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Why Hate the Grains?

Fruit & Vegetable Box

Image by karimian via Flickr

Starting Monday, May 9th, the hubs and I embarked on an experimental 2 weeks of going grain free.

There are many reasons for this. I’ve been inspired by a few bloggers and Facebook friends. I’m trying to lose weight so I can win some cloth diapers. I like to try new things. ;)

But the main motivation behind it all is that I am also – duh duh – trying to cut out sugar.

Here’s the thing…when people were first suggesting the idea of going grain free to me, I was not interested. You see, if bread was a person, I would marry him. Or her. I wouldn’t care. I adore bread. I could live off bread.

Are you getting the picture here?

But then I read this article shared by Garden Variety Mama (one of the many bloggers I heart): Is Sugar Toxic?

I had always planned to keep sugar from the Bean until she was at least 2 years old, and this article made me start thinking it would be good to cut it out for myself too. I actually don’t have a huge sweet tooth, but every so often, that mini chocolate cake in the grocery store bakery calls my name, and I usually answer.

That’s part of why my journey to become more healthy has been something of a rocky one. I’ve had many successes – only 3 diet cokes consumed over the past 2 months; fast food only once. We’ve been eating a ton more veggies and fruits, a ton more home cooked, unprocessed foods…but then I get stressed or tired or lazy or just craving and I buy crap. And then I eat it. (Lovely picture, no?).

But I was truly inspired when I read this other post from Garden Variety Mama – Why Grain Free?, and further encouragement came on Facebook right around the same time, and I thought, what the heck?

As GVM talks about in her post – she started by giving up sugar – but then she realized how many grains our body treats the same way as it does sugar.

Let me say – I don’t think grains are evil or believe that they are always bad for us; I don’t think I’ll be doing this forever (though it may be longer than I originally planned) but I do agree with GVM and many others that if we are going to eat grains, they should probably be of the sprouted and/or fermented (sourdough) variety, and they should probably be made at home, with home ground flour, and they should probably be consumed with a lot of moderation…all of which is something I’m going to need to ease into.

And, with GVM, I think if I’m going to totally give up sugar – at least for a time – that it would be easier to give up the grains as well. Otherwise I might just compensate for the sugar lack with more grains!

So it basically comes down to this – I’m trying it.

I’m not a total convert yet. I don’t (at this point) agree that our bodies weren’t meant to ingest grains (though I haven’t done a whole lot of research into it…I might become convinced – who knows?).

All in all, it’s an experiment. As I am now on Day 5, here are a few of the pros and cons I’ve found with going grain free:

Pros…

  • Including protein (and often fruit) in breakfast has totally made up for the earlier waking necessary to actually make breakfast (as opposed to sticking a few Eggos into the toaster). I would frequently start feeling sickly hungry around 9 or 10 after just eating frozen waffles – now breakfast lasts a lot longer!
  • I’ve lost 5 pounds. In 5 days. (Don’t worry – I have a lot to lose, and if you are overweight you usually do lose weight more quickly in the beginning. As you probably know, 1-2 pounds per week is generally considered safe for weigh loss).
  • I feel more healthy. It’s a bit of an intangible, but many of you know that if you’ve given up or cut back on processed foods and you eat a McD’s burger or a bag of chips, you feel like crap afterward. I haven’t had that feeling in awhile. :)
  • I have more energy. I’ve been getting less sleep due to Bean going through a growth spurt and waking up lots, and I still hate waking up, but throughout the day I do feel a bit less tired than usual.
  • It requires focus and planning to be healthy – basically, I’m forced to plan my meals and make sure they’re good to fall within the limits of grain free while still getting enough to eat. For me, that’s helpful – otherwise how easy is it to just load up on carbs when you’re hungry?

Cons…

  • The first few days were pretty difficult and I do still get cravings for bread and sugar. It’s getting easier but I’m afraid that I may still slip up (especially around the time Aunt Flo will be visiting…all my good food intentions seem to just fly out the window as soon as she’s on her way!).
  • It seems complicated and a lot of work if you want to still have ‘bread-like’ things but use other kinds of flour. So far I haven’t ventured into any of that – we’ve mainly stuck to proteins, veggies, fruits and dairy – but some of the recipes I’ve been looking into look pretty complicated, or require searching for odd ingredients (chia seed flour?). I don’t totally knock it, but it’s kind of a peeve of mine - like vegetarians who mostly eat fake meat, it seems strange to go grain free and then pile up on the fake bread. Sometimes, yes – for sure. But with every meal…? (I don’t think it would bother me as much if one was forced to go grain free due to food intolerances)

That’s mainly all I can think of right now. I have also discovered that you don’t have to only eat a whole ton of meat and eggs – we have done steak and eggs for breakfast, but we’ve also done smoothies with fruit and tofu and fruit and cheese.

Snacking isn’t that hard either – apples and peanut butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, veggies and hummus – all make for good and easy snacks, and are probably way better than many grain based snacks. I’ve also started drinking kefir and brewing dandelion flower tea daily.

We have been eating more meat and eggs than we usually do, though we’re still fitting in 4 out of 7 vegetarian dinners (butternut squash soup with tofu added, lentils, eggplant & leeks, stir fry, and  bean soup with avocado have been part of our plan for this past week).

An awesome FB fan posted this recipe for zucchini pizzas the other day that looks amazing – it is definitely going on the list for next week! We’ve also made sure a lot of our meat consumption is fish or lean cuts.

All this because I like to limit meat for 2 reasons – it’s expensive (particularly if you buy organic, or at least hormone/antibiotic free) and I have high cholesterol, which is the main reason we started eating more vegetarian in the first place.

As far as sugar…

I admit it – I did buy a Snicker’s bar on Tuesday. It was totally my fault for lack of pre-planning – I was out with the Bean all afternoon and got super hungry – I didn’t want to do fast food, I was in ToysRUs and had to leave to pick up the husband from work shortly, and I knew dinner wouldn’t be ready right away…

I know – excuses, excuses.

But beyond that, I haven’t even been craving sugar at all – and I don’t think it will harm me one little bit if I don’t have it anymore. I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes…

If you’re interested in going grain free, there are many awesome resources out there, but here are a few that have helped me:

As soon as I have my menu plan done for next week I’ll post it – always helpful to have ideas, right?

One more thing – I know this is getting long – but I just wanted to add a note in here about recognizing that I do see it as a privilege for me personally to decide to give up a major food group and still be fully satisfied and never hungry. I know there are many people in this world who would be very grateful for bread or rice (or even the ‘problem’ of having weight to lose!) and I am trying to be mindful of that…it is actually something I have been/will be focusing on and thinking about during this time…

Have you or would you go grain free? What about it appeals to you, or why do you think it would be difficult?



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