I've decided to try it: going wheat free for a week or two. I got inspired by our recent podcast about food sensitivities and how they can make you tired, bloated, headache prone, etc. Actually, I don't think I have celiac disease (which affects approximately two million Americans), and I'm not even sure I have a wheat sensitivity. What I do have—for sure—is a wheat dependence. I mean, almost every meal I eat includes wheat in one form or another. By going wheat free, I'm hoping to get better variety (more nutrient-dense foods) in my diet.
So far, I've noticed that GOING WHEAT FREE IS HARD. Grocery stores and restaurants are so full of everything wheat, wheat, wheat! Plus, like I said, for me it's a conditioned thing: breakfast = cereal, usually containing wheat, or whole-wheat toast and eggs; lunch = sandwich on wheat bread; dinner = pasta made from semolina (wheat!). Sure, I always opt for whole grain, but that doesn't fix the fact that I'm eating the same grain again and again.
On the up side, over the two days I've been at it, I have managed to eat more fresh fruits, more vegetables (no more bread to fill me up), and more protein-rich foods such as nuts, soy, and eggs. On the downside, I'm probably eating more saturated fat in cheese, yogurt, milk etc. And, of course, I'm still eating other grains like rice and oats.
The best thing about giving up wheat is that it pretty much means giving up convenience foods (other than, say, a LaraBar every now and then). Packaged snacks are out. So are muffins, bagels, and pastries. (I can still eat potato chips and chocolate, though.) Bottom line on mosts processed foods: Even at their healthiest, it can't be good to eat these every day. Aside from lacking essential nutrients, they can also add up to a lot of extra calories.
Are you on a wheat-free diet? What are your strategies? What do you eat!? Help! Post your tips here, or in our Healthy Eating Forum.