Part two: Preparing for your wheat fast

Continued from Part One: Eradicating Wheat and Gluten

You’ve grown up with wheat. It’s part of everyday life. It’s in everything. Unfortunately, it could also be the reason for the symptoms you’re experiencing and possibly causing other health complications you weren’t aware about until recently.

Now is the time to take control of your health and try going without wheat for 14 days to see whether or not you’re suffering due to the ingestion of grasses. In fact, I’m going to invite your family to join you as mine is joining me.

First, a little history. About a year ago, we embarked on this same journey together thanks to Dr. Julia Ross’ book The Diet Cure, with horrified teens, a concerned husband and a dramatic eight year old saying, “You expect me to live without bread?! Are you serious?” Voices were raised tantamount to having had car privileges removed….the TV going off unexpectedly during football….or worse, having someone steal their Birthdays.

It wasn’t an easy journey, with bad facsimiles of bread making its way into the house. We laughed and sputtered through horrible crumbs, tried eating sandwiches on gluten free waffles, and read labels for any and every semblance or normality possible. I reintroduced potatoes, rice and corn into the home as a bargaining chip to show this wasn’t a ploy to force a family against its will into a low carb diet. I acted as the willing, openminded moderator between the want for wheat and the need for a clean abstinence period befire reintroducing wheat and testing for results.

Will you experience resistance from family? I’d expect it, yes, especially if you are a parent and have children who are used to breads, cereals and other items containing wheat. This time around, for us the process is easier because we already know how the process goes, and everyone does admit to feeling better in the absence of wheat and gluten in the home.

The goal of this two week period of wheat/gluten free eating will culminate into a day long’ free for all’ of high gluten wheat noshing, from breakfast until dinner. If need be, remind your squeamish family of this, even if it means talking it out in advance to keep their interest.

Next Step: Stocking Up and Introduction to the next two weeks

First of all, why two weeks? This is because you need to be fully acclimated to a life without the possible allergy-creating substance before reintroducing. For some foods like eggs, three days is all it takes to test for allergies through removal and reintroduction. In the case of wheat and gluten, the hold is so strong over the body that many require at least 30-180 days to work all of the remnants out of your system to fully feel well again. Sound crazy? Wheat and gluten are potent enough to wreak havoc on the digestive systems of those who are intolerant or allergic to the stuff–and let’s not forget that your body’s constant battle against allergy-producing environmental toxins mean your immune system suffers. Humans were not meant to consume grasses, which have to be processed to he point of losing any nutritive properties in order to even be used; that still doesn’t necessarily make it food for humans.

Additionally, grasses are not tasty to humans, so sugars and other ingredients have to be added to add anything of substance to items containing grasses. Think about all of the excess sugars and processed ingredients you’ll be avoiding when you don’t have to rely on those items to please your taste receptors?

So while it really takes much more time to fully work gluten out of the system, for the sake of testing, we’re doubling Ross’ recommended week.

So what now? You have placed the wheat/gluten perishables in the freezer, placed the boxed or canned items in a place where hands won’t accidentally grab them for dinner for the next two weeks. Still, you have kids eating school lunch or who have packed their sandwiches. You have to feed people burgers and they’re not going to take kindly to lettuce wrapped sandwiches. They’re used to toasted cheese sandwiches with their soup and pizza… with crust.

Following are practices we’ve employed as a family that have been successful.  

I’m listing high carb options separate from low carb to help you plan for a family not living a low glycemic load lifestyle. This is of extreme importance because many families either eat the standard American diet or are only on the beginning path to eating a lower glycemic load plan.

Be sure to bookmark this page and check the links for more information about products and recipes.

Don’t worry–I’ll also be posting daily what we are eating (both high and low carb depending on person) so you won’t feel left alone in this process and will  have some ideas:


Breakfast: Usually the time of the day when most are on the run, you just can’t beat eggs and bacon, cottage cheese and sugar free yogurt options with fruit for a perfect start to the day. Still, not every day is going to be met with a zeal for cooking or for protein based dishes. In these cases, you can be prepared with some of the general staples people have come to at least occasionally expect with gluten products.

Whether high or low carb, be mindful of oats as well. I would recommend their avoidance for these two weeks.
 

Waffles, sweet breads, English muffins, cereal, pancakes and toast: Ways Americans say hello to breakfast every morning, thankfully, options exist. Following are high carb and low carb options for easing family into the next two weeks.

