For readers interested in pursuing the ideas behind the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis (see my review here and my interview with Dr. Davis here), this post gives suggestions on how to apply a Wheat Belly-style diet optimized for weight loss, the elimination of visceral/belly fat, and improved digestive health:
* Wheat in all forms (um, duh.)
* Carbohydrates (especially carb-heavy junk foods, refined sugars and HFCS)
* Most "gluten-free" foods that substitute high-carb ingredients such as potato flour, cornstarch or rice starch in place of wheat flour
* Soft drinks and fruit juices
* Nearly all grains, including oats, bulgur, barley, rye, quinoa
* Nearly all breakfast cereals
* Most processed foods, especially those high in sugars and starches
* High-starch vegetables (e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes)
* High-sugar content fruits
* Fiber-rich, low-starch vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, onions, peppers, celery, green beans, cabbage, etc.)
* Leafy greens, salads
* Nuts and seeds
* Modest quantities of low-sugar fruit (blueberries, blackberries, cranberries or cherries)
* Pork, Beef, Chicken and other meats
* Eggs, cheeses and dairy
At the risk of oversimplifying, this diet essentially tells you to stay out of the bread and cereal aisles of your grocery store, and definitely stay out of the chips, cookies and snack food aisles. Instead, focus your food buying in the produce section, the meat and fish section and the dairy aisle.
A Quick Warning on "Gluten-Free" Foods
One very rich irony that I want to make extra clear to readers: most "gluten-free" foods merely replace traditional wheat flour with some other high-carbohydrate flour like rice flour or potato flour. Remember, the Wheat Belly diet doesn't just cut out gluten, it dramatically reduces your intake of carbs too. In other words, Wheat Belly followers may find themselves in the amusing position of avoiding both gluten-based foods and most foods that are aggressively advertised as "gluten-free." Just be warned.
Here at Casual Kitchen, we've been experimenting with this diet over the past few weeks, and while I'm by no means an expert, I can share a few hints on meal structure to help you adhere to a Wheat Belly-style diet.
Breakfast is easy: skip the overpriced, oversweetened, branded boxed cereal, get rid of the breads, toasts and muffins, and center your breakfasts around eggs. Eggs can be prepared in a million ways--so you'll never be short of variety--and nutritionally they are a nearly complete food.
Lunches were much more of a challenge for me, in part because I typically enjoy pasta after my mid-morning run. Sadly, pasta is off-limits: not only is it high in carbs, it's also made from gluten-heavy durum and/or semolina wheat. Instead, an energy-dense meal centered around nuts, avocados, sandwich meat (sans bread, of course), grilled chicken or fish can function quite well in its place.
Many readers will face the same challenges with dinner: many of our meals here at Casual Kitchen include gluten-rich foods (particularly pasta, we generally don't eat bread) or carb-rich foods (rice, brown rice, potatoes, etc.). If you eat like we do, you'll have to seriously rethink some the building blocks of your meals. That said, you might find it relatively easy to transition your dinners over to entrees like a big salad with grilled meat, or a delicious hummus platter accompanied by low-starch veggies like celery and green peppers. Even ultra-traditional foods like grilled cheeseburgers can be repurposed for this diet--just replace the bun with a lettuce or cabbage wrap. Again, the key is to focus your meals around proteins, dairy, low-starch veggies and salads.
Last, a quick thought on processed foods and snacks. If you're trying to lose weight or improve the health quality of your diet, ruthlessly eliminating high-sugar, high-gluten and high-carb junk foods is a critical and fundamental step. Our bodies convert these kinds of foods into visceral body fat with alarming efficiency.
At the end of the day, this diet offers some interesting logistical challenges, and you might find it simply isn't worth your while to pursue a low carb/gluten-free diet with 100% strictness. But I encourage readers to experiment with this diet to the extent they wish to and see what results they achieve. For one thing, you'll find yourself making some new and different food choices, and that alone could be a worthwhile learning experience. For us, it's been intriguing to rethink some of the basic building blocks of our meals--and it's made us far more mindful of the sheer quantity of wheat and carbs in our diet.
However, it's not our goal to embrace this diet religiously. Instead, we've been attempting some iterations to some of our meals (one major example: I've transitioned 100% of my breakfasts away from carbs/gluten and have centered them around protein, and I've discovered significant benefits in both satiety and energy levels during my morning writing sessions). We'll be tinkering with aspects of this diet over the coming weeks and months, and if there's anything interesting or worthwhile to report, I'll be sure to share it.
Readers, as I said before, I'm far from an expert at low-carb/low-gluten eating. What thoughts and ideas would you add to the conversation? Share your thoughts!
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