Gluten-free eating can pose a few problems to those actively trying to manage their weight. How many times have you chosen a ‘safe’ chocolate bar because you were hungry and couldn’t find anything else? Here are some tips to help you juggle ‘gluten free’ with ‘weight loss’.
Fruit and vegetables
These are great because they are always gluten free, nutrient rich and not laden with fat and sugar.
Make each meal half vegetables (yes, breakfast too if you can!) and include two to three serves of fruit a day. The meal proportion rule of one-quarter protein, one-quarter carbohydrate and half vegetables or salad is a weight management non-negotiable. If you have made a mixed dish or one-pot meal, keep this ratio in mind too. Think: “If I dissected this, how would the proportions shape up?”
- Tip: Vegetables aren’t just main meal participants – they are safe snack foods too. Plan to take a ‘vege box’ to work with you to supplement lunch if you don’t have time to eat a salad – cherry tomatoes, snow peas, mini cucumbers, celery, capsicum, raw green beans or cauliflower. A low-fat yoghurt dip (check the yoghurt is gluten free) adds some fun.
Gluten-free snack bars
These are often high in nuts, seeds and coconut. Nuts and seeds add fibre and slow down the time these foods take to digest, but both nuts and seeds contain around 50 per cent fat. Fat gives twice as many kilojoules in every gram than protein or carbohydrate so products high in fat become much higher in kilojoules very quickly.
- Tip: Look for low-fat alternatives such as fruit-leather-type bars – these are still more energy dense than fresh fruit but are low in fat and convenient for an ‘on the run’ lifestyle. Or look for gluten-free, low-energy protein bars in the health foods and supplements section in the supermarket.
Technically the amount of protein we need is remarkably small, but it does play a very important role in satiety or keeping that ‘full’ feeling for longer and prevents uncontrolled snacking.
- Tip: Include gluten-free baked beans, egg, low-fat yoghurt (check your favourite is gluten-free), milk and cheese, salmon or tuna, beans and lentils, small serves of lean meat and chicken.
Nuts and seeds
These are nutrient-rich and gluten-free, but at around 50 per cent fat, they are too ‘energy expensive’ if you’re trying to lose weight. One-quarter cup nuts contains 20g fat (4 teaspoons) and 946 kilojoules (2 large bananas)!
- Tip: Try roasted chickpeas for a high-fibre, high- protein, low-fat alternative.
Getting enough fibre can be a challenge in a gluten-free diet. Fibre is important for bowel health and in keeping us feeling full.
- Tip: Many gluten-free breads now have added fibre. Choose fibre-enriched, gluten- free bread. If you do not eat much bread, choose brown rice and generous serves of fruit and vegetables with peel, beans and lentils. Add chickpeas to salads and soups.
Gluten-free baked products
Gluten in a product helps keep it fresh and tender. Without gluten, often extra fat and sugar are added, so gluten-free products can be higher in fat and/or sugar than regular products. Unfortunately, often there are only high-fat, high-sugar, gluten-free products in cafés. So if you are serious about weight management, baked products are in the ‘luxury’ category.
- Tip: If you are after a little ‘sometimes’ food, choose a small portion and make sure it is just sometimes. Just because a café sells a portion large enough to share with two friends, it doesn’t mean you have to eat it all in one sitting! It is usually the first couple of mouthfuls which are most enjoyed, anyway.
This is not just a gluten-free weight management issue! Alcohol provides a whopping 29 kilojoules (7 calories) in every gram and it is metabolised in such a way that we tend to store the energy from accompanying food. Not so good if that happens to be nuts and potato chips.
Low-kilojoule alcohol alternatives such as diet lemon, lime and bitters or diet ginger beer served in a nice glass is still fun without the kilojoules.
- Tips: Plan to have some nights of the week which are alcohol-free (Monday to Thursday is a good goal); accompany each glass of wine with a glass of water.
These are great nutrient packages and usually safe and gluten-free. While dairy products are convenient snack foods they can also pack hefty amounts of fat. There are no other foods that we happily consume which give the 33 per cent fat that cheddar cheese does.
Watch the ‘extra’ cheese such as nibbles or the cauliflower cheese served with a meat dish or the cheese board before or after a meal.
Low-fat products such as Frûche are great sweet treats or snacks.
- Tip: Choose reduced-fat dairy products such as yoghurt, cottage or ricotta cheese, yellow or green-top milk.
Great gluten-free lunch options for weight-loss
- Farmhouse soup with split peas, lentils and veges
- Sushi + sashimi + some vege snacks
- Fruit salad + gluten-free, low-fat yoghurt
- Stuffed baked potato or kumara + salad
- Eggs – scrambled or poached on spinach
- Oven-roasted vege salad + feta and green salad
- Brown rice and bean salad + lean protein + greens
- Kebab on rice with salad
- Rice paper rolls
- Corn tortilla wraps
- Bean and salad tacos
Great gluten-free snacks for weight-loss
- Fruit – fresh anytime and dried in moderation
- Raw vege box
- Roasted chickpeas
- Reduced-fat hummus
- Low-fat yoghurt or Frûche
- Berry smoothie with trim milk and low-fat yoghurt
- Antipasto type platter – olives, pickled onions, veges, feta, smoked salmon, mussels
- Hard-boiled egg