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17 December 2010

Gluten Free Foods Everyone Eats

Searching for Gluten-Free foods on the web is ridiculously frustrating.
  • I am not trying to lose weight, 
  • I'm not trying to prepare for the Olympics, 
  • I am not trying to include a make-believe bread in every meal, and 
  • I am not interested in recipes!  
Dang-it!  Quit shoving your "gluten-free" industry down my throat and get your cotton picking hands out of my wallet! Wheat is good, I just may not be able to eat it.

I wear boots, not Birkenstocks, the women I date shave their legs and under their arms and not one much cares if the whales get saved or not.  I am a bachelor, so I can cook but Hell will freeze over if I'm going to spend an hour in a kitchen every day for the rest of my life.  It isn't going to happen.  I'm six foot one and one hundred seventy pounds-- I'm not interested in your health foods and believe vegans are evil-- it is against my religion not to eat meat.

Get it?!

Look, it is not all that complicated, and although I am new to this, for my bachelor-like eating habits the stuff NOT to do, goes like this:  No sandwiches, no pizza, no gravy, nothing breaded and nothing battered and worst of all, no beer.

You know there are several web pages out there which want me to know that vegetables and fruits are gluten free?  Really?  No kidding?  My God!  What an amazing revelation!

It appears that providing a menu for minimizing the life-style changes for gluten-free eating has fallen to me and to a grateful world, I answer, "You're welcome!"

So, I have been to the grocery store and reading ingredients of my favorite easy meals-- the bachelor stuff.  Wow!  I never noticed how often I ate meals that included gravy!  I'm going to miss gravy.

But here is what I have found that I can get:

Night Hawk has at least two meals that are gluten free (GF):

Night Hawk's Steak 'n Taters
(Chopped steak and tater tots)

Night Hawk's Steak 'n Corn
(Chopped steak and a side of sweet corn)
Night Hawk even lists these on the FAQ page as being gluten-free-- so I won't feel like I need to check the ingredients every time I go to the store to see if anything has changed.

Health Choice's
Roasted Chicken Verde
Healthy Choice doesn't claim gluten-free, but at least at the moment, the product contains no gluten-- they do claim on their web-site that ingredients change and you have to read the label in the store.

So far, those are the only frozen dinners (TV dinners) I have located which are gluten-free-- read the ingredients of your favorites because I only read what looked good to my hungry eyes.

There are a few prepared rice dishes which I am buying, but they are sides-- not meals. Tonight, I'll microwave some Mexican rice I bought in the freezer section, include a side of guacamole, and spread some refried beans (frijoles, pronounced free-hole'-lays) on a couple of tostadas (lightly fried corn tortillas) --dressing those with some chopped green onions if I am not too lazy to spend 90 seconds doing that, and then add salsa on top.

Tostada, garnished as desired--
I use frijoles instead of ground meat
because it is fast and easy.
I am also wrapping hot dogs in soft corn tortillas, and using those same un-fried (soft) tortillas in place of sandwich bread for other meals including peanut butter and cold-cuts.  It's not as good, but it is satisfying.

The idea is that if it is bread of any kind it must be corn meal.  Some southern-fried batters are cornmeal only, but don't bet your health on it without checking.

That is a substantial part of my diet that I cannot enjoy for now (I may not have celiac disease, but I'm suspicious and staring my second month of gluten-free, and bored with the obvious cornbread-rich diet I used for the first month).

Snacks and quick and easy at home in the kitchen stuff:
Bacon and Eggs
Fritos and Salsa
Fritos and Guacamole
Peanut Butter, by itself
Jelly on Corn Bread
Refried beans on Corn Tostado (MOST corn tortillas, fried or otherwise, use only cornmeal): Check the labels, a lot of cornbread items include a bit of wheat flour.

Perhaps I can do a bit better.  (But compared to what all the other web pages on gluten-free diets offer, perhaps a three year old can do a bit better using a dart board?)

My shopping list this last time looked something like this:
  • Baking Potatoes
  • Peanuts,
  • Bananas,
  • Milk,
  • Trail mix,
  • Cheese,
  • Chocolate,
  • Rice,
  • Wine,
  • Beans,
  • Every kind of meat of every nation, creed and color,
  • Several tins of Vienna Sausage,
  • Baked Beans in a can
  • Corn (cobbed or after a cob-ectomy)
  • Fred Rice (if the soy sauce uses traditional grains  like rice flour instead of a tiny bit of wheat flour)
  • Mexican Rice
  • Chili (Stagg Chili does not use wheat flour as a thickening agent like most canned chilies do).

The "Steak house" variety use Mesa Flour
(corn flour) and has no beans--
Texans don't put beans in chili--
and it is delicious.

