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Control Your Weight on the Gluten-Free Diet

You’ll hear of celebrities like Russell Crowe [1] and Miley Cyrus [2] lauding the gluten-free life as their ticket to weight loss. The word is that Lady Gaga, in the quest for onstage bloat control, doesn’t allow her dancers to eat wheat. But it’s time for a reality check: the truth is that many people who give up gluten because of celiac disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity struggle with weight gain not loss. So here are some important tips to maintain your healthy weight on the gluten-free diet.

Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast

Studies prove it: those who skip breakfast tend to overeat later in the day – often resulting in weight gain. So fuel your body with a healthy breakfast such as: a gluten-free cold cereal made with a nutritious grains like amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa or teff and topped with fresh fruit. Compare cereal nutrient levels in the comprehensive chart [3] I created for Allergic Living magazine. (Canadians, see this version [4].)

For a hot cereal, make a tasty bowl of oatmeal from pure, uncontaminated oats with raisins and slivered almonds. Try a smoothie with low fat yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, ground flax, dash of vanilla and honey. Or bake and freeze muffins from a healthy gluten-free mix.

Watch Your Portions

Portion distortion is a common problem for everyone. The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes that the average store-bought muffin 20 years ago weighed 1.5 ounces and had 210 calories. Today’s average version is 4 ounces and 500 calories!

Most of us underestimate how much we are actually eating, so do learn more about portion sizes. This becomes easier when you remember the visuals: a light bulb represents 1/2 cup of cooked grains like quinoa or rice, a serving of beef or pork compares to a deck of cards, 1.5 ounces of cheese is the size of three dice and a muffin for a snack should be no larger than a hockey puck.

With gluten-free products, especially baking, it’s essential to keep in mind that they are often smaller in size yet higher in calories than gluten-containing counterparts. This is because a larger quantity of gluten-free flours, starches and fats are frequently used to help the product bind together and be more palatable. So check out the nutrition facts label to see the serving size and fat, sugar and calorie amount.

Also, limit your intake of gluten-free goodies such as cookies, brownies, cakes and pastries. Have them for a treat, and not every day. Choose products made with healthier gluten-free grains, flours and seeds such as amaranth, buckwheat, whole grain corn, flax, millet, quinoa, rice (black, brown, red or wild), sorghum, teff, legume and nut flours.

Next: Fat intake

Cut the Fat

Fats have over twice the calories of protein or carbohydrates (9 calories/gram vs 4 calories/gram. One tablespoon of butter or margarine contains about 100 calories and 1 tbsp of oil about 120 calories. Watch your intake of margarine, butter, oils and salad dressings. Choose calorie-reduced, gluten-free salad dressings, try adding a little water to regular creamy salad dressings or use thinner dressings like Italian that go farther with a smaller quantity. Other tips include opting for:

Get Moving

To lose it, you’ve got to get off the couch or away from the computer screen. Take in the scenery on a brisk walk, and park your car farther away at work or the mall. Take the stairs, not the elevator. Try an exercise or dance class with a friend. Go for a swim with your spouse. Do whatever works for you, but as Nike says: Just Do It!

For more information about gluten-free weight control:

• “The Skinny on the Gluten-Free Diet [5]” from Allergic Living magazine.

• Consult with a registered dietitian with expertise in the gluten-free diet who can develop an individualized meal program for you. Find a registered dietitian in the US [6] or Canada [7].

• USDA MyPlate.gov [8] has many different tools and other resources to help you learn more about healthy eating and managing your weight and portions. Some of the tips need to be modified for the gluten-free diet (e.g. choose whole grain gluten-free bread instead of whole wheat bread.

• NFCA Free Webinar “Maintaining a Healthy Weight While Living Gluten-Free [9]” by dietitian Amy Jones, MS, RD, LD

Shelley Case, RD, is an international celiac nutrition expert, consulting dietitian and author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. See www.glutenfreediet.ca [10]