Breakfast/High Carb: 

  • Waffles: More and more stores carry frozen, gluten free waffles in the freezer case. My daughter’s favorite? Von’s gluten free blueberry waffles. At $2.79 a box, they’re more expensive than the store brand, but you want to keep kids happy.
  • Cinnamon rolls and muffins: Now for sale in more and more stores, Udi’s brand of gluten free product carries everything from muffins to cinnamon rolls to bread for toast. These items stay chilled until use, so look in the refrigerator case near the bakery or ask your store where to find them.
  • English Muffin: Try this amazing looking recipe from Gluten-Free Goddess for your toasted bread fix.
  • Pancakes: Both Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur’s Flour make a pancake mix without gluten. I’ve seen both brands in stores.
  • Cereal: Most corn and rice cereals are generally safe (avoid oat, wheat and bran), but be sure to check labels for trace amounts of wheat and avoid those products. Don’t be afraid to spoil kids with a cereal they’ve wanted for awhile, so long as you read the ingredients carefully! I’m treating my kids to MaltOMeal’s Berry Collossal Crunch a couple of times this week.

Breakfast/LowCarb
Eggs and bacon and proteins are obvious choices here. Yogurt and cottage cheese are other fun, cold, quick dishes. But who says breakfast has to be breakfast? You could opt for a smoothie or for leftovers from dinner!

As you can see, there are few, ready-made options for low carbers, so be prepared for some food preparation. The bonus is, you can usually make a large batch and freeze or refrigerate extras for those busy mornings.

Caution: Beware low carb, ready to buy mixes. Many contain wheat/gluten. Notice I’ve bolded, italicized and underlined this point? It’s that important to note. Be careful and never assume that low carb products automatically include no wheat or gluten. The mixes that don’t contain gluten contain soy–and boy, do they taste like it.

Don’t be upset if you ran out and ordered a bunch of products only to find they contain gluten. Put them away until you know how your body reacts to wheat/gluten upon reintroduction to wheat/gluten in two weeks. If you find you’re intolerant, donate those items to someone who can use them or return them to the store for a refund.

School Snacktime: Chances are you could have kids and they probably attend school with snack and kids who bring desserts in for Birthdays. Make sure you either speak to a teacher and/or send your wee ones in with alternatives for those special occasions. It’s hard for a kiddo to be different, but it’s also important they remain gluten free for this experiment.

Snacktime: Send fruit, vegetables, popcorn or nut crackers. Blue Diamond brand makes a wonderful nut cracker in many flavors that kids like. Mine are partial to the Cheese flavored ones (they taste like corn nuts). These are all also fairly low carb options (yes, even the popped corn, especially if it contains real butter). Also, oftentimes, with peanut allergies and egg allergies on the rise, celiac students are also often afforded major concessions. Keep these items in the classroom specially labeled for your child, or send to school, depending on classroom rules.

School party/Birthday: When kids bring in cupcakes and cookies, make sure your son or daughter has something special for themselves that they don’t often have the opportunity to enjoy. Whether it’s a fairly low carb and easy to find caramel Ghirardelli square or a health food (high-carb) gluten free sugar cookie (Deby’s brand has been phenomenal), kids shouldn’t feel they’re being punished for enjoying a healthier lifestyle. Also, oftentimes, with peanut allergies and egg allergies on the rise, celiac students are also often afforded major concessions. Keep these items in the classroom specially labeled for your child, or send to school, depending on classroom rules.

Lunchbox replacements: This is probably among the toughest aspect for parents with kids who are used to sandwiches, so let’s make this special. For the next two weeks, you can pack your kids fun bento (fun lunches with little bites of different kinds of foods) lunches in regular Gladware. Include fun notes and stickers. Spoil them with a square of Ghirardelli caramel filled chocolate every day. Splurge on the nut crackers–or in my daughter’s case, the gluten free sugar cookies from Deby’s brand that I paid a little bit more for at the health grocery store. Try not to replicate classroom school snacks in the lunches as well to avoid drudgery and make kids feel their options are limited. Again, gluten free shouldn’t be a punishment.

Lunchbox replacements/High Carb:
Bread: If sandwiches are a must, look for ways to send the same fillings in other ways. You could look for gluten free breads in your store, but they aren’t usually anything to write home about. The Udi’s is actually quite decent and is a ‘better than nothing option.

