12/13/11

Tabouleh and gluten-free grains

There's not a week that goes by where I don't get at least one email or face-to-face question about gluten-free and grains.

I always learn an incredible amount about the human body, every single time that I step into the Baptist Medical Center beaches (where I work as a PRN clinical dietitian). Since becoming a RD, I have a new found respect for the body and how irrational it is to think that one must avoid certain foods without having an underlying reason to do so. Working with patients who have serious reactions to gluten due to the diagnosis of celiac disease, makes me appreciate my body and how amazing it is on a daily basis.

It is apparent, however, that the human body is not like what it once was in decades past....nor are our food choices. Due to the high intake of processed foods (specifically high sugar, high fat and high sodium foods as well as artificially flavored, "diet" foods), the body is constantly fighting foods that are consumed in an un-natural form. More so, the average diet lacks adequate consumption of fruits and veggies to promote optimal health...thus my belief that we should consume a "plant-strong" diet not to avoid meat but to rather promote optimal nutrient consumption.

It doesn't surprise me that the human GI system is working overtime and many people are experiencing symptoms of bloating, inflammation, diarrhea and constipation. While it's easy to blame "gluten" for this reason, perhaps we should recognize that an increase consumption of processed foods, processed meats an over-consumption of "energy" products have contributed to an over-worked and weak GI tract.

One thing that saddens me with the current Paleo-diet fad, is the elimination of whole grains (NOTE: this is only one of my concerns as I do not feel the diet is beneficial to health, performance or a healthy relationship with food in it's strictest form). In a recent November issue of TODAY's DIETITIAN (Vol 13, No 11), there was a great article on Gluten-free grains (p. 28).

The article is specific to patients who have diabetes, celiac disease, gluten intolerances and dermatitis herpetiformis and encourages RDs to help educate this certain population on how to incorporate alternative whole grains into the diet. I find this an important piece of information because as a RD, I do not feel it is my job to tell you what to remove from the diet, without an underlying issue negatively affecting your overall health. When it comes to weight loss, performance gains or body composition changes, eliminating gluten is a simple answer to a complex problem as removing breakfast cereals, pancakes, bread, muffins, cake and crackers from the diet will ultimately encourage weight loss due to the reducing of refined flours and total carbohydrate consumption. However, there are more practical and balanced approaches to feeling better and losing weight, than eliminating a food group (or opting for a processed "gluten free" version) and not accepting the bigger issue of learning how to plan a balanced, whole-foods diet to support optimal performance gains and to encourage an improvement in overall health.
Here are some common alternative (most gluten-free) grain options that will help boost cardiovascular health, along with helping you feel more balanced with your overall diet.

-Amaranth
-Buckwheat
-Corn
-Brown rice
-Wild Rice
-Barley*
-Bulgur
-Oats (sometimes safe in a gluten-free diet)
-Millet
-Montina
-Quinoa
-Sorghum
-Teff

*Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, malts and triticale.

Here's a wonderfully delicious Tabouleh recipe that I made last week. Karel absolutely loved it! I find that when trying new foods or a new way of eating, having variety in a meal will help excite and please all taste buds and will help promote balanced eating habits without fear of "failing" with a new style of eating.

Tabouleh recipe
Bulgur
Chives
Mushrooms
Tomatoes
Parsley

1. Mix bulger and water according to package (depending on number of servings). Plan for leftovers as bulger has an almost identical nutrition profile to oatmeal and makes for a delicious breakfast with nuts and fruit.
2. While bulgur is cooking, combine 1 cup chopped mushrooms, 2 large roma tomatoes (chopped) and 2 large chives (chopped) in large bowl. Mix together as you add 1/4 cup dried parsley (may use fresh if you want).
3. Combine bulgur and mix well.

To go with your Tabouleh, I made a delicious salad w/ orange slices, grapes, romaine lettuce, feta cheese, hard boiled egg and sunflower seeds. I then took a serving of Tabouleh as the topping to my salad and finished the presentation with 1 sheet of an Egg Roll wrapper (see recipe from last week where I made Tempeh egg roll wrappers) and baked it in the oven (cut into 4 triangles) for a few minutes at 350 degrees. This added a nice crispy crunch to the salad since many Tabouleh meals (or recipes) call for pita bread to go with the whole grain Tabouleh.

Enjoy!


(I LOVE my pink measuring cups...they were worthy of a picture)