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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeds: Why You Should Add Them to Your Diet…Today

Written by: on Thursday, July 18th, 2013
Healthy, Edible Seeds

Seeds are an oft-forgotten source of protein and key nutrients.

Times have changed from when we used to joke about people who ate “nuts and berries”. Today’s athletes routinely enjoy nuts and berries and are now looking for ways to notch up their diets with more seeds (such as flax and chia). This trend can enhance the health of both our bodies—and the planet. That is, by choosing more plant foods, we’ll end up eating less meat and animal protein. If each of us were to eat just one less pound of beef per week, greenhouse gas emissions would drop significantly.

While seeds are health-enhancing choices to include in your diet, their nutritional value can sometimes get exaggerated. The following information offers a perspective on some “trendy” foods that are getting mainstreamed.

Nuts and Seeds

Want to add a nice crunch, along with vitamins and minerals, to your diet? Sprinkle some slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, pistachios, sunflower and sesame seeds into your yogurt, cereal, salad, and smoothie. Nuts and seeds offer protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and many other nutrients. The fact that a plant grows from a nut or seed indicates it is life sustaining.

Many nuts and seeds offer alpha linoleic acid, also known as ALA, a type of health-protective omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. While ALA from plants is not as potent as the type of omega-3s found in fish, any omega-3 fat is better than none. But dieters beware! When you nonchalantly toss a few spoonfuls of nuts and seeds into your smoothies and salads to pump up their nutritional value, you can also easily toss in 100 to 400 calories. While vegans may need this protein and calorie boost, if you’re weight-conscious, you might want to think twice.

Comparing Seeds and Nuts This chart shows how 1/4 cup of nuts and seeds (two spoonfuls or a large handful) adds a lot of calories but minimal protein towards the daily target of about 60 to 90 grams of protein. Vegans still need additional plant proteins, like beans and tofu, to get enough protein.

Seed¼ cup/30 g Calories Protein    g Fiber g Calcium mg Ironmg
Chia 140 5 10 180 8
Flax, ground 150 5 8 70 1.5
Hemp seeds 180 10 4  — 1
Sunflower 190 6 3 20 1
Pumpkin 170 9 2 50 2
Sesame 200 6 4 350 5
Walnuts 190 4 2 30 1
Daily target:60-90 g Daily target:25-35 g Daily target:1,000 mg Daily target:8 mg men18 mg women

Flax seeds, commonly consumed for their ALA omega-3 fat benefits, need to be ground before being eaten. Otherwise, they pass through your intestines whole and undigested.

Chia seeds also offer ALA omega-3 fats—but you don’t need to grind them. Just sprinkle chia on yogurt and enjoy the crunch. When soaked in water for 10 minutes, chia seeds create a gel that can be used as a thickener for smoothies and as an alternative to eggs and oils in some recipes. The slimy consistency of soaked chia seeds can be tough to enjoy for some. If you fall into the “no thank you” camp, worry not. You have many other options for enjoyably consuming similar nutrients in other seeds and nuts.

Sunflower Seed Butter

My kids love this! (And it's perfect for lunches in schools that don't allow peanuts.)

Sunflower seeds have a mild, pleasing taste when added to salads, trail mix, or cold cereals. For people with peanut allergies, sunflower butter is a popular alternative to peanut butter.

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are slower to eat when you buy them in the shell. This can save unwanted calories.

Hemp seeds are touted as containing all the essential amino acids. Hemp adds a protein-boost to vegan diets, but at a high price. Hemp seeds costs about $15 per pound, as compared to soy nuts, that also have all the amino acids, about $3.50/lb.

Healthy Sesame Seeds

Try some sesame seeds today!

Sesame seeds have a gentle flavor and make a nice addition to stir-fried tofu or chicken. Although sesame seeds are touted as being calcium-rich, their calcium is poorly absorbed.

Chopped nuts, such as walnuts or slivered almonds, add a protein boost—but not as much of a protein bonus as many people think. If you ate half a cup of walnuts (two big handfuls), you’d get only 8 grams of protein. For the same calories, you could add 1.5 cups of cottage cheese to your salad and get five times more protein (40 grams).

Copyright Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD

RECIPE: Super Spice Trail Mix

This Super Spice Trail Mix includes a yummy combination of health-enhancing nuts, seeds, grain, and spices. Pack it into into little individual baggies for snacks, sprinkle it into yogurt, or add it to cold or hot cereal. It offers a really nice crunch and flavor boost to shredded wheat and other bland cereals. (I found this recipe at www.McCormick.com. The McCormick Spice website offers lots of really nice and flavorful recipes filled with herbs and spices.)

Ingredients

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

2 teaspoons paprika

3 cups nuts, such as a mix of almonds, shelled pistachios, and pecan halves

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup roasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1/4 cup apple juice concentrate, thawed

1-1/2 cups dried fruit, suh as a mix of dried  cherries, cranberries, and golden raisins

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and paprika in small bowl. Set aside.