Since I started this, my first impulse was to grieve (in order), hamburger buns, cake, biscuits and gravy.  That didn't last long.  I feel a lot better, and look better.  Probably the removal of drive-through food has also contributed, because besides no longer having a protruding abdomen (from swollen small intestine), my skin just looks better-- probably because of more nutrients reaching all of my body.

Because my energy level is up-- way up-- I am not only more active, but [as one whose favorite quiet activities require substantial mental processes (writing, creating something with my hands, researching, and tackling complex and dynamic problems)] I have noticed that I am, well, smarter.  I have heard that intense thinking burns about 200 calories in an hour (about as much as walking for that long), and that it has been suggested that is why so few persons practice intense thinking-- it tires you out!

Practically and in all seriousness, several complex concepts I have been struggling with have come to satisfying conclusions and or theories since I have begun this gluten-free diet.  Remember, gluten is good, but if your body reacts incorrectly to it and so damages your small intestines, you begin to become malnourished.

Here is the deal that got me started on this gluten-free experiment:

Three years ago, I was swimming, cycling and hiking a lot.  I was taking very good care of myself and my stomach was flat with a nice six-pack (if the light was at the right angle!).  My physician told me I was actually too active and underweight-- that I simply metabolized so quickly what I ate that I literally would have to eat while exercising if I wanted to add any muscle mass, and that I was malnourished.  

Then I began working a terrible sedentary job with horrible and ever-changing hours which sapped my will to live, not to mention the energy to go out and be active.  I put on a few pounds, the first ten were what I wanted, but the next five to ten was too much-- and I countered with being a little more careful with my diet.  I was not supporting a high performance machine anymore.  I settled in at my favorite weight of about one seventy-five.

However, my energy remained down, even after I got out of the horrible, mind-numbingly boring job with the dysfunctional organization.  My mood did improve, but not my energy.

Then, I developed what I thought was a pot-belly-- like beer drinkers often get.  I backed off of the beer and pretty much eliminated sweets and ate a healthy diet, but still the pot-belly grew.  It came on so fast, and my friends even commented.  I had never been fat before (and I know it sounds silly), so I really didn't realize right away that my increased girth was due to something under the muscles.  My flat stomach was right there under the skin, but bowed-out from within.  When I did realize it was not fat, but swelling, I kept thinking of the Kindergarten Cop line delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Izt, not a tumor!"

My job doesn't provide health insurance but, just as this was happening, I did have insurance and had a comprehensive exam and lab work done.  I was in great shape, and all of my blood factors were on the healthy side of normal-- except my cholesterol was high for the first time in my life-- average for an American, but still high.  To that I thought, I guess middle age is catching up with me-- better start paying more attention to what I eat.

Well, low energy and a swollen abdomen didn't seem connected until last month when I saw some morning TV show I had on in the background as I was working in my home office.  They spoke about gluten intolerance and symptoms of Celiac disease, which many doctors missed, especially in adults.  It was mentioned that low energy and a swollen abdomen were common among middle-aged persons who had, but had never been diagnosed with, Celiac disease. Depression was another tell-tale symptom which matched, but (and as a psychologist told me was the case) if I was NOT depressed given what I have been through, I would be insane!

I decided to try going gluten free that very morning.  The program said, and I verified by reading up on it, that one starts by going gluten free for about two weeks to see if the symptom subside, and then to "confront" one's body with wheat gluten to see if the symptoms returned.  In the eighteen days I went, my mood was what was most noticibly improved, my eneregy seemed up and my abdomen seemed smaller.  The last two symptom improvements were so subtle from one day to the next, I couldn't be sure.

A bit of gluten seems to have no noticeable effect on me.  For instance, I ate a hamburger with a regular bun after my first two weeks gluten free (day eighteen, as a matter of fact) and felt a lower level of energy the next day, but nothing else.  I had two hot dogs on regular buns the next day and had two beers that night, and again my energy was down the following day.  The third day back on gluten, I ate a pizza on a regular crust, and had waffles for dinner.  That next day-- after three days ramping up the gluten-- I woke up early with my abdomen looking as if I was four months pregnant and was sick to my stomach (morning sickness?).  Being a guy, I ruled out pregnancy shortly after the first cup of coffee lubricated the gears in my brain and decided that I had likely failed the gluten test that I so wanted to pass.

I write from thirteen days into gluten-free for the second time and it took until a couple of days ago to get to feeling normal again.  Most (but not all) of the abdominal swelling went down in a few days, my energy level began to creep back up after about a five days to a week, and the severity of the blues (it is holiday time) lessened gradually.

Two days ago, I ate out and ordered a ham and cheese omelette with a side of hash-browns.  Yesterday, my abdomen was swollen and I was barely able to stay awake.  I'm guessing the hash-browns had wheat flour; but it could be that gluten has no ill-effect on me and that all of this is coincidence.  In other words, your mileage may vary.

1 comment:

cregil said...

Thank goodness! Cornmeal can be used fro cream gravy!