Eating Gluten-Free: Tips from an Iron Chef

Written by: on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013
Gluten-Free Red Kidney Beans

Beans are a great, protein-rich, gluten-free food.

It’s not hard these days to come across “gluten-free” labels—in your grocery store and in delis and restaurants around the country. And with the recent standardization of gluten-free labeling by the Food & Drug Administration, you’re sure to see even more products being labeled gluten-free moving forward.

Why it matters: almost 30 percent of Americans are avoiding or eliminating gluten from their diet—many because it just makes them feel better and many others for medical reasons.

An estimated three million Americans suffer from something called Celiac Disease—a genetic autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine, and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food when gluten (the protein in wheat, barley, and rye) is eaten. (If you suspect you might have problems digesting gluten, ask your doctor to be tested.)

AliceBlastChefMehta

Alice Blast, of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, discusses gluten-free eating at Chef Mehta’s restaurant in Tribeca.

For those with Celiac Disease—just like those who have a nut allergy—flours, doughs, pastas, and any products containing gluten, can’t touch (or even mix with) gluten-free foods because it would cross contaminate them. Some people even suffer from airborne Celiac Disease, which can be particularly dangerous if food—particularly in a restaurant—isn’t prepared properly.

And therein lies the problem, says Alice Blast, founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Many chefs and foodservice providers remain unprepared and uneducated on how to provide gluten-free food that’s safe, says Blast, who has Celiac Disease herself. (Blast did not find out she had Celiac Disease until she was trying to get pregnant—one reason she wrote the article, “Celiac Disease and Reproductive Health Issues.”)

That’s the reason Blast has spearheaded a Great Kitchens‘ 10-City Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour , which recently kicked off in NYC at Iron Chef finalist Jehangir Mehta’s restaurant, Mehtaphor, located in TriBeca. The aim of this tour: to educate people, the media, and restaurants about what exactly gluten free is—and the importance of having gluten-free options available to those with Celiac Disease.

We got a chance to catch up with Chef Mehta, who is passionate about the importance of having gluten-free options on the menu. Here are his tips on eating gluten free:

Gluten-FreeHamburger

Eating simply is often best: a beef burger and simple salad are gluten free.

1) Eat foods naturally gluten free. “One of my core beliefs as a chef is that your health and your diet are inextricably tied,” says Mehta, who adds that naturally gluten-free foods are a great option. Many ethnic dishes, he says, are naturally gluten free because places such as Mumbai, where he grew up, use a lot of rices, beans, and spices, in place of the more expensive wheat and flour.

Other foods naturally gluten free are those that are healthier for you than processed foods. These include fresh fruits (like apples, oranges, berries, and pomegranates) and vegetables (like broccoli, spinach, carrots, and cauliflower). Keep in mind that canned fruits and vegetables aren’t always gluten free; you have to check the labels. (The more ingredients, the greater risk one of them contains gluten.) Single-ingredient frozen fruits and vegetables (and simple mixes, sans sauces) are also gluten free.

Also, just because the lettuce you’re eating is gluten free doesn’t mean the dressing is, particularly if it’s bottled dressing. Be safe, and make your own with extra virgin olive oil and wine or rice vinegar (both are gluten free)—but skip distilled white vinegar and malt vinegar, which are not gluten free.

PurpleCauliflower

Fresh cauliflower (no matter what color), as well as other fresh fruits and veggies, is gluten free.

Fresh meat and fish are also typically gluten free, but be aware of meats and fish that are ready-to-cook or in ready-to-eat side dishes. These may not be safe to consume as the store may use sauces or even bread crumbs with gluten. Also be careful around processed meats like hot dogs. Many brands, like Applegate, carry the gluten-free label—but never assume if you don’t see the label.

2. Make your own. Can’t get what you want from your grocery store or local restaurant, make it. If you’re motivated to make your own gluten-free pasta, Meta recommends using chickpea flour, water, and grapeseed oil along with eggs (and an extra yolk to give taste and texture).

The best pre-made gluten-free mixed flours include Domata Living Flour, Bob’s Red Mill, and Jules Gluten Free  (which makes great cut-out cookies).

For a list of gluten-free recipes you can make at home, click here and check out this Holiday Pinterest Board, too. Also download the Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking Essentials Checklist. (Also, check out this great gluten-free website with recipes from author Elana Amsterdam.)

Mehtaphor in Tribeca

Mehta’s restaurant is located in the Duane St. Hotel in New York City’s TriBeca.

3. Become a label reader—and stay educated. Know which brands produce gluten-free (and even dairy- and nut-free) products. (Click here, for a list of manufacturers.)

