20 July 2010

Gluten-Free Breakfast Favorites and An Important Clarification

Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. I'm definitely a morning person and I attribute part of that to my consistent consumption of delicious breakfast (or brunch) meals.

Van's Natural Foods Wheat Free/Gluten Free Waffles -- Since I am unemployed and can leisurely prepare breakfast each morning, 3-4 days per week I simultaneously prepare one Van's Natural Foods Wheat Free/Gluten Free Waffle topped with fresh berries and pure maple syrup, two scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and a small glass of either skim milk or orange juice. The Van's waffles really are the star of the show -- all flavors I have tried (Apple Cinnamon, Blueberry and Flax) are terrific, and only $2.99 per box of six waffles at Whole Foods. They are very allergen-friendly (wheat/gluten free, dairy free, egg free) and sweetened with fruit juice, but believe me you would never know the difference (I had a couple waffles left when leaving my family's summer house and my father eagerly gobbled them up as I was packing). If I really need or deserve a treat, sometimes I also fry up some bacon (although I officially decided today I do not like turkey bacon -- I think it tastes like hot dogs!). I buy medium or light amber maple syrup (if you grow up in New Hampshire, you really have a distinct preference) and expensive cheddar cheese from small local farms to enhance my culinary experience -- I deserve it! Although this meal may sound indulgent, it's actually fairly nutritionally balanced and a fantastic way to start the day (a recent Runner's World Magazine article confirms my analysis).

Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Dairy Free English Muffins -- I discovered these English muffins by chance and they've become a staple of my new gluten-free diet. I use them for hamburger/veggie burger buns as well as breakfast and snacks. When eating them for breakfast, I usually toast to a golden brown (they don't taste very good otherwise), spread with almond butter and top with a quartered banana -- great fuel for any activity. The only complaint I have about them other than the need to be toasted well is that all the packages for sale are nearly always near expiration and therefore I usually find myself cutting bits of mold off the crust despite keeping them in the refrigerator. In typical GLB fashion, I will be contacting Trader Joe's customer service department (nicely, of course), especially since they are $3.49 for four.

thinkThink Bars -- As mentioned in a previous post, I've been a nutrition bar addict for years. Wheat protein and other gluten ingredients are obviously a huge component of these energy snacks, leaving most of my favorites literally off the table for me. Thankfully not thinkThin bars. They are like candy bars to me. Candy bars containing 20 grams of protein, no sugar, no gluten, no cholesterol, no trans fats. The seemingly magical soy and whey protein substance they are made of is phenomenal. Don't be alarmed by the name either; I'm not trying to lose weight. They are called thinkThin because they are made of a slow-digesting protein designed to keep you fuller longer; some people use them for portion control. My favorite flavors are White Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Chunky Peanut Butter. They also come in a smaller, 100 calorie variety called thinkThin Bites which I used to bring to work to eat on the drive home pre-run/workout -- all three flavors (Chocolate Toffee Nut, Cookies & Cream and White Chocolate Raspberry) are fantastic.

Trader Joe's Maple Cranberry Nut Granola -- In my gluten-consuming days, I ate a lot of granola for breakfast and snacks (please someone eat a huge bowl of Cascadian Farm Organic Dark Chocolate Almond Granola with strawberries in my honor -- you can thank me later). Gluten free granola I saw in stores was beyond expensive (over $6 for a small bag) so I decided to stick with other breakfast options and try it some gainfully employed day. Then browsing in Trader Joe's a few weeks ago I noticed they suddenly had two varieties of gluten-free granola, for only $3.49 per bag of the exact same size as the more expensive brands! I was sold. I had a bowl as soon as I got home and fell in love with the mix of crunchy corn cereal, nuts, flax seeds, dried cranberries and maple flavor. And guess what I noticed in Whole Foods today? It's the exact same appearance and ingredients as Bakery On Main Nutty Maple Granola which sells for nearly twice the price! I suspect the same goes for the Extreme Fruit and Nut variety which Trader Joe's offers a similar flavor I have yet to try. I have deduced that Trader Joe's is buying granola from Bakery on Main to package as their own -- do not be fooled, friends.

I also realized something today that I should clarify. I have not been doing a very good job discerning between truly gluten-free items and items which do not contain gluten ingredients. Confused? Ever look at the nutrition facts and ingredients label on a product and see a warning such as "Manufactured in a facility that processes wheat, soy and nuts"? The government requires food manufacturers not only to clearly label the product as containing one of the top eight food allergens (wheat, milk, soy, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish), but also state if the item is produced in a facility where other allergens are present. This is because some people's food allergies are so sensitive they could become ill or die from microscopic traces of an allergen (prime example: peanuts). And this is why you see asinine food labels of a jar of mixed nuts with a label saying "contains tree nuts." As I do not have full-blown celiac disease and my body is intolerant to gluten, I do not tend to heed these wheat warnings (it is listed as wheat, not gluten, but wheat is not the only food element gluten is found in). Now this certainly could affect me very negatively someday, but until I get "glutened," I am going to carry on as I have been. I would just hate for someone to read about something I have posted and believe it to be 100% gluten free when it may not be (although I know my fellow gluten-free friends are naturally quite thorough in their food choices). I will try to be better about this going forward.

Great to be back in the blogosphere. Looking forward to sharing my delicious, nutritious and gluten-free recipe submission to the Somerville Road Runners Summer Side-Off on Thursday night -- wish me luck!

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