2. Place nuts, oats, and pepitas in a large bowl. Add thawed apple juice concentrate; toss until nuts are evenly coated.

3. Sprinkle with spice mixture, tossing to coat well.

4. Spread evenly on two 15x10x1-inch baking pans. 

Bake 30 minutes, stirring halfway through cook time. Cool completely on wire rack.

5. Stir in cherries and raisins. Store in airtight container.

Yield 24  ¼-cup servings Approximate calories per serving 200

 

3 new snacking rules for weight loss

Written by: on Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
woman caught snacking

Resolve to ditch your bad snacking habits—and the pounds will start coming off!

I’m not sure about you, but lately I’ve found myself nibbling quite a bit. For starters, there are the kids’ lunches, which I make the night before—a few Goldfish before I put them in my daughter’s lunchbox, a spoonful of peanut butter before I swipe it on my son’s slice of bread…and it doesn’t stop there. Well, my four-year-old left her half-eaten (but still good!, as I told myself) bagel on her plate this morning—and I had to have a bite (well, maybe if I’m being honest here, it was three).

Nibbling is definitely not okay! If I was to add up the calorie tab (which I typically don’t…I mean, really, who does??) on just the snacking I do while I’m standing up, it would come to: Goldfish, Cheddar (70 calories); peanut butter, one tablespoon (about 94 calories); one quarter bagel, with cream cheese (about 120 calories)—so that’s 284 calories, not including other nibbles and meals (which are so easy to forget when you’re doing it mindlessly as I am).

Honesty is also typically lacking in the case of stand-up snacking, as I call it­—as is a reliable memory. Most of us aren’t as honest about what  (or how much) we actually eat. And each bite counts here as it all adds up over time.

I’m already trying to lose an extra 20 pounds in baby weight—so I’m not sure why I think I can afford to eat these extra (and completely unnecessary) calories.  So I’m putting new 2012 rules into effect; these will work for anyone struggling with a case of too much snacking like I am:

1) NO SNACKING unless I’m eating off a plate AND sitting down at the table. This is a good rule for anyone keeping tabs on his/her weight—and ensures that eating is a purposeful and satisfying ritual, not a mindless or nervous habit. If you’re making the effort to do this, you must really be hungry (avoiding the on-the-way-out-the-door nibbling…and extra calories). It’s not easy, but I’m committed. (I’m sure that I’ll have a few slip-ups every now and then, but key thing is to just try and try again until it becomes a habit). Just think, if I continue at this rate, I’ll put on a pound every 12 days—and about 30 pounds over the course of a year!

2) EAT PROPER MEALS. When I’m nibbling, I find myself skipping lunch (who needs the extra calories? I think to myself). But skipping meals is one of the worst habits to get into because it sets you up for hunger later on—and more snacking. Eat a proper meal (always with protein and a few carbs) and you’ll be satisfied—and have the willpower to not nibble later on.

3) SKIP SUGARY SNACKS. Empty carbs (think: cookies, cake, candy, and any processed sweets) do absolutely nothing for you; in fact, they set up you for an energy spike—and then a crash. I know why I’m reaching for these quick fixes: I haven’t gotten enough sleep lately (thanks to a newborn’s frequent night wakings). Sleep is CRITICAL for willpower—and keeping your metabolism stoked for weight loss. But 7 to 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep every night, plus protein-plus-carb snacks (apple with peanut butter, a few almonds with half a banana, yogurt with a tiny bit of granola…) sets anyone up for consistent energy throughout the day and long-term success at weight loss.

So right now, as the mid-afternoon energy slump is starting to take hold, I’m having an apple with peanut butter and a giant class of water (too little—and your body will think you’re hungry when you’re not).

Do you have strategies for coping with snacking? Share them! I’d love to know what they are.

 

What to Eat After Exercise…So You Don’t Gain Weight

Written by: on Sunday, January 22nd, 2012
woman lifting a barbell

It's easy to negate the effects of a good workout by eating the wrong foods afterward!

What’s best to eat for recovery after a hard workout? That’s what marathoners, body builders, and exercisers ask. They read ads for “recovery foods” with the “perfect” ratio of carbs to protein and a “proprietary” formula— and emphasize immediate consumption the minute you stop exercising. But the truth is that engineered recovery foods, which often cost more, are actually no more effective than standard foods.

Q: Who should eat a recovery diet?

A: Too many athletes are obsessed with rapidly refueling the minute they stop exercising.  They’re afraid they’ll miss the one-hour “window of

best recovery food for exercisers

Skip the pricey "recovery" foods; a glass of low-fat chocolate milk may be all you need.

opportunity” when replacement of glycogen [stored glucose] is fastest. But refueling still occurs for several hours after exercise, just at a slowing rate. So there’s no rush! Given a steady influx of adequate carb-based meals and snacks, muscles can refuel within 24 hours. If you have a full day to recover before your next training session, or if you have done an easy (non-depleting) workout, you don’t need to obsess about refueling immediately afterward. Over the course of the next 24 hours, you should repeatedly consume carbohydrates with each meal/snack, along with some protein to build and repair the muscles (e.g. chocolate milk or a fruit smoothie).

Refueling as soon as tolerable is most important for serious athletes doing a second bout of intense, depleting exercise within six hours of the first workout, including:

√ triathletes doing double workouts

√ soccer players in tournaments

√ people who ski hard in the morning and again in the afternoon.

