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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What it REALLY takes to become a Weight-Loss Success Story”: Weight-Loss Diary

Written by: on Friday, May 11th, 2012
woman on scale with arms up in triumph

It takes a lot of hard work—and a hard look at your reality—to become a success story.

Have you looked at the success stories on this website?  Have you seen the doctor who lost 120 pounds? Brenda wrote some very worthwhile advice in her story: eat right, surround yourself with active healthy people, stop obsessing about weight loss but keep your eye on the simple math of calories in versus calories out, and be committed to your goals.

Looking at Brenda’s advice and knowing how she succeeded by following those simple philosophies, made me realize I have to do more.

I credit myself with eating right, being active and staying committed even though I am not (at this moment) losing.  That is all true, but not true enough.

I finally had to take a cold, hard look at what I was doing—and as much as I hate to admit it, I could be doing better.

What it takes to be a Success Story  

Exercising 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week

Occasional sugary treats 1-2 times/week

Daily activity beyond exercise

Maintain nutrition program instead

of regularly giving yourself permission to eat what someone else is eating

My reality 

Fits and spurts of exercise with gaps of 2 to 4 days at times with no exercise

Daily sugary treats (although they’re written down & counted in my calories)

Taking the elevator up or down 1 floor at the hospital and parking as close to the door as possible

I never say dietI’m don’t think I THINK it enough either. And by that I mean making conscious better choices instead of letting myself believe my hips won’t notice the French fries.

How many of you have a reality that differs from what is truly necessary to succeed?  Please share with me and any little tips or revelations that have helped you get your reality closer to what is required. I can’t emphasize enough how interested I am in what has worked for you!

 

 

Amazing Success Story: How This Doctor Lost 120 Pounds!

Written by: on Monday, April 2nd, 2012
Brenda Wahler before shot for valerielatona.comBrenda Wahlers is an internal medicine doctor with four kids (including a set of triplets!). The fact that she juggles a busy career as a doctor with not only four kids…but triplets!…is amazing to me. But when I found out that she lost 120 pounds after having her kids—and took up running races—I’m even more impressed!
Brenda Wahlers Before Picture for valerielatona.com

BEFORE: Brenda at 280 pounds

Brenda Wahlers after picture for valerielatona.com

AFTER: Brenda at 160 pounds

Here, her super-inspiring tips on how to take charge of your life—and drop weight too!
1. Surround yourself with active, healthy people. “I never came close to achieving my goals until I stopped spending my time with people who drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, and had a deep love for processed, fried, sugary foods. Now I spend time with people who inspire me by their hard work and self discipline to remain strong, active and healthy. It makes all the difference in the world.”
2. Keep it simple…..”To take off extra weight, the calories that you take in have to be less than the calories you expend throughout your day. What that means: Eat less and exercise more. I know that sounds like a big “duh” statement but it is THE concept behind all weight loss. It’s pure science – embrace it.”
3. Wake up! “Wake yourself up to the fact that you have one shot at this life. It took me until I was 35 to have that realization. If you want to be healthy only you can make it happen. No program, pill or doctor can do it for you. Educate yourself and DO IT. If you can really embrace the idea of changing your life you WILL make it happen.”
4. Stop obsessing about weight loss. “Eat right, be active, and the weight will take care of itself.”
5. Be committed to yourself and to your goals. “When I gained a pound I would be so mad and disappointed. The difference comes in how you handle that disappointment. Instead of giving up, use that energy to work harder. I had a three-month plateau that about drove me crazy. I just pushed through, stayed on track, and knew that if I could stay committed I could not fail. Patience is not a strong suit of any person who wants to lose weight (at least sure not one of mine!), but this process needs to become less about weight loss and more about taking control of your life.”

Success Story: “How I lost almost half my body weight—and transformed my life”

Written by: on Friday, March 30th, 2012
I am SO incredibly inspired by Bryan Ganey; instead of opting for quick fixes, which never work, he opted the hard work route toward weight loss (diet and exercise). And in the process, he’s lost 292!!! pounds. (For anyone struggling to lose 10 or 15, it kind of puts things into perspective, right?)
Just look at these before and after pics!!

Before: 577 lbs

Now: 285 lbs

When I asked Bryan for his 5 tips for success, here’s what he had to say:
1.) Accept and understand the truth: there is no quick fix.  Everyone wants it to be easy, we’re so desperate to find the secret that we fool ourselves into believing there is one. There is not. Sustained weight management is very, very hard and that’s why almost everyone fails at it. However, difficult does not mean impossible, so you can do it. But you need to respect how difficult it is and avoid becoming arrogant when success comes easy, because failure is lurking around every corner. Avoid the trap of wanting it all right now, because that is temporary and temporary is not what you want.
2.) Buy and eat real food from the grocery store. You must walk away from the garbage…forever. Face the facts: you’ve had enough fast food, soda, and junk food to last three lifetimes. You don’t need any more. If you’re a food addict like me (see my “before picture for evidence of this) it is absolutely crucial that you never touch the trash food ever again. People tend to eat junk food not because they are undisciplined, but because they are hungry. You have to do the work and always have healthy food on hand. Pack your lunch and eat it. I stick with what I call “The 6 Food Groups:” fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and water.

3.) You must measure, weigh and write down everything you eat. Many people lie to themselves and others about how much they’re eating, but they really have no idea. Remember: everything you eat counts. Being overweight is being on the wrong end of a math problem, so you must add it up at the end of the day. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. As you eat many of the same things over and over, you will memorize their calorie content. There are websites and smart phone apps you can use to track your calorie consumption, or you can use a notepad and a pen like I do. Either way, you have to write it down. This will keep you accountable to yourself.

4.) Water must immediately become your beverage of choice. Water has many benefits, including being essential to life but it also will make you feel full and regulate your appetite. Some people don’t like the taste of water, but I believe you can’t have sustained weight loss without it. Try low-calorie drink mixes like Crystal Light or their generic equivalents to make it taste better if you have to. But drink a lot of water. I easily drink a gallon a day. Sodas (diet included) contain caffeine that will make you want to eat. I also associate soda with junk food and fast food, so I can’t have one without wanting the other. Don’t drink your calories.  Water is one of the few things (besides air) that doesn’t have any calories, so drink it early and often.

5.) Stay off the scale. It is tempting to weigh every day, because we all want the fast results. You must stop obsessing and worshiping the scale. Instead, weigh once every two weeks, maybe even once a month. Again, think long-term. You are losing weight for the rest of your life, not next week. Also, the purpose of the scale is to give you an idea of where you are. It’s not an end-all, be-all guide to your success. The scale has the power to make your day and it has the ability to ruin your day. Don’t let it. Weigh once to start, then not for awhile.

 

But cheer him on: tomorrow (March 31) he’s taking part in the Cooper River Bridge Run, a 10-K race in Charleston, South Carolina. Last year, Bryan walked this. This year, he’s hoping to run the entire thing! You can follow his blogs at ganeybypass.blogspot.com, but watch this inspiring news coverage of him before the race.