This is a guest post by Emily Kennedy, MIM’s new nutritionist who brings a fresh approach to Therapeutic Diet Plans, with a bounty of good ideas for preparing fresh foods. Today’s topic is for families incorporating a gluten-free diet into their daily routine.  Welcome Emily!

By now you may have noticed that gluten is becoming “the new fat” as more people are shying away from foods that contain this “sticky” protein that is formed when dough is kneaded. Gone are the days when only people diagnosed with celiac disease would have to scavenge for cardboard-like gluten-free (GF) grain products in obscure health food stores. GF products have made it to the mainstream with everything from baking mixes to beer promoting themselves as free of this wheat misfit. There are even gluten-free skin products!

Is it really that important to go gluten-free? For some, yes! Since the late 1990s scientists have known about the effect of gluten sensitivity on brain function, particularly in children with ADHD and autism. It has become more accepted that elevated gliadin levels are linked to learning disabilities, delayed development, memory impairment, headaches and even lackadaisical muscle tone. (Gliadin is the antibody to gluten that shows up in allergy testing.) So, yes, an increasingly gluten-conscious society is a good thing.

However, as a nutritionist and foodie, GF products present a bit of dilemma to me. Clients who require them really do function much better when they are rid of this belly fat-promoting, brain fog-triggering, digestive irritant…but these products either taste awful, or are full of ingredients that are too processed to garner any nutritional benefit. In other words, it’s still high-GI, refined carbohydrate (aka “white carb trash”) that’s stripped of healthy B vitamins, antioxidants, fibre, and minerals!

First and foremost, I want the foods I recommend for executing the therapeutic diets prescribed by Drs. Gannage and Beatty to be palatable. Its got to taste good, or else no one will want to eat it! Therapeutic diets are meant to empower you with more energy and zeal for life, not nudge you into a corner full of can’t s. Foregoing wheat, barley and rye – the gluten-containing grains – still leaves rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth and pure oats open for delicious culinary creations. There’s also no reason to think you (or your child) can never have the “normal” foods that make special occasions, like birthday cake (please try the yummy recipe below).

My family and I are busy, just like everyone else. Busy, busy, busy, trying to make the best choices for our children while managing our own needs. I have a core repertoire of nutrient-dense dishes I always prepare because I know they are quick and everyone will enjoy them. As MIM’s new nutritionist, I’m looking forward to helping you learn what flavourful, hypoallergenic meals best suit your body’s needs and hectic life. Here’s to no more dry GF junk!

Yummy Gluten-free Birthday Cake – bonus: it’s sweet, but no refined sugars!

This is one of a few wheat-free dessert recipes I love. Taken from of Sprout Right – Nutrition from Tummy to Toddler (Penguin, 2010).

4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour mix* (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp cardamom (optional)
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup vanilla rice milk
1 cup apple or pear juice
½ cup sunflower oil
½ cup maple syrup
1 tbsp vanilla
2 cups grated carrots
½ cup raisins (soaked in hot water and drained)
½ cup walnuts or sunflower seeds, chopped

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, cinnamon, salt, cardamom, and nutmeg.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the rice milk, apple juice, sunflower oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Stir in the grated carrots. Add to the dry ingredients and blend thoroughly in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Add raisins and walnuts and mix thoroughly.

3. Pour batter into two lightly greased 9-inch (1.5 L) round baking pans. Bake in 350ºF (180ºC) oven for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out dry. Cool on rack before frosting with Sweet Potato Icing. Makes 1 double-layer cake.

* Or make your own gluten-free flour mix of 3 cups brown rice flour, ½ cup potato starch, and ½ cup tapioca starch.

Sweet Potato Icing

4 medium sweet potatoes
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp maple or agave syrup

Score the skin and squeeze the sweet potato out into a food processor or bowl. Add cinnamon and syrup and process or beat until smooth. Adjust to taste and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes approximately 1½ cups (375 mL).

Emily Kennedy, RHN can be reached by appointment at (905)294-2335, or by emailing info@integrative-medicine.ca.

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