Going “grain-free”. Holy hell. Seriously? WHY?
WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT?!
I know…and I get it. Sounds horrifying to my fellow carb lovers. And if YOU don’t have celiac or another issue that’s making you go nuts, why would you CHOOSE to give them up?
Wellllll…how about cuz your kid gets cancer. And you learn a ton of stuff about to keep their body healthy as they go through treatment. And you find out refined carbs and grains don’t fit that mold (shocker). And you’re certainly not going to make changes to their diet without making changes to yours…cuz it just doesn’t work that way.
I’m not going to get into all the “science-y stuff” here…but I will say that there is LOTS of credible evidence that has emerged showing that carbs and grains (especially refined) are NOT a good choice…ESPECIALLY when dealing with cancer. If you’re interested in learning more about all that “science-y” stuff, I’ll refer you to my partner in crime, Season Johnson’s blog (she’s mad smart).
So…knowing myself that diet is SO important to overall health. And then knowing that grains in general won’t help my baby in her fight against cancer. And THEN being the damn stubborn momma that I am who’s always up for a challenge.…we did it…we went grain-free. (Full disclosure…”MOSTLY grain-free”…more on that in a bit).
If you’re like me and my family, transitioning to a grain-free, even just MOSTLY grain-free, is hard…but many are trying because they know – for one reason or another – it’s worth the effort. So here are my three biggest tips on how we’ve managed to do it with three littles who are Super-Duper (with a capital S and D, as you can see) PICKY!
Tip One: STOP BUYING IT!
This may see obvious…but really, it’s not. I remember the days we first started on this journey and found myself walking down the bread aisle. Not because I consciously wanted to buy bread (that’s a “duh” when it comes to cutting out grains) but because it was a habit! So while it kinda sucks for awhile as the family starts to get used to the change…trust me, eventually they do. Cuz let’s be honest…they have to. I buy the groceries and I’m in charge (DON’T FORGET THAT!). This is a much easier process if you have two things in place…#1, a partner who’s supportive of your efforts and #2, if you start finding some family-approved replacements! Not sure how to help you with #1 if that’s not the case. But I CAN help you with #2…here goes.
Tip Two: FIND REPLACEMENTS.
One of the biggest life-savers in all of tis is finding “hacks” for some of the carb-staples we used to have around the house. It can be a bit of a struggle to find replacements but trust me, it’s worth it!
Instead of Bread:
- Organic Romaine Lettuce – make wraps! Not always my kids’ fave but the hubby and I love it. Nice big pieces make it easy to hold all sorts of traditional sandwich stuff like egg salad, diced chicken/taco stuff, tuna salad, etc.
- Grain-Free Sandwich Bread – this recipe from Danielle Walker of Against All Grain is my fave…not so much for sandwich bread but it’s replaced my kids’ love for buttered toast and it’s GREAT for dishes like french toast too!
- NOTHING! – yep, nothing. My kids have gotten used to hamburgers and hot dogs without a bun and it’s FINE. And their fave lunch? Organic roasted turkey lunch meat and a slice of raw cheese rolled up. They call ’em “turkey-cheese roll ups” (…or in Cassidy’s case “cheese-turkey roll ups” cuz she likes the cheese on the outside and has this intense need to always be different…love that…usually.)
Instead of Traditional Pancakes/Waffles/Muffins:
- Paleo Pancakes – YUM! I’ve experimented with many recipes to find the one my kids love best. This one from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen has emerged the winner. Even Sawyer, my biggest critic, loves these! Top with lots o’ pastured butter and a little pure, organic, grade B (less processed and refined) maple syrup IF they need it (don’t assume they do!).
- Grain-Free Muffins! Find your fave recipe and make it like crazy! My fam loves when they’re tiny (so much more fun, right?) we I use the smaller size pan. Easy to pack for little snacks or vacay too. Tons from the super-fab George Bryant, a.k.a, The Civilized Caveman. Check-em out here!
- Waffles – as with most things I’ve listed here, make a bunch and FREEZE them…then you can pop these in the toaster for an easy, quick breakfast! The sweet and lovely, Carrie Vitt of Deliciously Organic has one of our fave recipes!
- Grain Free Crepes – get this…they taste like CREPES (not all grain free options taste like their grainy counterpart) or, something we LOVE in our family, Swedish Pancakes! I’ve tried a lot of these…our fave is in Carrie Vitt’s cookbook, The Grain-Free Family Table. Buy it…seriously.
Instead of Noodles:
- Kelp Noodles – sounds gross, totally isn’t! We use as more of a “filler” than a total noodle replacement. So for spaghetti, we add it to the meat and sauce and it’s more of a casserole. Super nutrient-dense and takes on the taste of whatever you add it to! Check out recipes and ideas here.
- Zoodles – as much fun to eat as it is to say. Use a food processor or Vegetti (another fun word and one of my “As Seen On TV” purchases…anyone else addicted?) to make zucchini into long noodle-y strips. Top with anything you’d top noodles with. Dani actually loves these with just a little lime juice and sea salt!
- Spaghetti Squash – didn’t know this would fly until we went to a friends’ house for dinner and they served it. It’s not my kids’ fave option…but they’ll eat it.
Tip Three: CHEAT.
I know…dumb tip, right? And it all depends on you and your unique circumstances. But cheating a little here and there has helped us for a few reasons. #1, Dani’s doing remarkably well and as long as it’s not during a critical time (she’s sick or just had a big chemo dose or something), giving her a little isn’t the worst thing in the world. I do try to make sure it’s at the very least properly prepared (soaked/sprouted) and organic/non-GMO. #2, after eating cleaner and reducing grains/gluten…our tastes and preferences are starting to change! None of us feel that great after we do eat it, actually and it has started a few discussions and “teachable moments” for my kids to understand the importance of the fuel they’re putting in their body.
So there you have it…
The sort-of, most-of-the-time, doing-the-best-we can, grain-free transition. Is it a challenge? It can be. But I wouldn’t go back. Not only because of the importance with regard to Dani’s cancer…but for all of us. We’re healthier, have more energy, and as we keep learning and implementing…it’s getting easier and easier.
Cancer has taken many things from us. Things I’ve had to accept. But THIS? THIS is something we can control. There are good days and bad days. Days where I feel completely on top of it all…and days when I give in and throw some organic gluten-free cereal in front of my kids and disappear to the deck with my coffee (or wine, depending on what time of the day it is). #breakfastfordinner #brutalhonesty 🙂
So I get it…it seems like a lot and some people don’t get it. I used to BE one of those people! And when we started this journey, I used to care more about explaining myself…but I really don’t anymore. Because I know…and that’s what matters the most.