Monday, August 6, 2012

Q & A: Gluten-Free Pretzels not Better for Weight Loss; Gluten-free cookie recipe

Q.            I was wondering if I should buy gluten-free pretzels to help me lose weight? I have been hearing people comment about using gluten-free foods for that purpose. B.M. Grandville

A.            There is no need to choose gluten-free pretzels over regular pretzels unless you need to avoid gluten, such as with celiac disease. Take a look, but I have noticed that the gluten-free foods seem to have the same or even more calories than traditional foods.

            Even though there are a lot of products proclaiming that they are gluten free, just what does gluten-free mean? It means that the product does not have the grains that contain gluten, such as wheat, rye and barley. Oats are iffy, as they may be contaminated with gluten if they are processed in a facility that packages gluten-containing grains. Oats must be certified gluten free to be OK.

            Gluten is the protein part of a grain that makes bread springy and helps the yeast make the bread rise. Gluten-free breads are often heavier and denser because of this.

            A gluten-free eating plan for celiac disease is one of the most difficult ones to follow, as it means limited restaurant foods. There is no regular breads for sandwiches, no regular pizza, no regular pasta, and no breaded foods, unless these items are made specially gluten-free.

            Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease that can lead to malnutrition because the intestine becomes damaged from the gluten and unable to absorb nutrients. It is very important to follow the gluten-free diet as strictly as possible, because the gluten triggers an immune response that can affect other parts of the body, too.

            If someone is newly diagnosed with celiac disease, they may be referred to a registered dietitian for guidance. I see a number of people with celiac, and I always recommend getting connected with others with celiac (just Google your city for celiac support group to find the nearest one).  There are a number of good resources online for gluten-free ideas, recipes and information such as

            And I always tell people that if it were me, I would start with simple changes first, such as using potatoes and rice as the starchy side dish rather than bread or noodles. Then later you can hunt around for acceptable gluten-free breads and pastas (you may need to try a few before you find one you like).

            I am always scouting recipes for ones that can be used for people with celiac as well as for the rest of us.  You may have seen this peanut butter cookie recipe around, but it turns out great with absolutely no flour. You’ll have to try it to believe it.

Peanut Butter Cookies (Gluten-free)
 from Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog

1 cup peanut butter (they prefer Jif)
1 cup white sugar
1 egg

Beat all ingredients in a bowl. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Press each cookie with a fork.
Bake 350 F oven for 10-11 minutes. Yields 16 cookies (I usually double the recipe).

Nutritional information per cookie:  147 calories, 4 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 15 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber.

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