On a Wheat Free Diet, What Can I Eat?
Wheat is so pervasive in our modern (western) society it’s no surprise people might think eating wheat free could be a challenge. And sometimes it is if you’re out and about or eating with friends, traveling, etc. But when we’re at home and have the luxury of preparing our own food, a no wheat diet is a cinch!
So What Does a No Wheat Diet Include?
The answer is plenty! My favourite wheat-free alternatives include:
- ‘Gluten free’ versions of everything you would normally eat
Obviously wheat free is not the same thing as grain free. If it were, you wouldn’t see rice on the above list. Quinoa however, is a great substitute because it’s actually a seed, a ‘superseed’ because it’s so high in protein and other good stuff. It’s hugely popular in the paleo community.
Polenta is made from cornmeal, ground yellow corn, and actually refers to the porridge-like meal you make from it, rather than the raw ingredient itself. Obviously it’s wheat-free, and filling, so you don’t need much of it to fill you up. It’s moderately high in calories, at approx 370 for 100 grams, however 100 grams of cornmeal goes a long way.
While there are many varieties of rice, the lowest calorie options are long grain basmati, or brown/purple rice. These are lower GI than white rice and generally less processed.
Replacing wheat-based food with vegetables wherever possible is by far the healthiest option, as you’ll be taking in more of the vitamins and minerals that vegetables offer, while keeping your calorie count lower and your blood sugar more stable.
Sweet potato is the starch of choice for anyone on a wheat-free or paleo diet, or trying to lose weight, as it’s a complex carbohydrate that is lower on the glycemic index than white potato, and slightly lower in calories. It’s also super high in vitamin A.
If you’re aiming for a low carbohydrate diet overall then it’s advised to keep your sweet potato and quinoa intake low, avoiding all other starchy foods and grains, and stock up on fibrous green vegetables for all round nutritional benefit. I’ve found that in almost any recipe, you can replace the carbohydrates with a pile of vegetables and not feel like you’re missing out.
Wheat Free Breakfast Ideas
Here are some wheat free breakfast ideas, if you’re used to a high carb breakfast like muesli or toast.
Smashed Avocado on Toast
Try one piece of gluten free toast with mashed avocado on it and a fried or poached egg. Alternatively you could add some low fat fetta cheese with the avocado for extra zest, or mix a boiled egg on as well.
Quinoa is one of the best forms of vegan protein available as it contains all 9 amino acids.
My favourite combination includes:
- 1/2 cup of quinoa, rinsed thoroughly under water
- 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
- 1 handful of blueberries
- 1 tbls walnuts
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbls mixed seeds
Heat the almond milk until simmering, add quinoa then lower heat and cook with a lid on until quinoa is cooked through. Sprinkle remaining ingredients on warn quinoa, add extra almond milk if necessary and enjoy. Of course you could use any combination you like instead of the above suggestions. Just go easy on the sweet additions and prioritise nuts and seeds.
Grilled polenta with mushrooms
One of my favourite combinations is as follows:
- 1/2 cup uncooked polenta
- 1 tbls butter or coconut oil
- 1 cup mushrooms
- 1/2 garlic clove
- 1 or 2 eggs
Polenta is easy to make on the stove and it sets hard so you can then slice and grill. Simply cook polenta according to the instructions on the packet, cool, slice and grill. Meanwhile stirfry mushrooms in butter or coconut oil, and pile on top of the grilled polenta. A poached egg and sprinkle of parmesan cheese and parsley tops it off!
You could include anything else that takes your fancy – bacon, avocado or spinach for example.
Wheat Free Lunch Ideas
Lunches can be tricky if you prefer not to take a packed lunch and eat on the go instead. However if you can make just 5 minutes available in the morning to pack your own it can make a huge difference to how your whole day goes. Here are some of my favourite easy lunches, for home or work.
Health coleslaw with chicken
One of my favourite combinations for a lunchtime salad includes:
- 2 cups pre-prepared coleslaw
- 100gm cooked shredded chicken
- a small handful of mixed nuts (I like pinenuts and almonds)
- 1 tbls mixed seeds (I like pumpkin and sunflower)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp avocado or olive oil
- small handful of fresh herbs (mint and basil work well)
- raisins or dried cranberries for a touch of sweetness (optional)
No complicated preparation needed here! Just combine ingredients and enjoy.
