The Gluten Free Experiment: 5 Things I Learned

It has been about 10 days since my three week gluten free experiment was up (a day early because of my Native Foods event). I’m sure you are all wondering how it went, how I felt during and after, and what I’ve decided for the future.

As a reminder, after my WellnessFX blood tests showed that my cholesterol was a little high and my thyroid was a little low, my nutritionist suggested in my follow up consultation that I try a gluten free diet for a few weeks. She thought that it could improve my cholesterol and thyroid numbers, get rid of the random pain that I get under my rib, and possibly even help my migraines. She also suggested that I eat less starchy carbs and add more vegetables.

I was actually kind of excited to try a gluten free diet. There is only one way to find out if you have sensitivity issues, whether it is with gluten, soy, or other foods. That is to take them out of your diet for a while, see if you feel better, then, try adding them back in to see if your troubles return.

My excitement lasted about five days. I did prepare. The first four days were great as I had planned ahead, used leftovers for lunches, changed some old habits (cereal and rye bread for breakfast, for one), read labels even more thoroughly that I already did. Then I went to Las Vegas, where it was very challenging to eat both vegan and gluten free on the road.

I was more successful the following week when we traveled to Malibu. I didn’t write a post about it (busy, busy!), but, along with bringing appropriate food for snacks while Alan was working, the Los Angeles area has many more dining options that Lake Las Vegas. We had dinner at Hugo’s, which has an extensive vegan and gluten free menu.

Gluten Free

Green Tamale Plate
( [Can be Vegan] )
Two spinach infused sweet-corn tamales covered with our tomatillo sauce, mozzarella or Daiya vegan cheese and pico de gallo. Served with tomato chipotle black beans and turmeric basmati rice

Gluten Free Vegan

Apple Crumble
( [Can be Vegan] )
Spiced apple-maple mixture topped with a lightly sweetened, Energy Nut crumble. Dusted with organic powdered sugar, topped with vanilla ice cream and a mint leaf. (Substitute vegan whipped cream for ice cream upon request)

We also got to stop for lunch at the Veggie Grill in Santa Monica, which is an all vegan restaurant that clearly marks their gluten-free options.

Gluten free vegan

Urban Plate
Gluten free. Blackened
tempeh-carmelized onion-portobello
mushroom stack, steamin’ kale,
sliced tomato salad, chipotle ranch

gluten free vegan

Sweetheart Fries
Scrumptious sweet potatoes with chipotle ranch.

gluten free vegan

Chocolate Pudding Parfait
Made-from-scratch pudding,
topped with chocolate sauce,
crushed cookies, walnuts + VG Crema (ordered without cookies to make it GF)

At home I stuck with the tried and true. I’m not much of a baker and even my cooking time is limited (the reason why my recipes are fast and simple!), so I didn’t make a lot of the dishes from the various blogs that specialized in gluten-free, vegan recipes. If gluten free were to become my permanent lifestyle, I certainly would get more creative and try different things. Some of the recipes looked and sounded delicious. But, for my three week Gluten Free Experiment, I stuck with the KISS method, Keep it Simple, Silly.

So, breakfast was usually a smoothie with a slice of gluten-free toast, mid-morning I’d have some oatmeal (remember, you need to find gluten free oatmeal). Lunch was a salad or leftovers. For dinner I was a little more creative, varying from grilled tofu or tempeh, veggie “pastas” made from zucchini or spaghetti squash, and big salads. I did make burritos once, made with beans, tofu, potatoes, rice, and salsa, wrapped in rice tortillas.

So, after three weeks did I decide to make a permanent change in my diet? First, here are the things I learned about being a gluten free vegan.

1. It is hard. I should say that it is harder than I want it to be. I really wanted to say that it was such an easy transition, no problem, etc., but, in all honesty, I had a hard time. As a vegan, I never feel that my diet is restricted..there are so many delicious, simple foods out there to eat. But, when I added gluten-free to the mix, suddenly I couldn’t wrap my mind around what I was going to eat. I’m sure that if I remained gluten free it would become second nature. But, for three weeks, for me, it was hard.

2. There is a lot of gluten free junk food out there. Remember that just because it has no gluten doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. The same goes for vegan prepared food. Easy, yes. Healthy, not necessarily.

3. Planning is vital. Having a meal plan in place can make it so much easier. I am really not organized enough to do so, but I’d recommend sitting down and planning out a week at a time. Include snacks too, because otherwise you will find yourself between meals, hungry, and not sure what to eat.

4. If you goof up, don’t give up. When I was in Vegas, I finally settled on a cheese-less pizza for dinner one night after a long day, when neither Alan nor I felt like driving anywhere to search down a better meal. It wasn’t until I sat down to wait for my ordered pizza that the little light went on over my head that said (something like), “hey, pizza dough = gluten.” I did eat my pizza, and I enjoyed it. But I didn’t use it as an excuse to give up on my gluten free experiment. I jumped right back on the wagon.

