When it comes to feeling energized and having that pep in your step each day, what you put on your plate really matters. Food can be fuel, where it nourishes your body and helps it perform at its best, or it can weigh you down and give you that not-so-hot feeling.
And while every body is different, there’s a vast population of people who do feel naturally better when slashing grains from their diet. Eating fresh produce, lean proteins, and healthy snacks that are totally grain-free (like our bars) might just help you feel lighter and more comfortable each day.
While more research is needed on the effects, it’s pretty safe to say that nixing grains (that means gluten, wheat, corn starch, and hidden malt, among other sneaky offenders) has been shown to support digestive health, by reducing inflammation and keeping your gut flora happy.
And what happens when that bacteria in your gut are feeling chipper? You can enjoy a trimmer waistline, less bloating, and stable energy to keep you awake and in a great mood all day long. Who doesn’t want that, right? What’s more, lowering intake of refined grains can also limit blood sugar spikes, so you can feel more balanced after eating meals and can avoid that dreaded sugar rush and subsequent crash.
If you’re on board with going grain-free, you need to beware of some surprising sources where grains may exist. Of course you’ll want to ditch grains like wheat, rye, oats, and rice, but watch out for these other hidden culprits, too.
You might want to chomp on these for a salty treat, but pickles may contain grains! Think of pickles as you would of beer (yes, that means beer is off the no-grain diet, too!). Often times pickling will include malt vinegar, which can definitely contain gluten. Try pickling your own veggies at home if you’re concerned with gluten traces.
If you want a stock for your soup, be careful and read the labels before purchasing at the store. If there is maltodextrin on the label, that’s a code word for gluten, so put that product right back on the shelf. Instead, make your own stock or check the ingredient list of another brand.
Sauces and Dressings
We know—you might love your turkey lathered in gravy but you have to ditch it when you’re going grain-free. Most gravy recipes have flour, which is gluten, but even some sneaky instant gravy options at your local market do, too. And beyond gravy, even just sauces and salad dressing, like soy sauce (it has gluten!) and salad dressings have grain-based ingredients. Instead, whip up your own sauce or dressing at home or lightly drizzle some olive oil with squeezed lemon over salads, meat, and fish.
Fries and Potato Chips
If you’re making your own baked potato at home, you’re safe. However, if you’re eating out or buying packaged potato chips or fries, they may have been cooked in the same type of frying oil that was used to make battered, similar options, like fried onion rings and tater tots.
When dining, inquire about the cooking process and tell your waiter of your grain-free diet. (Or to be safe, just don’t order the fries and go with a plain potato or green veggie instead!)
“Wheat Free” Products
If you’re grain-free, it’s not just wheat and gluten you need to worry about. Many products that are labeled wheat free tend to have grain sources, like barley or rye, instead. Make sure to read the entire package label before purchasing!
If you’re buying frozen broccoli that’s plain, you’re okay—but if you’re getting a frozen veggie dish that is in some sort of sauce (like soy) or marinade, there could definitely be some traces of grains in there. Instead, get veggies that are frozen and sauce-free—they’ll probably be lower in sodium, too!
Be wary of those processed lunch and deli meats, as there may be seasonings or binders that consist of grain-containing foods, like rye or wheat. Plus, they’re pretty hefty in sodium, which isn’t doing your body or belly any good! Instead, make your own roasted chicken or turkey breast at home and DIY lettuce-cup sandwiches to keep on hand for easy lunches all week.
Going grain-free isn’t hard when you have the right set of guidelines in place and are reaping the rewards. With some small diet tweaks, you can totally re-set and transform your mind and body into feeling at its peak performance each day.
Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and author of 5-Minute Energy. She can't resist a good sample, a margarita, a new HIIT class, or an easy laugh. She writes for various magazines, such as Men's Health, Women's Health, SELF, LIVESTRONG, POPSUGAR, Allure, Health, Cooking Light, and more. Learn more about her on her website: isadorabaum.com.