Rice cakes with ham and avocado
Thin rice cakes are usually only approx 25 calories each, and they’re a good base for toppings to replace bread. I love ham or turkey on mine, but you could use anything you wanted to. I didn’t have any photos of my rice cakes so the above image comes from Healthy Eating Hub who have some great ideas.
Leftovers! Sounds kind of obvious but if your evening meal is wheat-free and nutritionally balanced then why not just make enough to take to work for lunch the next day?
Wheat Free Dinner Ideas
Ginger and lemongrass chicken
Source: Rasa Malaysia
Serve this with quinoa, rice OR just green vegetables. This is an old favourite recipe of mine that can be done either in the slow cooker or on the stove – the longer you cook it the yummier it is. The full recipe is here. Delicious!
Zoodles (Zucchini spaghetti) with summer veggies
Of course any sauce you would normally have with pasta paired with zoodles instead is a great wheat free dinner option. You can buy a ‘zoodler’ or spiraliser at almost any kitchen/homewares shop these days or on Amazon – mine looks like a giant pencil sharpener.
- 1 large zucchini per person
- 1 tbls olive oil
- 1 cup each of mixed bell peppers and mushrooms
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tbls each chopped olive and sundried tomatoes
- 1/2 jar tomato based pasta sauce
- parmesan cheese
Spiralise the zucchini then lightly saute it until it’s al dente. Remove from pan and set aside then saute the mixed veggies including onion and garlic until they begin to soften. Add pasta sauce, olive and sundried tomatoes, warm through then return zucchini to the pan and toss together, being careful not to overcook the zucchini. Serve with parmesan cheese and fresh cracked pepper.
Pan fried salmon with greek salad
My boyfriend calls this salmon ‘surprise’ which makes me laugh because there’s not really any surprise in there – or there shouldn’t be! Maybe the surprise is that it’s wheat and sugar free and bloody yummy.
I couldn’t find one of my own photos of this meal so here’s one I’ve borrowed from Picture the Recipe.
- 200gm salmon fillet per person
- 1tbls peanut or coconut oil
- 1 green cucumber
- 2 large tomatoes
- handful pitted olives
- 25gm low fat fetta cheese per person
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp lemon juice
Simply pan fry salmon fillets (or buy them pre-cooked if you prefer) – I always start with the non-skin side face down first because it helps them hold together better. Just make sure you don’t overcook it because overcooked salmon is a tragedy. Make the greek salad by combining cucumber, tomatoes, olives and low fat fetta, plus plenty of olive oil and lemon juice.
Serve all together – you’ll likely find you don’t need any sauce for the salmon because the salad dressing will suffice.
Some More Wheat Free Eating Tips
Certainly in Australia we’re blessed to have an ever increasing array of gluten free food options available to replace the wheat. I’m wary of these because they often contain quite a bit of sugar (and as I’ve written recently, quitting wheat and sugar together seems to be the winning formula for me), however if you’re wanting to just take one step at a time, then going for gluten free options is a great place to start.
You’re probably wondering though what to do about all the other ways in which wheat plays a part in your diet, for example…
- Crumbed food. My advice is if you’re eating at home, experiment with a variety of different crumb options: crushed nuts, seeds, coconut, quinoa flakes, or just gluten free bread crumbs. I remember an old Weight Watchers recipe that coated chicken with crushed cornflakes. If you’re eating out, either avoid the crumbed choices, ask for it gluten free, or just go with it, knowing it’s a very small amount of wheat to be eating in the grand scheme of things.
- Stuffing. Again, you can use quinoa flakes or experiment with cooked rice or quinoa. There are some lovely gluten free stuffing options available online.
- Thickeners. The traditional ‘white sauce’ recipe used flour, so if you’re looking for an alternative you might consider just using cornflour to thicken a sauce, or check out this handy list of gluten free thickeners from Pop Sugar.
Hopefully the above small insight into how I eat these days (and I’ll confess, I keep my diet pretty simple and don’t experiment nearly as widely as I could with yummy wheat free recipes) has demonstrated that eating wheat free, depending partly on where you live, doesn’t have to be difficult. It does take some diligence and planning, but beyond this, we’re only limited by our imaginations 🙂