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Carol Fenster’s Tips for Following a Gluten-Free Mediterranean Diet

Denver, CO (PRWEB) March 20, 2013

Eating nutritious food is important for people on a gluten-free diet so they can maintain their good health. Carol Fenster, author of ten gluten-free cookbooks, offers tips for following a Mediterranean diet while still avoiding gluten, a protein in wheat that is toxic to some people.

“Knowing how to make nutritious, gluten-free choices is important,” says Fenster, author of 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes, “because not all gluten-free foods are prepared safely nor do all gluten-free foods supply the nutrients our bodies need for good health.” She favors the Mediterranean diet because it is similar to the Anti-inflammatory diet and it emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, legumes, and fish—while discouraging highly-processed foods and meats. But some of the foods recommended on this diet can be problematic for gluten-free people if not selected wisely, so here is Fenster’s advice.

All fruits and vegetables are healthy in their own way but try to maximize nutrient intake with a wide variety of brightly-hued veggies such as purple cabbage and eggplant, red bell peppers and tomatoes, orange carrots and squash, and green broccoli or kale. Sauces on vegetables are especially suspicious because— unless they are reduced (boiled down to a concentrated, thicker version)— they are usually thickened and that thickener is usually gluten-containing wheat. Instead, potato starch or sweet rice flour are excellent thickeners.

Make sure toppings on vegetables—such as crispy breadcrumbs or crackers?are gluten-free. Vegetable soups might be thickened with wheat flour. Brightly-hued fruits such as berries, cherries, mango, and kiwi are excellent choices but make sure any dessert sauces, puddings, or pastries in which they’re used are also gluten-free. Cornstarch is a good thickener for dessert sauces.

Eating whole grains is especially challenging for gluten-free people because the most common choices are wheat-based, such as whole-wheat cereals. Rather than a highly-processed breakfast cereal based on rice—a common, gluten-free choice—cook a batch of gluten-free whole grains such as quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, or sorghum ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. When heated and topped with honey and cinnamon, these precooked grains make a quick, nourishing breakfast. Or, make a whole grain salad such as Wild Rice Salad for a vegetarian main dish; add cooked shrimp for a more filling dish.

Oatmeal is another good whole-grain choice, but read the label to make sure the oats are grown and processed under gluten-free conditions, say Fenster. The Whole Grains Council recommends three to five daily servings of whole grains, but a serving of cooked whole grains is only one-half cup so most Americans can easily get more than that at any one meal.

“Beans and legumes are among the healthiest foods on earth and especially good for gluten-free people,” says Fenster, “because of their fiber, B-vitamins, and protein.” They are also low in fat and sodium and very inexpensive. Conveniently available in cans, they only need to be rinsed thoroughly to remove excess sodium and then they’re ready to use in soups, stews, casseroles, side dishes…or mashed into purees and used in baking. Fenster co-authored a booklet with dietitian Shelley Case called Pulses in the Gluten-Free Diet on how to use beans and legumes in gluten-free baking and cooking.

Commercial bakery goods are discouraged on the Mediterranean diet, but breads are one of the most-missed items for gluten-free people. So, it’s tempting to over-indulge when one finds gluten-free versions in stores. However, cautions Fenster, many store-bought bakery items contain highly-processed flours such as white rice flour and have high sugar, fat, and sodium contents with low amounts of protein and fiber.

Instead, seek out whole-grain gluten-free breads in bakeries or make homemade versions with gluten-free bread recipes that feature healthier gluten-free flours such as amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, and teff. Home-baking gives greater control over the fat, sugar, and sodium content in food, says Fenster. Be sure to read the labels of all ingredients to make sure they are gluten-free and measure correctly for best results, using Fenster’s video, How to Measure Flour, as a guide.

Olive oil is highly recommended on the Mediterranean diet, and fits right into a gluten-free diet. Use it to make salad dressings and toss it with vegetables before roasting or sautéing them. Olive oil not only keeps vegetables from drying out in a hot oven but also contributes flavor. Drizzle the oil on fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, before roasting or grilling or use it to replace part of the butter in baked goods.

“Following the Mediterranean diet while avoiding gluten can be extremely healthy,” says Fenster. “It all depends on the choices we make, so always opt for the most nutritious, safe choice for maximum health.”

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