As someone who follows a gluten-free diet you undoubtedly are exposed to a wide variety of grains many Americans have never heard of, including teff, sorghum, millet, wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth. All of these grains are healthy and nutritious.
You also may eat plenty of gluten-free breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals made from unenriched refined flour and starch, such as white rice, milled corn, and tapioca starch.
In general, foods made primarily from these ingredients are not very healthy. Simple steps you can take to make sure the gluten-free grain foods you eat pack a nutritional punch include:
Choosing breads, cereals, pastas, and mixes made from gluten-free whole grains and flours over those made from refined grains and flours. When choosing between products, read the ingredient list making sure the first ingredient of the food you buy is a whole grain — amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, teff, wild rice, sorghum, millet, whole corn, brown rice, or oats (gluten-free varieties only).
Also, compare the fiber content of the foods you are considering purchasing. There are an increasing number of manufacturers of gluten-free whole grain products, including Nu-World Amaranth (nuworldamaranth.com), Bob’s Red Mill (bobsredmill.com), Quinoa Corporation (quinoa.net), Arrowhead Mills (arrowheadmills.com), Only Oats (onlyoats.com), Authentic Foods (authenticfoods.com), Cream Hill Estates (pureoats.com), and The Birkett Mills (thebirkettmills.com).
Choosing enriched and refined breads, breakfast cereals, pasta, and mixes over varieties that are unenriched and refined. You can tell whether a food is enriched by reading the ingredient list. For grain foods, the B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid will be listed along with the mineral iron. Currently only a handful of manufacturers enrich their gluten-free products.
However, enriched brands are well known and readily available in natural food stores and some supermarkets. Enjoy Life Foods (enjoylifefoods.com) enriches bagels, granola cereals, and snack bars. Ener-G Foods (ener-g.com) enriches breads, rolls, buns, muffins, and pizza crust. Glutino (glutino.com) enriches breads, bagels, and pizza crust. Kinnikinnick Foods (kinnikinnick.com) enriches breads, muffins, bagels, pizza crust, and mixes. Maple Grove Gluten-Free Foods enriches some Pastariso and Pastato brand pastas. Perky’s Natural Foods fortifies breakfast cereal. Gluten-Free Creations (glutenfreecreations.com) enriches breads, bagels, donuts, muffins, pizza crust, and mixes. General Mills (generalmills.com) fortifies their Rice Chex cereal (remember Rice Chex is now gluten free and other gluten-free Chex cereals should be finding their way onto supermarket shelves soon). If you know of other enriched or fortified gluten-free breads, pastas, breakfast cereals, and baking mixes please include them in the comments section.
Choosing lower fat grain foods most of the time. Use the Nutrition Facts label to compare the fat content of different products. You may be surprised by the amount of fat in some gluten-free foods. For example, we tend to think of pretzels as being a low-fat choice. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 1 ounce of hard pretzels contains 0.75 gram of total fat. A one ounce serving of a popular gluten-free hard pretzel contains approximately 6 grams of fat. The gluten-free version contains 5 1/4 grams more fat than the wheat-based product!
For more information about healthy gluten-free eating please see the book The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide on the Books page.
Copyright © by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD
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