5. Be honest with yourself. In spite of the hype these days, not everyone has gluten “sensitivities.” If you feel better without gluten, that’s wonderful. If you don’t notice any difference in how you feel, don’t worry, you’re still special. Be grateful that you don’t have a true disease like Celiac, which would force that gluten free diet upon you.

As for me, in case you’re wondering, I did not notice any difference in how I felt while following my gluten free diet. I had the same amount of headaches (darn it–I was hopeful!), I had my little random ghost pain once or twice, which is about the same frequency as always. After my three weeks were up (actually one day early due to the Native Foods Pre-Opening party), I didn’t see the need to continue on a strictly gluten free diet.

After plunging deeply at Native Foods, I’ve settled in to a more moderate version of my previous diet. While I do eat gluten, I am more aware of what I do eat. I’m still skipping the cold cereal in the mornings, opting instead for smoothies, oatmeal, fruit, with just maybe a slice of toast with peanut butter. I’m eating more vegetables, less starches and I feel really good about that. For example, dinner last night was gluten free without even trying.

gluten free vegan

Spaghetti squash with olive oil, tomato, garlic and tarragon.

gluten free vegan

Massaged kale salad.

So, that’s the story. I’m anxious to know your stories. I know some of you follow a gluten free diet. I’d love to hear your experiences.

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  1. says

    It fascinates me how so many equate gluten free or vegan or vegetarian with being healthy. There’s junk food for all diets!

    Congrats on sticking with it through your travels – I know traveling in a diet takes some effort, but it looks like you managed some fantastic eats.
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted…Complex Carb-Loading + WIAWMy Profile

  2. says

    I feel lucky that I have no food allergies. I am happy as a vegetarian, but wouldn’t wish to be vegan or GF. When my son was diagnosed with soy allergies as a baby, it was a huge change in the way I made food, but it’s truly second nature now. But I wouldn’t want to go through another food transition. It’s a shame you still get the headaches, though – I was hopeful for the food changes for you.
    AlexandraFunFit recently posted…Kettlebells or Medicine Balls When Strength Training for a Marathon?My Profile

  3. says

    It is amazing how some equate healthy with a label of gluten free, soy free, sugar free, etc. It’s usually got something else added to it to make it probably even worse.

    I’m thankful I don’t have an allergies or sensitivities to food (that I know of). I have a deep admiration for those that do – it’s not easy!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…Kale Protein Smoothie & Chocolate Peppermint BallsMy Profile

  4. says

    I didn’t really notice a difference in how I felt either and it was much more difficult to follow the gluten free part of my vegan-gluten free challenge than the vegan part. I have since become a gluten minimalist or actually, now that I think about it, I am more aware of gluten but I don’t even consider it as part of my menu planning.
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted…Transition To Natural Running Part 2My Profile

  5. SeanHarts (@SeanHarts) says

    I’m GF, My oldest daughter has celiac and my younger has an intolerance. I try to stay 100% GF myself, but when I do cheat, I notice a difference. I’ve never been tested, but I know when I eat it my stomach acts up. But there’s just something about pizza with gluten that I love! We stay clear of the processed “Gluten Free” foods, they are all crap food. Fresh is the way to go!

  6. says

    Very interesting and honest post. I appreciate that. There are so many people going GF these days, most of them w/o a good reason for it. And I do worry that just b/c something is labeled GF, people will eat it. Like you said, GF doesn’t mean it’s good food; it could be junk!

    Sorry this didn’t clear things up for you, but I think it was a good experiment.
    misszippy recently posted…Looks can be deceivingMy Profile

  7. says

    Number two, “just because it’s gluten free doesn’t mean it’s healthy”, yes, yes so true. We have run into some pretty nasty snacks filled with crazy ingredients. We try and prepare our own GF meals. Btw- some of these restaurants you go to look amazing!
    Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted…10 Holiday Gift Ideas for RunnersMy Profile

  8. says

    I think that it would be so hard to figure out the gluten free diet and stick w it! I applaud you for the hard work!! Thanks for sharing your experience and what you learned!!! Spa <3

  9. says

    I was gluten free for about 2 months before I really began to feel the positive changes – we are all so different. And I am never going back.

    I agree, planning is the key and yes, for the MOST part, stay away from the GF processed foods…. like any other processed food, they can be mostly junk!
    Elle recently posted…Love This Sweet Squash ScrambleMy Profile

  10. says

    There is a lot of GF junk out there…I’m amazed by how much I see of it!

    Restaurant eats look really good!
    Kierston recently posted…Food.FUn.Life.My Profile

  11. says

    Thanks for sharing! I’m going to get a blood test for Celiac’s and I’m worried about trying a Gluten Free diet…but really, anything that could help is what I would like!
    Jenelle recently posted…Are You Dedicated?My Profile

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