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