The sooner these athletes consume carbs to replace depleted muscle glycogen and protein to repair damaged muscle, the sooner they’ll be able to exercise hard again.

Q: How many carbs do I need?

A: According to the International Olympic Committee’s Nutrition Recommendations, adequate carbs means:

Amount of exercise Gram carb/lb Gram carb/kg
Moderate exercise (about 1 hour/day) 2.5 to 3 5 to 7
Endurance exercise (about 1-3 h/day) 2.5 to 4.5 6 to 10
Extreme exercise  (more than 4-5 h/day) 3.5 to 5.5 8 to 12

 

For example, a 150-lb triathlete doing extreme exercise should target about 500 to 800 grams of carb/day (2,000 to 3,200 carb-calories). That’s about 500 to 800 grams of carbs every 4 hours during the daytime.

Q: What are some good carb-protein recovery foods?

recovery food for exercisers

Simple recovery food: cereal (carb) and low-fat milk (protein). Nothing elaborate and pricey necessary!

A: Your recovery meals and snacks should include a foundation of carbohydrate-rich breads, cereals, grains, fruits, and vegetables plus a smaller amount of protein (at least 10 to 20 grams per recovery snack or meal). Best bets:

√ fruit smoothie (Greek yogurt + banana + berries)

√ cereal + milk

√ bagel + (decaf) latté

√ pretzels + hummus

√ baked potato + cottage cheese

√ turkey sub

√ pasta + meatballs

Do NOT consume just protein, as in a protein shake or protein bar. Protein fills your stomach and helps build and repair muscles, but it does not refuel your muscles. Your muscles want three or four times more calories from carbs than from protein. If you like the convenience of protein shakes, at least add carbs to them. That is, blend in some banana, frozen berries, and/or graham crackers.

Keep in mind that recovery calories “count.” I hear many frustrated dieters complain they are not losing weight despite hard workouts. Perhaps that’s because they gobble 300 or so “recovery calories” and then go home and enjoy a hefty dinner. By organizing your training to end at mealtime, you can avoid over-indulging in recovery-calories.

Q: What about recovery electrolytes? Do I need them?

woman exercising hard outdoors and sweating

Simple foods still work best after a particularly tough workout, particularly if you sweat a lot.

 

 

A: After a hard workout, many athletes reach for a sports drink, thinking products like Gatorade or PowerAde are “loaded” with sodium (an electrically charged particle). Think again! Milk and other “real foods” are actually better sources of electrolytes than most commercial sports products. These electrolytes (also known as sodium and potassium) help enhance fluid retention and the restoration of normal fluid balance. Here’s how some common recovery fluids compare:

Beverage (8 oz) Sodium (mg) Potassium (mg) Protein (g) Carbs (g)
Water
PowerAde 55 45 19
Gatorade 110 30 14
Low-fat milk 100 400 8 12
Chocolate milk 150 425 8 26
Orange juice 450 2 26

 

As you can see, after a hard workout, recovery fluids that such as chocolate milk, orange juice, or a latte offer far more “good stuff” than you’d get in a sports drink. Sports drinks are dilute and designed for drinking during extended exercise.

bagel with peanut butter

A bagel with peanut butter provides carbs, protein, and sodium—important for replenishing after a tough workout.

To assess how much sodium you lose in sweat, weigh yourself naked pre and post an hour of exercise, accounting as best you can for any fluid consumed. Loss of one pound equates to loss of about 700 to 1,000 mg of sodium. If you sweat heavily and lose a significant amount of sodium, you can easily replace those losses with pretzels (300 mg sodium/10 twists), a bagel (500 mg) with peanut butter (200 mg/2 tbsp), Wheaties and milk (300 mg), or a spaghetti dinner with tomato sauce (1000 mg/cup Ragu sauce). The truth is: most athletes actually consume plenty of sodium, from everyday food!

Q: What should I eat before I exercise?

A: According to research presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, consuming protein before lifting weights enhanced recovery better than consuming a protein drink afterwards. That’s because your body digests pre-exercise protein into amino acids during exercise and puts those amino acids right into action repairing damaged muscles.

Q: I never really feel like I recover well. Is something wrong?

woman running on beach in sweats

Sure, you love your morning runs, but make sure you take at least a day off every week to rest; your body needs it!

A: If you have to drag yourself through workouts, there could be an underlying issue. The most common:

√  You’re overtraining. Rest is an essential part of a training program; muscles need time to refuel and repair. Take at least one, if not two, days off from exercise per week.

√  You’re anemic. Anemia is common, so have your doctor monitor your serum ferritin (stored iron). If your iron stores are depleted, you’ll feel needlessly tired during exercise. An estimated half of female athletes are iron-deficient, as indicated by low serum ferritin stores. (About 14% of all women are iron deficient.) A survey with collegiate male runners suggested about 20% had low serum ferritin. Iron supplements help resolve the problem, along with a good recovery diet.

So the moral of the story is: Eat wisely, and you’ll recover well—and feel great without gaining extra weight!

Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD January 2012