Living the Gluten-free Lifestyle

Ginger home photo

[Last month, Ginger Vieira joined us to talk about why it’s important for people with T1D to get tested for celiac disease. Her post continues this month with living the gluten-free lifestyle.]

As a teenager, I resisted the gluten-free lifestyle, and I was lucky that my symptoms were very subtle…so I could get away with cheating here and there.

Today, I embrace and appreciate the gluten-free lifestyle…and the fact that I have celiac disease! When I have to tell a new doctor my health background, I almost consider my celiac as something that ought to be a “shining happy star” on my records because if anything, I feel it only makes me healthier than the general population, not sicker!

For me, the gluten-free life is about eating real food. Gluten can be found primarily in highly processed foods (from crackers to cereals to breads to whatever we’re “meal replacement bar” they’re selling as “healthy” this year—bleh!) and baked goods!

Would I just love to swing by Dunkin’ Donuts and get one of those beautiful donuts with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles? Believe me, as I type this during month five of my pregnancy, I think about those doughnuts all the time, but I am so grateful that that is as far as that craving can go, because I have celiac. Instead of eating the junky, highly-processed, low-nutrient value, corn-syrup-filled garbage foods that line the aisles of the grocery stores and fill the fast-food joints—I can think about them—and then let the feeling pass.

(Not to mention, going gluten-free inevitably reduces your carbohydrate intake, which is only beneficial for a gal with type 1 diabetes!)

Instead, my diet is about real food.

At first, you might think of a gluten-free lifestyle as limiting, but I don’t think of all that processed food filled with ingredients you can’t pronounce as actual food. Even an English muffin is a far cry from real food if you read the ingredients. And yet, we’re taught by media to think of it as a healthy start to your day.

I believe in a 90/10 or 80/20 approach to nutrition. This means you aim to get 90 percent of your nutrition from very wholesome, healthy real food, leaving yourself 10 percent room for treats (which you’ll find in my list below!). An 80/20 approach would be ideal for someone who feels too restricted by a 90/10 approach.

Real food. Real cooking. Small meals, 4 to 5 times per day.

(*Note: in this list I use the term “high-quality” to imply that it is made with ingredients that are actual food and not a variety of corn-syrups or chemicals).

  • Veggies: peppers, broccoli, onions, Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, etc.
  • Beans: slow-cooked beans (cooked overnight in slow-cooker), then used in soups, chili, etc.
  • Nuts: almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews…oh my! Match these with some sliced up bell pepper or carrots, and you have my afternoon snack of the day.
  • Fruit: to me the perfect lunch is a huge Fuji apple with peanut butter.
  • Dairy: I try to avoid things like yogurts that are loaded with added sugar, but high-quality cheeses and the occasional high-quality ice cream or gelato treat. Grass-fed butter. (I swap cow’s milk for unsweetened almond milk instead.)
  • Animal protein: organic cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, high-quality breakfast sausage (5 real ingredients in one option from Costco: Jones New York), and high-quality I personally don’t like most seafood, but I’m sure it would be a great addition in a gluten-free diet!
  • Treats: homemade gluten-free baked goods like brownies, waffles, or blueberry crisp or cookies, sliced strawberries with homemade whipped cream, high-quality chocolate. (King Arthur Flour makes the best baked-good packages with great ingredients that taste like the real deal.)
  • More rare treats: gluten-free pizza from a local pizzeria and every couple of months I treat myself to the “house-made” White Hot Chocolate from a café in town that is delicious and requires 4 units of insulin for a small and 6 units for a large! J Oh, did I mention how much I love locally-made chocolate-amaretto fudge, which is a very rare treat because it is not kind to my blood sugar?
  • Beverages: I drink a ½ cup to ¾ cup of black coffee every morning. Water is my all-day beverage. When not pregnant, I will have the occasional glass of white wine (I don’t like red), juice for some low-blood sugars, and perhaps a mug of hot tea when I’m freezing my buns off in Vermont’s winter. And of course there’s that damn White Hot Chocolate from our Muddy Waters Cafe that I just adore, but try to limit to once every couple months.
  • Protein Shake: Occasionally, I do make a protein shake (particularly during pregnancy) that consists of frozen blueberries, almond milk, nut butter, and 1 scoop of Jay Robb’s egg-white protein powder. I prefer his brand because the sweetener is Stevia rather than a chemical sweetener and all the ingredients are non-GMO. Once per month we also treat ourselves to take-out Chinese food. The only thing I really get is boneless spare-ribs, and then I cook my own veggies to eat along with it.
  • Pregnancy additions: during pregnancy, I try to get closer to 100 grams of carbs per day rather than my usual 50 grams, so I’ve added in things sporadically during the week like gluten-free toast (Udi’s or Rudi’s brands are my faves), gluten-free Annie’s Mac ‘n Cheese, and last week I made a gluten-free lasagna for the first time, which was delicious!

 In the end, it’s really about making a commitment to eating real food…at least, that’s the way I like to look at it. In the beginning of really trying to commit to a gluten-free lifestyle, I would remind myself that technically I “can” eat whatever I please. It’s my body. I’m the one who puts the food in my mouth. It’s up to me.

But I choose not to eat gluten. It’s my choice. It’s up to me.

I choose not to eat fast-food junk or processed fake-food snacks.

I choose not to eat or drink artificial sweeteners that are usually surrounded by a variety of other chemicals and fake-foods ingredients.

I choose to eat real food.

I choose to give my body great quality ingredients.

I choose to treat myself well through nutrition because I care about my health, and because I believe I am worth it.

Ginger Vieira–GingerV

Author of Dealing with Diabetes BurnoutEmotional Eating with Diabetes, and Your Diabetes Science Experiment, Ginger Vieira has lived with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease since 1999, and fibromyalgia since 2014. Ginger is the editorial director at DiabetesDaily, with a background in cognitive coachingvideo blogging, record-setting competitive powerlifting, personal training, Ashtanga yoga, and motivational speaking.


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