  • Gluten free crackers: Glutino brand crackers and Blue Diamond nut crackers are excellent vehicles for meats and cheeses and spreads and make what was a boring sandwich into a more participatory “Lunchables” type meal.
  • Crunchy, starchy options: Chips, corn chips, celery, rice cakes, popcorn
  • Sweets: If you’ve never allowed sweets in lunches, this is the time to do a little bit of spoiling. I send a Ghirardelli square to lunch with each child each day, along with a little note written either on a corner of the napkin or a small piece of paper. It’s just a fun, sweet touch that makes a kid feel special.
  • Other options: Send leftovers for lunch. Bento offers opportunities for fun meals that are truly little bites of different foods to feel as though you’ve enjoyed a hearty meal without the stress.

Lunch replacements/Low Carb:

  • Bread: If sandwiches are a must, look for ways to send the same fillings in other ways. Here is, however, a Low carb bread recipe from ehow.com that might work well.
  • Gluten free crackers: Try sending Blue Diamond Nut Crackers, flax crackers or cheese based crackers for fun spreads. Cut meat and cheeses into circles for a fun “Lunchables” feel.
  • Crunchy, starchy options: Celery, carrots, flax crackers
  • Sweets: If you’ve never allowed sweets in lunches, this is the time to do a little bit of spoiling. I send a Ghirardelli square to lunch with each child each day (fairly low carb), along with a little note written either on a corner of the napkin or a small piece of paper. It’s just a fun, sweet touch that makes a kid feel special.
  • Other options: Send leftovers for lunch. Bento offers opportunities for fun meals that are truly little bites of different foods to feel as though you’ve enjoyed a hearty meal without the stress.


Dinner: Of course you’re going to generally avoid pot pies, standard boxed macaroni and cheese and a bevy of convenience foods, many of which contain wheat. This doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy some wonderful meals in the process.

If you need to thicken gravies, avoid flour and use cornstarch instead if you are a high carb eater. Still, I have found that vegetable gums like xanthan and Glucomannan are undetectable in gravies and soups and use those instead.

Be sure to check the Your Lighter Side recipes page for great dinner ideas! To appease the high carbers, simply keep reading…

Plan to use proteins as the base of most dishes (unless it’s pasta night, in which case you can still use a meat sauce) and be sure to include sides and options that are palatable. If you’re a low carber living with high carbers, simply prepare the same main protein course and vegetable for everyone (sauces can be served separately), and add starches as needed to their plates.

If you don’t like salads and have never served them, these next two weeks are not the time to start. Salads are perennially viewed as punishment or as a “diet sentence”. Save salads as an integration with pastas, or occasionally to test the waters.

Following are some standard uses for gluten items and ways to avoid:


Dinner/High Carb

  • Pastas: Thankfully you’re in luck. Tinkyada makes an amazing rice pasta product that my family even likes. It is not low carb, but at least once per week, it might be nice to try one of their many products, available in stores. Leftovers also make fun, tasty lunch companions the next day.
  • Pizza: Udi’s makes a terrific pizza crust.  
  • Dinner starches: Make sure to incorporate potatoes, corn and rice to give the same starch satisfaction without wheat. While, optimally, corn, rice and potatoes are not the perfect long-term daily sidekicks to that surf and turf, these two weeks are not the time to skimp on starchy options. Going gluten free should not be a punishment.
  • Dinner breads: Breads are out. Period. No sandwiches will find their way to your table, so don’t plan soup if people expect grilled cheese sandwiches as well. Familiarity breeds expectation, and people don’t like that change. 
  • Buns: Check out your local health food store for options in rice and potato starch. Be aware these are expensive and aren’t terribly wonderful. Still, if you feel you need a hot dog or hamburger bun, why not? Maybe your family will toss the buns aside and discover they really like their burgers sans buns anyway.
  • Biscuits: Here is a gluten free recipe that looks pretty nice from Gluten Free Cooking School. Once you see all the needed ingredients, you might just realize it’s safer to go with the delicious mashed potatoes option instead as a side.
  • Burrito shells:  This is the time to substitute those flour shells with crispy corn shells, tortillas and tortilla chips, as well as some delicious rice in which to bed delicious ingredients. Crispy corn bowls also make a fantastic taco salad bowl.
  • Breading:  Look to alternative flours for dredging Bob’s Red Mill Flour Mix is a good option and use stale gluten free bread instead of standard bread crumbs.
  • Stuffing: Use stale, gluten free bread or look to meat-based stuffing for bulk.