4. Frequent restaurants that take gluten-free seriously. There are plenty of restaurants like Mehta’s Mehtaphor that offer plenty of gluten-free options. Click here to search for local restaurants with gluten-free menus.

For a sampling of what we tried at Mehta’s Mehtaphor, as part of the Chef’s Table Tour, scroll below (all recipes are gluten free—and delicious!).

Mustard Foie gras crostini with raspberry (using gluten-free bread)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oysters with tapioca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled tofu with green chutney, topped with a chickpea-crusted onion ring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sliced Duck served over portobello mushroom with spicy goat cheese and tomato with a mustard and onion chutney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mehtaphor sundae, including vanilla rum ice cream with Kahlua, rum raisins and lentil chip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Finally…making progress!” Weight-Loss Diary

Written by: on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
Junk food in garbage

Sorry, the inside of my garbage can is not pretty! But my advice: just throw out the stuff that you can't stop eating. And then, don't buy it in the first place!

I’m avoiding the scale. Probably the pressure of this blog. Of everyone in the whole wide world knowing when I falter. Even so I’m feeling pretty good. Stronger even. Smaller. My eating has been encumbered by M&Ms. I used to call them “power pills” when I thought that turning to chocolate in times of stress was unavoidable. I now accept that it is avoidable. Why oh why do I buy them in the first place? Shouldn’t I just throw them out?

… Done! That wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

Lauren from Foodtrainers advised stepping up my exercise. Last week I hit 200 minutes of cardio. I feel the difference. Yesterday was a full hour. 30 dreadful minutes on the treadmill followed by 30 on the elliptical.

picture of home treadmill

My home treadmill with my daughter's picture front and center.

My youngest daughter drew me a picture that I keep on the treadmill. It’s of flying horses and I continue to try to feel like one of them when I run. I don’t feel like a flying horse though. Not even a trotting donkey. But her drawing helps me focus on why I am on the thing to begin with.

When my girls exercise (activity is on their daily chore list) and decide to use the treadmill they call it “riding the treadmill.” As though it’s fun. As though it belongs in an amusement park. Does that mean I am doing something right with them? That they actually think exercise is fun? Or are my kids just a bit daft? I’m hanging on to the first. They think exercise is fun and I need to keep up the ruse. Time to go “ride” the treadmill.

 

 

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“Nonfat is nonsense…and other great weight-loss nutrition tips!”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Thursday, April 19th, 2012

My first question is where did April go? I had such plans, so many goals. April got swallowed up by a series of unfortunate events in my life, but I have the reins on my weight-loss program again.

I have been eagerly awaiting my first bit of advice and direction from Lauren, my personal nutrition advisor, of FOODTRAINERS and it is here!

fresh whole strawberries in a cup

Moderation is key when eating anything, including fruit!

1. Fruit but don’t Overfruit. Fruit is low in calories and a part of any healthy regime. However, fruit is sugar and it’s possible to overdo it. I would stick to 2, max 3 1-cup portions of fruit a day. Additionally try to choose lower glycemic fruits such as berries, citrus, cantaloupe, apples, and pears. Also important given family history (and by that she means the diabetes on my father’s side).

I will struggle the most with limiting my fruit. It is just so handy, portable, and satisfying. Clearly, I “overfruit” now. 

2. Nonfat is often nonsense. I would switch nonfat yogurt to low fat. Nonfat to our bodies is higher in sugar. You also aren’t satiated with nonfat in the same way. Same for fat free half and half.

This is surprising, but not shocking. I always believed this but switched to non-fat to shave off precious calories. Fat back in my yogurt and half and half will be delightful and delectable!

3. Try a 3/4 day for portions. I told Lauren that portion sizes were difficult for me, so she recommended I pick 1 day (a non-work day) and do what she calls a “3/4 day”: Eat slowly, chew well and stop yourself 3/4 through your regular portion. Wait 3 to 5 minutes. If you can, stop the meal there. If you cannot, keep going. The goal is to stop and assess, that’s the first skill.

This piece of advice will also be tough but I am trying to model the eating behavior of my daughters who gloriously and unconsciously walk away when done —whether it is scrambled eggs or chocolate cake. I never want them to learn to clean the plate or finish it off just because it tastes  good. Somehow, I never learned to recognize or acknowledge being full enough and satisfied, but it is never too late!

how many grains you should be eating a day

This is how big your daily serving of grains should be...no more!

4. Trade off grains. Keep carbs/grains, cereal, bread, potatoes, rice, etc to 1 meal a day “fist” size (makes me wish I had a bigger hand!)

