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Can You Switch to a Grain-Free Diet Without Being a Health Nut?

Updated on July 21, 2017

Health nuts wake up at 5 am to do yoga and tend to their kale garden. Normal people add extra sugar to their fruit loops, and like their doughnuts dipped in muffins.

But normal people can make this extreme diet change - I know from personal experience.

My story: switching to a grain free diet cured my IBS

I've always experienced mild irritable bowel syndrome. I won't go into the details but let's just say my guts were mildly painful and often bloated, I had to spend way too much time on the throne, and I avoided social situations due to discomfort. In my early 30's the symptoms seemed to worsen.

I was raised on a typical North American diet - pancakes, cereal, thick sandwiches, mountains of pasta. A naturopath suggested a grain free diet, and after thinking about it for several years I finally decided to try it.

Fast forward a few years - after many false starts, I've eliminated grains from my diet, without sacrificing taste. And I'm very, very glad I did - the irritable bowel symptoms which I'd experienced lifelong are now gone. Plus, I've discovered a number of other positive changes in my body, such as not getting sleepy in the afternoons, losing belly fat without trying, and seeing dramatic improvements in eczema I used to get on my hands.

I wrote this guide to help anyone else who desires the benefits of a grain free diet but is intimidated by the perceived difficulty of the switch (basically everyone).

Even normal people can switch to a grain free diet sustainably by following these steps:

Identify your cravings
Identify your cravings | Source

Step 1: Identify your cravings and comfort foods

We all have foods that are satisfying. We tend to know these foods well, since we've made them a million times, and this make these meals our go tos.

Make a list of your go to comfort foods - the foods that you make when it's already 6:00 and you need a quick meal that you know will satisfy you. Be honest - if you know that you crave pastry with filling in the morning, write that down. If you know that at dinner time you crave the feeling of being "full", write that down.

Bookmark 14 grain free recipes

Bookmark 14 grain free recipes to get yourself started. Each of these recipes will become a tool in your grain free cooking toolbox.
Bookmark 14 grain free recipes to get yourself started. Each of these recipes will become a tool in your grain free cooking toolbox.

Step 2: Bookmark 14 grain free recipes that look delicious and will satisfy your cravings

The 14 recipes should include:

  • 3 breakfast recipes
  • 3 lunch recipes (including lunch you can take to work)
  • 3 dinner recipes
  • 2 snack recipes
  • 2 dessert recipes

Remember to look for recipes that satisfy your cravings - just without grains.

Modern kitchen tools give back time in your day


Consider acquiring some new kitchen tools that unlock new recipes

As a tradesperson fills their toolbox with time saving tools, When you start your grain free diet, equip yourself with simple kitchen tools that unlock new recipes and save time.

Below are some that I have purchased on Amazon Prime within the past year, and have now become tools I reach for on an almost daily basis. The silicone muffin pan is a great timesaver because it does not need to be greased before filling the cups with batter. The Instant pot pressure cooker is a wonderful device with a ton of uses - it can replace a number of other kitchen appliances and can cook many things faster, and better than traditional methods.

Putting all grain related foods in a box and removing them from your house helps you stay on track with a grain free diet.
Putting all grain related foods in a box and removing them from your house helps you stay on track with a grain free diet. | Source

Step 3: The cathartic purge - get the grains out of the house

This is the fun step. This is where you actually begin. Get a cardboard box. No, get two. Possibly three.

Fill the box with any foods currently in your cupboards that contain grains. Then get the boxes out of your house. Some ideas for how best to dispose of the grain filled foods:

  • Give them to good will
  • Have a bonfire
  • Give them to someone you don't like
  • Compost them

Step 4: Acquire the ingredients you'll need for the 12 recipes at your local grocery store - and use Amazon Prime for any specialty ingredients

Go through the 12 recipes you selected, and make a shopping list of ingredients you'll need.

The key with your shopping list is, don't go out of your way, and don't change where you normally shop. Having to go far out of your way will most likely not be a sustainable change.

I recommend getting everything you can at your normal grocery store or farmers market, and using Amazon Prime to order anything that your local grocery store doesn't have.

Amazon has affordable prices on specialty ingredients such as grain free flours, and 2 day shipping is free on every Amazon Prime item if you have an Amazon Prime membership. Amazon Prime costs $99 / year, or $10.99 / month, and the first month is free as a no obligation trial.

My favourite go to grain free flour is Bob's Red Mill high protein Garbanzo bean flour (aka chickpea flour), which is priced well on Amazon:

Garbanzo bean flour - high in protein and fiber

Final Tips on how to go grain free

  • Give yourself time in your schedule to cook and research
  • Don't beat yourself up if you fail - it doesn't mean you're destined to fail. Just reset.
  • It will be hard at first, because there will be so many new things to learn. But remember that each new recipe you learn is a tool in your grain free toolbox.
  • Doing food prep one day a week saves a lot of time

Grain free diet poll

Have you tried to switch to a grain free diet in the past, without success?

See results


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    • ApplePro profile imageAUTHOR

      Jamie Graham 

      15 months ago from Ladysmith, BC

      Very good points Rebecca. Especially about everything in moderation. I completely agree!

    • R Swafford profile image

      Rebecca Swafford 

      15 months ago from Texas, USA

      The issue with the ketogenic or high fat diet is that you put yourself at risk for heart/health issues later down the road. Healthy fats are still fats, and they contain cholesterol that builds up in your arteries over the course of many years. Even people who look and feel completely healthy can have serious issues without even knowing, like fatty liver disease.

