The Gluten Freedom Project will not only help you learn to live gluten-free, it will give you the tools and knowledge you need to enjoy a healthy, nutrient-dense and well-balanced diet. All of the GFP meals & snacks (available for free when you register for GFP) have been evaluated according to our Spoonfuls of Health (SoH)™ system, a set of nutrition criteria we created to help you determine how healthy a meal is. SoH is based on recommendations of the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Cancer Society on how to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, achieve heart health and reduce the risk of cancer.
Next to each meal or snack you will see the three SoH spoons. One highlighted turquoise spoon means the meal or snack is considered "healthy", two spoons is "healthier", and three spoons is "healthiest." When possible, we offer suggestions for increasing the rating, typically by adding or subsituting organic, local and fresh ingredients.
We developed the following point system to calculate the SoH rating for a meal or snack:
Is there a variety of vitamins and minerals? Vitamins and minerals are most commonly present in brightly colored fruits and vegetables. The American Cancer Society recommends eating “five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day" to help prevent cancer. These foods contain important vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants and are usually low in calories. In general, those with the most color – dark green, red, yellow, and orange – have the most nutrients.
- +1 for variety of vitamins and minerals
Are the ingredients anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory?
Anti-Inflammatory: Research shows omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) at least 2 times a week because they may reduce the risk of heart disease. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include: flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans, grass-fed beef, halibut, tofu and shrimp. Reducing inflammation also supports the healing of the gastrointestinal tract. Research has also shown that grass-fed beef is substantially higher in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids when compared to conventionally raised beef.
Pro-Inflammatory: The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide suggests avoiding the following pro-inflammatory foods: Saturated and trans fats, highly refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, french fries, sugar-laden soda, etc.) which may increase levels of inflammatory messengers called cytokines.
- +1 for anti-inflammatory
- -1 for pro-inflammatory
Whole vs. processed or refined foods
When you eat whole foods, you're getting the food in its natural state, which means there is only one ingredient. Because the food is intact it is more likely to retain its vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. For example: almonds, apples or salmon. Processed foods, on the other hand, are produced using manufacturing methods to transform raw ingredients into packaged goods, which have a longer shelf life (e.g. turning a potato into a potato chip). Refined and processed foods are generally in a box, can, package or bag and have a food label with multiple ingredients. Processed foods generally have less nutrient content than whole foods.
- -1 for 1-2 refined ingredients
- -2 for 3+ refined ingredients
Are there preservatives, chemicals, fillers, artificial flavors or artificial colors?
Many substances are added to foods to prolong shelf and storage life and to enhance color, flavor, and texture. Some examples include artificial sweeteners like aspartame, preservatives like sodium benzoate, or flavor enhancers like MSG. Many of these ingredients have been linked to gastrointestinal disease, cancer, headaches, allergies and more.
- +1 for no additives/preservatives
- -1 for foods with additives, preservatives or artificial ingredients
Balance of macronutrients
Are the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) represented? This is what we are looking for in a balanced meal. When it comes to rating snacks, if there is only one macronutrient present and it is a carbohydrate, then it will get a 1 rating. This is because a carbohydrate (grain, bean, vegetable, fruit) gets digested the fastest, and therefore raises blood sugar the fastest. For snacks, it's best to pair a carbohydrate with either a healthy fat, a quality protein, or both.
Protein at every meal and snack
Examples of protein during meals include: Beef, buffalo, elk, venison, turkey, eggs, pork, chicken, duck, shrimp, lobster, mussels, clams, sardines, salmon, cod, halibut, mackerel, trout, tempeh, tofu, beans, peas, quinoa, Greek yogurt, cheese, protein powders, etc. While it's not always easy to get proteins in during snack time, a healthy fat like nuts, seeds, or an avocado is just as good.
Vegetables at every meal (these are carbohydrates)
Examples: focus on dark colored veggies, i.e.: red/orange and dark leafy greens: chard, beet greens, spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, arugula, broccoli, romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, yellow squash, zucchini, onions, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, eggplant, red peppers, yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, yams, asparagus, artichokes, avocados, sprouts, celery, green beans, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, beets carrots, radishes
Fruit: 2-3 times per day (these are carbohydrates)
Examples: apples, blueberries, melons, oranges, bananas, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, apricot, cherries, pineapple.
Healthy fats at every meal
Examples: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, flax oil, grapeseed oil, butter (organic), sesame oil, avocados, nuts, olives, and seeds.
Whole gluten-free grains and complex carbohydrates - In moderation and variety
Examples: Amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, teff, wild rice, split peas, oats (If you can tolerate). Legumes: black, garbanzo, kidney, navy, pinto beans, lentils, adzuki beans, black eyed peas, butter beans, soybeans (edamame), cannellini, mung and lima.
- +2 if there is a good balance
Is there at least a serving of fiber?
Eating the recommended fruits, vegetables and whole grains can give you enough fiber in your diet. The recommendation for older children, adolescents, and adults is 20 - 35 grams of fiber per day. Fiber has been shown to help maintain normal cholesterol levels, maintain normal blood sugar levels and support bowel regularity.
- +1 for <5g/fiber per serving
- +2 for >6g/fiber per serving
How does the meal rate for glycemic index (GI)?
Our added sugar motto is “Less is More Better”. The American Heart Association recommends an upper limit of 25 grams (6 tsp.) for women/day, 37 grams (9 tsp.) for men/day, and for children, it's 12 grams/day (3 tsp.). The conversion from grams of sugar to tsp is 4 grams = 1 tsp.
Reducing the amount of sugar consumption helps support healthy blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of diabetes, while also supporting heart health and immune system health.
According to the Glycemic Index Foundation, the glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.
- +1 for low GI (less than 55)
- 0 for moderate GI (Moderate 56-69)
-1 for high GI (greater than 70)
What About Fluids?
- You should be drinking your body weight in pounds divided by 2 = # of ounces of fluid per day (i.e., if you weigh 130 lbs, you should consume 65 ounces of water/day).
- Drink 2 C. of water for every cup of caffeinated drink (which are diuretics and serve to dehydrate you).
- Drink an additional 32 ounces of water for every hour of sustained exercise.
Water, juice diluted with mineral water 2x/wk, Pom or OJ enriched with calcium/vitamin D,
sun tea, fresh squeezed lemonade, veggie juices and green tea.
The Ideal Diet
With all the confusion today about what to eat, the bottom line is eat real foods. The less adulterated and processed your diet is, the more nutrients and healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates your body will get, the less you'll have to worry about meeting specific guidelines.