Grain-Free Food Ideas

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Even though it sounds scary (as it’s what you’re used to), going ‘grain-free’ doesn’t have to be boring and it certainly isn’t going to leave you with a limited choice of foods to eat!

I have put together a list of some foods that you can eat that are completely grain-free, along with some menu ideas to get you started. Firstly though, I want to explain a little bit about grains and why it is not recommended that you eat them too often.

So what exactly are grains?

Grains are basically any food that is made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, rye, spelt, or any other cereal grain.

There are two types of grains: whole grains and refined grains. The difference between a whole grain and a refined grain is this – whole grains contain the entire grain kernel which includes the bran, germ and endosperm portions whereas refined grains only contain the endosperm portion. The endosperm is the carbohydrate portion of the grain; it comprises mostly of starch and contains little in the way of nutrients. The bran and germ portions are where all the nutrients are as they contain B vitamins, iron, vitamin E, fibre and essential fatty acids.The milling and refining process strips away the bran and germ from the grain and the reason this is done is because it prevents the oils from going rancid and also without the bran portion, the grain will store for longer and is less likely to go mouldy. 

Foods that are made with refined grains include the following: white bread, wraps, pasta, breakfast cereals, white rice, cous cous, noodles, cakes, biscuits, pizza, tortillas, corn chips, crackers, muffins and bagels. Most beers also contain grains as they are made from wheat or barley. 

Foods that contain whole grains include oats, oatmeal, wholegrain brown rice, muesli, wholemeal/spelt/rye bread and whole wheat pasta.

What’s the problem with grains?

Grains are carbohydrates and when we eat carbohydrates they break down to glucose (sugar) in the body; glucose is the main source of fuel for our organs and tissues. Our bodies will naturally use up what glucose they need, the rest will be stored as fat. The body is designed to do this so that in the event of a famine, it would have enough fuel to survive. However for most people, famine is not an issue as there is always a constant supply of food. Eating grains several times per day not only elevates your blood sugar levels but is potentially causing you to store excess fat.

With the introduction and proliferation of low-fat diets that came into play a couple of decades ago, people became so afraid of fats that they started replacing the fats in their diet with grains and carbs instead. We are encouraged to consume grains 5-6 times a day in order to get all of our nutrients and many people rely of grains as their main source of nutrition, some eating up to 11 servings per day! We’re now seeing the results of this – increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune conditions, allergies and a whole host of immune-related disorders. 

The other problem with grains is the way that they are cultivated nowadays is very different to how they were 20 – 30 years ago. This is especially true of wheat. Wheat is probably one of the most commonly consumed grains in the Western world and it is also one of the grains that has been the most hybridized in recent years. Since the introduction of genetic modification of crops (in order to combat environmental factors such as pests, diseases and harsh weather conditions), wheat is certainly not the same grain that it was when our grandparents were little! 

What else is there to eat?

Please don’t be afraid that removing grains from your diet will leave you hungry or with limited food choices. There are millions of people that follow this approach every day and a whole host of tasty foods you can eat instead. You can replace grains with lovely fruits and veggies, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Buckwheat, Quinoa (pronounced ‘Keen-wah’), Millet and Amaranth are all good grain alternatives as they are actually seeds and not grains (even though they often put into the ‘grains’ category). They contain plenty of nutrients and essential amino acids, so they provide a great source of protein. Buckwheat groats can be used for porridge, muesli or in soups, and buckwheat flour can be used to make pancakes, bread or pasta (alternatively, you can find buckwheat pasta in your local supermarket). Quinoa can be eaten as an alternative to rice or pasta, or on it’s own as part of a yummy salad. It is super easy to make and contains essential vitamins and minerals including zinc, manganese, magnesium and folate (folic acid). Millet can be used porridges, cereal, soups and dense breads, or it can be sprouted and used in salads. Amaranth is a great alternative to rice and also can be used to make porridge – it has a slight sweetness to it so it tastes yummy! When added to water, amaranth has a gelatinous consistency so it is a fantastic thickener for soups.

If you want to do some baking, then you can use coconut, almond or buckwheat flour. These grain-free flour alternatives are great for making breads, muffins and cakes.

Healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil, coconut oil and flaxseed oil as they provide a source of energy, essential fatty acids and help keep you satiated which will avoid overeating at meal times.

Grain-Free menu ideas

Breakfast

  • A Smoothie – fresh fruit such as berries, pear or banana, a handful of kale or spinach, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp almonds, 1 tbsp sunflower seeds and almond milk or water as the base. 
  • Homemade grain-free muesli – rolled quinoa, puffed amaranth and buckwheat, 1 tbsp of sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp of pumpkin seeds, 1 tbsp of ground almonds (or any other nut), 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, 1 tbsp chia seeds and some goji berries. A good idea is to make up a big batch and store it in a sealed container in the fridge.
  • Natural, full-fat yoghurt with berries, apple or pear and some sunflower seeds.
  • Poached, boiled or scrambled eggs with fresh spinach, mushrooms, avocado and tomato.

Lunch

  • Quinoa salad – quinoa with mixed veggies through it such as grated carrot, beetroot, diced cucumber and tomatoes, sprouts and spring onion. Make up an olive oil dressing with some turmeric, lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt and drizzle over the salad.
  • A big green salad with a small serving of lean meat, fish or mixed beans.
  • Omelette with onion, tomato, herbs, asparagus, baby spinach, mushrooms and any other vegetables you like.
  • Homemade soup such as lentil, pumpkin or carrot. Make sure that you add in some protein such as beans, quinoa, amaranth, millet, meat or fish.
  • 3 bean salad – use either  dried beans (soak and cook first though) or a can of mixed beans. Chop up some veggies and serve with some spinach or rocket. An olive oil dressing with some mixed herbs through it makes this dish very yummy!

Dinner

  • Stir-fried vegetables with meat, fish or nuts and seeds. Use Tamari as this is a gluten and wheat free form of soy sauce.
  • Roasted sweet potato, salad and houmous – check out this post for my houmous recipe.
  • Grilled meat or fish served with steamed vegetables.
  • Buckwheat pasta with a tomato and vegetable sauce. Add kidney beans and other legumes to provide a source of protein.

Snacks

  • Hommous and veggie sticks such as carrot, celery, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cucumber.
  • Nuts and seeds with a piece of fruit. Make sure that the nuts are raw/ natural so not salted or roasted!
  • Bliss balls or homemade snack bars – here are the recipes.
  • A smoothie

 

I hope this has helped to dispel any fears you may have had about going grain-free and inspired you to make a conscious effort to eat less grains going forward. Please feel free to share your experience about going grain-free below as we would love to hear from you!

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Michelle is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist, Reflexologist and Reiki practitioner who is passionate about living a holistic lifestyle and helping others to achieve their health goals. She is also a Jungle Body Dance Fitness Instructor, which not only keeps her fit but also helps her to inspire others to feel confident and get in shape.

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