The End of the Gluten-Free Lifestyle Experiment

I’m done.

I finished my month of being gluten-free (well, to be honest, I went 29 days – a grocery issue on the last day caused me to cut it).  The very first day that I went back to eating barley, wheat, and rye based products I loaded-up on a hefty bowl of Post’s Shredded Wheat; exactly the opposite of what I told myself I’d do.  I told myself I’d have a simple meal with just a bit of gluten in it (maybe some crackers, or a wheat-thickened sauce).  Nope, I went full-on gluten.  I was worried I’d feel sick after completely removing something from my diet and then adding it back in a month later in large amounts.

What Happens After Not Eating Gluten?

Turns out, no problem.  I felt fine after the cereal and even had a bagel sandwich later that day.  Really, I didn’t feel much different aside from a bit more energy (I would assume from the carbs).  In summary, it didn’t seem that swapping to gluten-free did much good for me, at least from an apparent, subjective point of view during a month-long period.  I lost about 5lbs of weight (from a 6′ 180lb frame), but that could be mostly attributed to a reduction in consumption due to frustration in finding gluten-free foods.  It wasn’t as difficult as I might have guessed it would be.  I periodically missed bread (especially with someone sitting across from at a restaurant chowing down on the free rolls), but the only true difficulty was wading through the ingredient lists on just about everything before committing to a purchase.

All-in-all, I’d recommend giving it a shot if you think you have some of the more prevalent symptoms, but don’t expect a whole-new-you unless you happen to be gluten-intolerant or have Celiac disease.

➤ Read gluten-free experiment series

Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownies Review (GF Experiment)

I am a big fan of brownies. Love ’em. So when it came time to experiment with desert during my gluten-free experiment, the first thing I did was hunt down a brownie mix that was GF. I came across Betty Crocker gluten-free brownies.

It wasn’t exactly a cakewalk finding gluten-free brownies at a restaurant.

Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownies

I’d have loved to find a higher quality version, but I settled for the Betty Crocker mix from my local Harris Teeter.

Mix Ingredients

The first thing I noticed on the box was rice flour. Rice in my brownie mix? That sounds like a disaster coming, even for a gluten-free brownie mix!

I think that the key difference between good brownies and bad is in their texture.

This is sort of the point of gluten, so I worried that most gluten-free brownies would be sort of grainy. 

I was concerned that these gluten-free brownies would taste more like cardboard than brownies. I’ve had plenty of experiences with gluten-free foods to know this happens.

The most surprising part of the gluten-free brownies was the ingredients:

Sugar, semi-sweet chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla), cocoa processed with alkali, rice flour, potato starch, corn starch, xanthan gum, salt. Contains soy ingredients.

The rice flour does not necessarily make something awful.  All things considered, the ingredient list was fairly short and none-too-scary as well.

Final Review

I was surprised to find that these gluten-free brownies turned out to be quite good!

Preparation was not any different than your normal box brownies (tip: don’t forget to melt the butter, whoops), and cooking time was about the same.

They may not be quite as good as flour-less chocolate cake at a killer local restaurant, but they’re certainly an excellent gluten-free dessert!

Don’t hesitate to give the Betty Crocker gluten-free brownies mix a try!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

➤ Read gluten-free experiment series

Is Gluten-Free Just an Expensive Corn Overload?

I’m coasting past a week and a half of gluten-free eating.

The Cost of Eating Gluten-Free

My Wegman’s bill last night was just over $80 for what would normally be a typical weekly grocery shopping trip at my local Harris Teeter for about $40. Despite Wegman’s lower prices on most goods, my bill just about doubled. Why might you ask? Small box of corn pasta: $6. Gluten-free, steel-cut oats? $5. Not only are the specialty gluten-free goods exceptionally expensive, but other things that you would guess would be gluten-free (dressing? corn cereals?) typically like to stuff some extra tasty malt, barley flavoring, or wheat protein in. That means you’ll be shopping in the natural or organic sections for just about everything, if you haven’t been convinced to do so already. Alright, it’s expensive. You should have guessed that. What else?

Trade Wheat Gluten for Corn

Dawson tested a strand of my hair: 69 percent of the carbon came from corn. This may seem high, but it is typical for Americans. [source]

69% corn and that’s without going gluten-free. Sure, hopefully that number has gone down a bit over the past few years (the study was done in 2007) as the public has become more weary of high-fructose corn syrup and lots of other corn-based unnatural products; but what happens when corn becomes the grain-star of your diet?

I like bread. I like pasta. I like crackers. Before this experiment, I’ve generally eaten pretty healthy wheat products: Arnold’s double-fiber wheat bread, whole-grain wheat pasta, tasty wheat, garden-vegetable crackers. Those are all gone now though. Want to replace bread? Have a nice corn-based clump of bread-like substance. Your cracker replacement is covered with some tasty corn chips and your pasta can be replaced with that somewhat odd smelling corn-based stuff. Sure, there’s alternatives to the alternatives but the point is that going gluten-free puts an even further emphasis on corn in your diet.

Be weary. My stomach hurts.

➤ Read gluten-free experiment series

30 Days to Gluten-Free Experiment

Day 4

I am on my fourth day of no gluten in my diet (though I may have made a few minor slips already).  After reading a chapter of a book posted by one of my favorite authors, I decided why not give it a shot.  I happen to have a number of family and friends who have celiac disease which basically means gluten intolerant folks are all around me anyhow.  That means I won’t have to cook all the goodies myself and lots of people I interact with already have an idea of what gluten is.

What is Gluten?

You probably already know that gluten is a protein found most commonly in barley, wheat, and rye.  You probably don’t know that it is in just about…everything.  You’d be surprised to find wheat in your ketchup and some form of gluten in practically anything that is processed.  Corn cereals (think Kellog’s Corn Flakes)? Sorry, “malt flavorings” will ruin your day.  The real difficulty isn’t skipping the bun on your hamburger (as painful as that is) but in reading the individual ingredients that make up anything you want to put in your mouth.  Good luck at a restaurant.

Why all the hub-bub then? From Mr. Robb Wolf:

Let me be crystal clear about this: Anything that damages the gut lining (including bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections, as well as alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy) can predispose one to autoimmunity, multiple chemical sensitivities, and allergies to otherwise benign foods.

Gluten Risks

Ok, so that’s kind of scary.  Cutting out grains is tough enough – but dairy, legumes…alcohol (and don’t forget, lots of gluten in beer)?!  Mr. Wolf is pushing towards a Paleo Diet which is several steps further than a simple gluten-free diet.  After doing further research, it seems that most folks that follow the belief that a paleo diet is necessary, including Mr. Wolf, find grains to be one of the largest sources of problems.  One has to start somewhere.  I long extricated soda, lots of processed foods, most high-fructose corn syrup, and less lean animal fats from my diet.  It seems like this might be the next step then.

Mr. Wolf is a proponent of a 30-day diet change and that’s what I’m pushing for.  Removing gluten from my diet could apparently have wide-ranging benefits from reducing indigestion (I have poor digestion genes that are already making themselves apparent) and increasing energy levels, to improving digestion and bringing about better nutrient absorption.  With all those possible positive outcomes, why not give it a shot?  I’ll share with you my findings.

After all, 30 days can’t hurt, right?

➤ Read gluten-free experiment series