Recently, I powered through Gwyneth Paltrow diet detox, but I missed food I needed to chew before I swallowed it. This week, I'm trying a gluten-free diet.
Going gluten-free seems to be all the rage even among people who dont suffer from a major gluten intolerance (known as Celiac disease). Gluten intolerance and sensitivity can cause bloating and rashes, so its no surprise that people are looking for ways to avoid it.
At a glance, gluten-free sounds easy: I just scratch wheat, barley, rye and oats off my list, right? But in real life, that means no bread, no pasta, no battered foods, no pizza. (Deep breath.) Further upsetting my apple cart of microwavable eating is the use of gluten as a thickening agent in all my favorite processed and packaged foods: stuffing, certain canned foods, soy sauce, frozen dinners, ice cream, salad dressing, cheese mixtures, BBQ sauce it's getting depressing.
Midway through a healthy pour of Cap'n Crunch, it occurred to me that nothing I eat for breakfast is approved. My processed bacon is a no-go, my instant oatmeal packets are off the list, and my quantity-over-quality collection of sugar cereals are practically sprouting lips to scream, Girl, back off. I go to work sad, defeated, and hungry.
I settle on salad for lunch, but skip the dressing packet. Ever eaten a naked salad? For dinner, I repeat my greens, only this time, I DIY the dressing with gluten-free oil, vinegar, and spices.
See: Day 1. If I'm going to get through a week chewing up more than just salad, gluten-free means planning. Also known as: advanced grocery shopping.
And, it's expensive. Weekly shopping at Whole Foods means I need to moonlight as an investment banker. My food budget was easily 3x what I would normally spend.
After spending a full day's salary on short-lived, perishable chow at Whole Foods (Whole Paycheck nickname = not funny when it's my paycheck), I'm more prepared. Despite the fact that I've just forked over money I'd rather be spending on cheap processed food and makeup, rather than just food, I've got spelt bread, preservative-free fruit spreads, corn tortillas, specially marked cheese puffs, and enough organic produce to make me feel smug and self-righteous about my superior eating habits. Even if they're only two hours old.
Breakfast: hello, spelt toast! You don't taste nearly as nasty as the word spelt implies. And lunch? Ding! There goes the timer on my microwavable corn nuggets. This is a snap.
However, dinner rudely pulls the e-brake on my cruise-control dieting. Reading over the menu at Mr. Tang's Palace makes me realize I how little I know about the ingredients in Chinese food. Does anybody? Let's be honest: at best you're ordering #12 with chicken and at worst, you're selecting something the waiter has to help you pronounce. What I want is sweet and sour pork; what I get is a bland tray of steamed veggies that I can't even dump that mystery bottle of red sauce over. I spend the rest of the night awkwardly staring at my friends' more savory dishes until I'm told I'm weirding out the vibe. Tell me about it.
Worse: This is not the new me; this is the old me, who feels exactly the same, but is now just angry she can't eat a fortune cookie.
You've got to hand it to Whole Foods. Even a lobotomy patient could figure out the gluten-free beat here. I've been able to find a pinch hitter for just about everything I eat. Out goes the Capn Crunch and in comes the Honey Frosted Flakes. Scrapping starchy dough in favor of brown rice-crust pizza. Even my freezer's trophy shelf of frozen dinners has been replaced by specially marked GLUTEN-FREE!!! microwavable dinners.
Another night out to dinner with friends, and another night of entree-sized salad while everyone else enjoys pizza. I got detention, and everyone else got a gym pass.
After gluten-free breakfast bars and rice flour, organic-stuffed calzones for lunch, Im ready to actually make a dinner (Mom! Are you reading this?). Tonight at Chez Jenny is quinoa plus preservative-free chicken. Directions say to soak the quinoa for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking, then rinse, then drain, then boil, then fluff, then eat. These are instructions I can follow, but not necessarily at 7:47 when Im tired, stressed, and not interested in draining and fluffing. Especially when the payoff is soggy grains and chewy chicken that cooled way before my quinoa was done.
Plus, am I doing this wrong? This is the healthiest my diet has ever been, and I feel no different. For all this virtuous eating, I want to see some results. And by results, I dont mean a slimmer wallet.
The oven and I are going head to head one more time. Im making breakfast cookies because this feels like double-duty food. Eat it in the morning, or eat it as a snack, and everybody wins. Ill admit I dont have a stocked pantry, but gluten-free baking means specialty items. My cookies require sorghum flour, rice milk powder, and buckwheat cereal. They turn out fantastically but rice milk powder? Apparently I also miss cookies, because I managed to eat the whole serves 12 batch.
Tonight is the end of this dumb diet. Im sure I need to spend more time living gluten-free before I see benefits, but frankly, this should be called the Money Murdering Diet. Whether youre microwave-dependent or stove-friendly, youre still looking at specialty picks that wont play nice with your budget. And eating out is like navigating a landmine filled with wheat-bombs. Ive just spent a lot of money to feel like Same Old Jenny, but at least now I can celebrate with pizza.
Jenny's Other Diets
The Gwyneth Paltrow Diet Detox
I can work a takeout menu better than my microwave. And the stove? I kinda needed the storage. Still, Im a working girl trying to strike a better balance between healthy eating and real life, and there's got to be middle ground between pretending 4 martinis are a juice diet, and asking for quinoa at Mario Batali's newest hotspot. From raw food to juice fasts to macrobiotic to gluten-free, my gastrointestinal system will try on a number of different diets to see which one fits the budget, the lifestyle, and most importantly, the girl.
Got one I should try? Let me know!
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