Dinner/Low Carb


Desserts/High Carb:Sweets for the sweet, flour seems to make its way into most things that are sweet as well as savory.

  • Cakes, cookies and brownies: Scout the baking aisles, because now Betty Crocker has bake mixes available in grocery stores which are gluten free! Bob’s Red Mill does as well.
  • Cheesecake: Use a nut crust as a replacement for the graham cracker crust.
  • Dairy desserts: Are generally safe, but check ingredient labels
  • Chocolate: Should be generally safe, but check ingredients
  • Sherbet or sorbet: Should be safe, but check ingredients.
  • Pie crust: You’re generally going to end up making your own pie crust. Here is one recipe from Whole Foods.


Desserts/Low Carb:

Sweets for the sweet, flour seems to make its way into most things that are sweet as well as savory.

  • Cakes, cookies and brownies: Check Your Lighter Side’s Desserts Page for some decadent options for desserts.
  • Cheesecake: Use a nut crust as a replacement for the graham cracker crust. I have painstakingly put together a rather extensive collection of low carb, sugar free, gluten free cheesecakes over the course of the last year, including: Caramel Turtle Cheesecake, Caramel Turtle Cheesecake, Gourmet Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake, Key Lime Cheesecake, Mini Cheesecakes, No Bake Cheesecake, Mud Pie No Bake Cheesecake, Perfect Party Cheesecakes, Pumpkin Caramel Cheesecake, Splenda No Bake Cheesecake, and Ultimate Cheesecake. Check this link for the cheesecakes.
  • Dairy desserts: While generally safe, check ingredient labels. Choose low carb options and don’t rule out yogurts kept in the freezer for  frozen treat.
  • Chocolate: This should be generally safe, but check ingredients for added sugars. My favorite options are Green and Black’s and Ghirardelli and Lindt dark chocolate. These contain sugar but are relatively low carb.
  • Sherbet or sorbet: Strawberry sherbet, and Blackberry sorbet are just two sugar free options for a fresh, fruity dessert.
  • Pie crust: Pie crust is one of those tricky items for low carbers, since little yields as terrific a result as standard flour, tending towards dryness. Going crustless is generally the best solution, although nut crusts will yield some successful results.


Restaurants and Ordering out:

  • Study the website for menus. Look for gluten free options on the menu. 
  • Ask wait staff. Many many restaurants today will gladly accommodate gluten free diners, so be sure to let your waitstaff know that you can’t have gluten… and ask for options prior to ordering. 
  • If in doubt... Preparation unfortunately doesn’t ensure there won’t be a screw up, so unless you’re accustomed to the restaurants, types of foods and dealing with special diets, I recommend not dining out for this trial wheat-free period, since wheat can be hidden in things many would never expect–including the omelets at IHOP (which uses pancake batter). In fact, we’re putting off hubby’s Birthday dinner out until we’ve concluded our experiment… just to be safe.

 Office/Party situations: Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are so prevalent in society today that it’s not a stretch to declare a wheat and gluten-free zone for yourself before you ever arrive to the party. Remember to:

  • Look for the meat/cheese platters and fresh veggie trays. 
  • Eat ahead prior to going out so you’re not starving before you even arrive.
  • Politely decline cakes, cookies and pies and other processed foods.
  • Offer to bring a safe dish by explaining your condition to your host/ess in advance.


General things to remember: You’re on your way to the next (terrific) fourteen days of your life. While I’ve offered food substitutions, the likes of which we’ll be using in this process, it’s important to heed these tips as well for the most successful experiment.


Don’t find excuses to interrupt the experiment. My husband’s Birthday is tomorrow (Holla for the forty two year olds in the room), but he has graciously agreed to waiting two weeks until we celebrate at a local restaurant. This is because we plan to use the restaurant as part of reintroduction process.

Change as little as possible: Don’t make the removal of bread and wheat a huge deal. People hate change. They fear change. That and sitting people down for ‘the talk’ can be excruciatingly uncomfortable unless you hold regular family meetings. When you do broach the subject make it to be a fun experiment, with the reward as a day of as much bread as they’d like (little does anyone know, this is part of the experiment!). Use this script to help assuage fears in the family:

“We’re going to try a fun experiment. For the next fourteen days we’re going to see what it’s like to not use anything with bread in it just to see what happens. We’ll be packing lunches and I’ll be preparing most of the meals for the next two weeks to make sure we don’t accidentally eat wheat. If we do, it kind of ruins the experiment, and I want this to be fun!”