      On another note, the issue with trend diets is each one leaves out some seriously important health safety information (I do consider ketogenic to be a trend diet for this reason). Take the Paleo diet, for example. The "cavemen" it is based off of probably lived no more than 40 years. When cutting out all natural sources of calcium, it is likely that osteoporosis will be a major issue later in life, because we live much longer than those people did, amongst many other differences in lifestyle. - Climbs off soapbox -

      My health motto has always been, "everything in moderation". For example, natural sugars are much easier and healthier for the body to process, but eating too much natural sugar is just as bad for the body as eating lots of refined sugars. There needs to be balance.

      I also noticed a difference after cutting out most refined sugars. I try to eat a cookie and it tastes overly sweet. It's a good thing! It means your brain's dependency on the reward system that sugar creates has been broken.

    • ApplePro profile imageAUTHOR

      Jamie Graham 

      15 months ago from Ladysmith, BC

      Interesting to hear about your experience Rebecca!

      My understanding about cutting out sugar is that refined sugar is the one to avoid, but natural sugars in fruits / vegetables are acceptable. I havn't entirely cut out refined sugar (trying to work up to that), but my refined sugar intake these days is low enough that now if I eat a cookie I feel slightly nauseous and uncomfortably hyper.

      My understanding about protein is also different. I'd understood that protein isn't an ideal replacement for carbs, but that healthy fats are a carb replacement that keep energy levels high. The Ketogenic diet is interesting, for the way it replaces carbs almost entirely with fats.

      All this said, I am not an expert, and I wouldn't recommend anyone takes my advice without doing their own research :)

    • R Swafford profile image

      Rebecca Swafford 

      15 months ago from Texas, USA

      Yes, that is interesting. My sister was the one to suggest eliminating milk due to hormones; my doctor only treated my eczema, rather than try to find the main cause of it. I think that happens in a lot of cases, but it's important to treat the whole body instead of isolating one symptom and treating that. I still go to the doctor when needed but in most cases my googling skills have been a better diagnosis than my visits.

      As for sharing information, I will do my best! I am prone to hypoglycemia so I originally tried to cut out some carbs to prevent excessive sugar intake. I did some research and found that broccoli and peanuts were packed with carbs, which is something I never realized.

      If you are trying to avoid a lot of sugar, protein should be your main source of energy to prevent feeling lethargic. People say that protein keeps you full for longer, but I find I have to eat more frequently if I am primarily eating proteins. But maybe that is specific to me.

      I think that is all I have for now. Thanks for responding!

    • ApplePro profile imageAUTHOR

      Jamie Graham 

      15 months ago from Ladysmith, BC

      Very interesting that for both of us, eliminating diary cured our eczema. For years doctors told me there was no cure for eczema, and prescribed me steroid cream.

      I've also read about casein. For now it seems like it hasn't been studied enough to scientifically say if that's the cause, but it's interesting to follow. I didn't know it was molecularly similar to gluten.

      Rebecca, would you mind sharing any knowledge you've learned from your own diet, about switching to a grain free diet, or any other nutritional tips for that matter?

    • R Swafford profile image

      Rebecca Swafford 

      15 months ago from Texas, USA

      That makes sense about getting carbs from alternate sources.

      I used to drink almost exclusively milk, lots of it all day every day until I was about 15, which is when I started getting eczema from it! I determined this by cutting milk out, and my skin issues disappeared ever since.

      I have read that it is due to the hormones they put in milk (also supported by the fact that my eczema only occurred in places I sweat like where my arms and legs bend since hormones are excreted through sweat glands) and did an experiment where I only drank organic milk for months and months, and never had a rash issue (although my skin was still unreasonably itchy sometimes).

      I think it also has to do with the protein in milk, casein, which is the most common thing to have a reaction to when you have a milk allergy (not to be mistaken for lactose intolerance).

      Interestingly enough, the molecular structure of casein is very similar to that of my arch nemesis gluten. I don't know of any extensive research that explores this correlation, though.

    • ApplePro profile imageAUTHOR

      Jamie Graham 

      15 months ago from Ladysmith, BC

      Hi Rebecca,

      Thanks kindly for your comment. I'm glad you liked my attempts at humour and my shameless use of my cute daughter as my model.

      It's interesting to hear about your experience cutting out grains. I think the key is that each person adjust their diet for what makes their particular body feel good. Although, when starting out, I do think it's important to do a strict elimination diet for a few months to get a "baseline" and really feel the differences in the body.

      For the record, although I personally am grain free, I still eat high amounts of carbs, through vegetables, fruits, legumes, etc. I also do not avoid fatty foods (coconut oil is my go to). Like you, I find I get dizzy and low energy if I don't get enough carbs, and that I have to be a bit intentional about getting enough of them and ensuring I'm getting the right balance of macro-nutrients.

      Interesting to hear that you're dairy free. I am as well - I've found that eliminating dairy cured the eczema that I've experienced for the past 10 years. Why did you cut it out?

    • R Swafford profile image

      Rebecca Swafford 

      15 months ago from Texas, USA

      Hahaha, "Health nuts wake up at 5 am to do yoga and tend to their kale garden. Normal people add extra sugar to their fruit loops, and like their doughnuts dipped in muffins."

      You are quite the comedian. I had a good few laughs from this. Love the pictures of your daughter, and a great article!

      I noticed when cutting out all grains (primarily eating proteins), I didn't have as much energy (I work 12 hour shifts in manufacturing, so I need a LOT of energy). I am pretty sure gluten is my enemy (bloaty symptoms are worse if it isn't GF), but I determined that eating a few GF grains and carbs here and there is best for me energy-wise. I definitely notice that lethargic feeling if I eat a lot of carbs all at once, and if it had gluten in it, you can bet I'll look 6 weeks pregnant for the next 24 hours...

      I think eliminating a food is really tough. I had to give up milk but I still eat cheese. You also have to consider the nutrients in that food that you need to replace with something else (in this case, calcium).

      Thanks for sharing!


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