Prior to a number of stints with the Atkins Diet, I was a card-carrying carb loader. Thankfully, even though that was an impossible lifestyle to maintain, I did take a way a (nearly) firm control over grains, especially cereal. I should have no problem limiting my grains. They are more like treats to me anyway.

5. Drink plenty of water! Get 48 to 64 ounces per day plus 1 to 2 cups green tea (I will need a catheter!)

Water. Well, I guess I will just have to do it even it I don’t like it. I like unsweetened ice tea and make it by the gallons. Even my girls drink it. I will have to ask Lauren if that would be an acceptable substitute. I could always make iced green tea. Of course I don’t want to start out my nutrition tutoring with complaints!

4. Exercise. Work out 150 to 180 minutes a week (total as you go) with one day “longer” 50 to 60 min.

I have come a long, long way in terms of what I can accomplish physically and how often.  Lauren is advising I ramp it up for weight loss.  There are some days that will be very difficult to achieve but One Hour Workout on ValerieLatona.com

 

 

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“Coping with Easter Candy…and a Whole Lot More”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Thursday, April 12th, 2012

I’m off track. The truth is, I haven’t even been able to find the track to get back on it.

I haven’t exercised.

I haven’t kept my food journal.

What I have done: sought solace in Easter Candy.

This is a time of tremendous stress and uncertainty in my life. Despite all I have learned about how to get healthy and well, I went right back to old behaviors as coping mechanisms. Never mind that eating poorly and not exercising do not actually help me cope with anything. Never mind that these behaviors are self-destructive and contribute to more stress on my emotional well-being and physical body. Never mind that I know this, I mean really KNOW this.

Old patterns die hard.

All I can do is move forward. And that applies to work, home, relationships, my wellness plan (never say diet!)…the whole kit and kaboodle. I’ve been on a ledge in more ways than one (why I haven’t posted any blogs yet this week). Today it was time to talk myself back. The inspiration that helped me do that included these two things:

Desire to Change quoteThe 3 C's of LIfe

My sense of personal strength has been mighty limited lately. Today I chose to flex the muscles I know I have and was pleasantly reassured that I still remember how to use them. Some tough decisions were made at home and work. An old daily devotional book seemed to beckon me from amongst a pile of paperbacks and has become welcome nourishment for my soul. I logged into My Fitness Pal and tracked every last jelly bean. I finally got my food journal into an email to send Lauren at Foodtrainers.

Now I am just eagerly awaiting some guidance. I see the track just up ahead. It’s right on the other side of my treadmill.

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“Real life is definitely NOT like The Biggest Loser”: Weight-Loss Diary

Written by: on Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Stop wishing, start doingWould it solve anything if I cried, screamed, ate?  I avoided the scale last week because I was so afraid to see my success become a gain. But I couldn’t do that for 2 weeks in a row because I have to stay on top of this! So I stepped on it.

204.

I gained 3 pounds.

I want my life to be like The Biggest Loser where they shed pounds every week in double digits. But I am not in a controlled environment with a refrigerator stocked with the right foods and Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser making me work harder than I think I can. All I have is me and a very uncontrolled environment. But that isn’t making me feel better.

Truthfully, today’s setback comes on the heels of feeling much failure. Home has become a place of tremendous uncertainty as my husband embarks on a new adventure and challenge that takes him away from us for much of the week. I have been negotiating for weeks for a day job. And even though it looks like that is going to happen, it has come at the expense of others. I wrestle with guilt.

Even the weight-loss success of my friends is making me feel like a failure.

Women I love, respect and am blessed with as friends are achieving new health and wellness through much hard work. And I struggle by comparison. They seem to move in leaps where I crawl. I can only look at myself for what I accomplish or don’t but I can’t help but compare and feel like I am not trying hard enough. I know they are making it happen through careful eating and difficult exercise and not through some sort of magic that I just haven’t stumbled on yet.

But I can’t help but feel that I don’t measure up.

I was feeling defeated, but then I realized: this is time to reach out for help. I need to assess where I am—and where I’m going.

First up: a nutritionist to help me assess what I’m doing right—and wrong. The woman that got recommended to me: Lauren Slayton, MD, RD, from FoodTrainers—and I just had a consultation with her. She said things like, “I am impressed,” and “You are doing a good job.” That was music to my ears! And soul. Lauren was easy to talk to, like an old friend. I am going to LOVE working with her!  But more about that later.

Next up: despite my initial hesitation about working with a trainer  (I do know how to do a lot of workouts), I’m going to talk to one to assess how I can be shaking up my workouts a little more. I’m going to get my own Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser!

My attitude: never be above asking for help. Isn’t that what The Biggest Loser is all about anyway? And right, now, I need help.

Now for my green goddess shake and a 50-minute run….

 

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