Now the questions will come. Here are some helpful responses you can give to those queries:

“Where’s the bread? We’re out. What can I make for you?”
“I decided it would be fun to have tuna fish on these fun nut crackers today.”
“These chocolate rice cakes schmeared with peanut butter are petty amazing.”
“Rather than burrito shells, I thought we’d try crunchy taco shells or rice instead. this is how they do it at Taco Bell” (appeal to their junk food side. If fast food places do it, it’s gotta be cool).

In case of emergency: If you accidentally consume wheat or gluten, throw the rest of the item away immediately; if you’ve already consumed the item, just keep going and note how you feel for the next twelve hours in a diary. Chances are, symptoms won’t be horrific, but even minimal changes such as stuffy nose or crawling legs could be a sign. Don’t use this as an excuse to quit the experiment.

With kids: Before you cave to kids begging for just one hot dog bun, remember that just one bite can hurt and throw off the gluten-free period to some degre. Don’t give in, instead offering other, better solutions, or refrain from making foods everyone is accustomed to that contain bread. Remind them in two weeks they will be able to enjoy wheat again. And if they stay with friends, make sure parents know what to expect. You can’t monitor their choices, so if you don’t think they can make an evening with the Jones who serve pizza, either drop the kiddo off after the meal or have their kids to your home instead.
Communicate: Your child tells you that the rice flour hot dog buns you paid a buck a piece for are horrible. While it hurts (both your pocketbook and your hopes), it is important to not create battles. If the taste sucks, it sucks. I remember last year we bought the most horrific rice bread that has ever existed. We sat around the campfire and laughed at how awful the bread was. We even threw it to the birds and they would touch it! Embrace the awful failures and laugh. LAUGH! We have some great memories from the disaster and the kids have a greater trust for me because I listen, absorb and adapt.

Spoil your family a little in the process: While you wouldn’t normally send your kids to school with sugar or end dinner with a decadent dessert, it’s important to show how fulfilling and wonderful these two weeks can be. You didn’t take their Spaghettios away and hand them a can of garbanzo beans afterall; you offered amazing options to show that a wonderful and delicious lifestyle can fully exist without wheat and gluten.

You can definitely pare down the sweets and white starches as time goes by once you’ve decided wheat and gluten are no longer necessary. For these two weeks, you achieved something hard to accomplish: happiness.

And who knows? As time moves on they might just decide they never really missed wheat in the first place; they just craved the process of togetherness through creative dining and dialogue.

Stay tuned for two weeks of menus, tips and tricks as my family moves through their gluten experiment. Do you have any questions? Please ask them below!
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Comments

  1. Even the fact that we are having this conversation
    means that there's more awareness,
    and more products to be had.
    Even in the regular grocery stores.
    It's a great time we are in!

  2. Wow, Jamie – these are amazing posts!! Thank you for all your hard work.

  3. Whoa! Thanks for all the hard work and thought put into this blog post! Amazing and so useful! I will be using a lot of these ideas :)

  4. I'm loving this blog as I want to get my family GRAIN-free. You've got some great ideas here.

    I'm going to keep reading (but have to head off to work right now) but I'm curious as to your plans now that the trial period is over. It seems like most of your family had good results going GF, so will you continue? will you leave it to each individual?

    I like the "treats" idea but honestly… I don't want to replace one "bad" habit (eating grains) with another (eating lots of sugar).

    I look FWD to more time reading here!

  5. Jamie aka Carbarella says:

    Karen! Hi!

    I am going back on Atkins induction next week, so for the foreseeable future, I'm going gluten free. My husband doesn't like how grain makes him feel, so he might eat bread once a week or less, depending. Son #1 doesn't like how bread makes him feel and he likes feeling full, so we're going to keep gluten at a minimum for him. The daughters don't really use bread, but my youngest loves school lunches (who wouldn't? They're junk food) so I allow her 1-2 lunches per week there; the rest of the time she packs gluten free lunches. Son #2 is the only one who seems unaffected by bread, but since he won't touch the Ezekiel bread, he obviously doesn't miss it THAT much. I will say we like continue to use Dreamfields once a week or so, so that would be the limited exposure to gluten. Otherwise, we're expanding our palates!

    Let me know how things go with you guys, OK?

  6. Susan Petros says:

    Looking for a recipie for flax meal muffins,any ideas? Needs to be Atkins friendly

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