Going Grain-Free

grain free

I asked on Friday on Facebook if there might be some interest in my writing a series of posts about grain-free and setting up some reader-based support for others thinking of going (or already living) grain-free.

There was an overwhelmingly positive response, so here goes!

First things, first, I have set up a Facebook group called KOAB Grain-Free & Clean Eaters for those of you interested in hanging out with some other like-minded grain-free eaters. You don’t have to be grain-free yet to join; in fact, you don’t even have to be certain that you intend to become grain-free. But you do have to be willing to be positive and supportive in your comments to the group. (Meaning: Don’t be mean or snarky. If it’s hard and you’re feeling negative about your path, that’s a-ok to share.)

The group is “closed”, so you’ll need to request to join. I’ll try to approve you all as quickly as possible, but definitely within 24 hours. At some point, I may change the status to “secret”, if it seems that people want even more privacy.

Now, if you’re interested (or just gawking at my crazytown self that has decided to eliminate my favorite food group for a while), here’s what’s gotten in to me.

My husband has been trying to convince me for months to go paleo.

Frankly, I’ve not been interested, AT ALL, because (a) I love carbs, (b) I love dairy and (c) I don’t particularly like meat and chicken. Clearly not a candidate for the paleo lifestyle.

However, I’ve also been feeling like the wagon I fell off of in the dead of the winter was calling my name. That wagon led me to lose 30 pounds since last July and get into good enough shape that I could do 10 REAL push-ups in a row.

But by February, I was working out less, eating more, and had started drinking Coca-Colas again. (I know. I know. Don’t yell at me, I know.)

Not surprisingly, I gained back 5-7 of those pounds. More than the scale, though, I didn’t like the way I felt: bloated, tired, sluggish, headachey.

So, despite my complete and total disinterest in going paleo, I was feeling like something needed to change.

I say all of this to set the stage for why I was so susceptible to what came next.

My husband (yes, him again!) sees a preventative cardiologist. He has a family history of heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes; and already in his mid 30s, he had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and cholesterol.

So, he started seeing this amazing preventative cardiologist, who helped get him turned around. He’s lost weight, started working out more regularly, and has become seriously convinced that we should all eat like the cavemen did.

Once a quarter, his doctor hosts these city-wide Healthy Heart Happy Hours. And the one last Tuesday featured a lecture by Dr. William Davis, author of the very popular book, Wheat Belly.

Frankie really wanted me to go with him. I think he was hoping I’d see the light.

Ha! Little did he know.

I’ve totally drunk the grain-free Kool-Aid.

I still need to read the whole book, but there were a number of things that Dr. Davis said in his lecture that convinced me to give going grain-free a one-month trial.

I’ll be honest and say that I’m not 100% certain that the long-term science on this is going to prove that grains are the root of all evil, but here’s what did resonate with me:

We all know about celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity (two different things, but both of which have led a growing number of people to abstain from gluten-containing products).

But beyond gluten, wheat has three other MAJOR issues:

#1. Wheat has been modified significantly, particularly in the last forty years, to create a sort of “super wheat” – hardier, more prolific and cheaper for the food industry to produce. I know this sounds all conspiracy theory-ish, but given the genetically modified news that’s out there today, this point resonated.

#2. More convincing than the modifications, though, is the fact that wheat — even in its original form thousands of years ago — contains gliadin. (At this point, let me take a step back and say, I’m obviously not a nutritionist or a doctor. And I fully admit that my understanding of the science behind this is rudimentary at best. I’m just sharing what I understood Dr. Davis to be saying. Feel free to correct me if I got something wrong.) Gliadin has this crazy opiod-like property that stimulates hunger, big time, in otherwise normal, healthy people. So, you know how you feel like if you have one cookie, you’ll eat the whole bag? And then still be hungry? That’s the gliadin!

#3. Wheat, even “heart-healthy whole wheat”, spikes your blood sugar like crazy. In fact, the glycemic index of whole wheat bread is HIGHER than that of table sugar, which is just crazy.

According to Dr. Davis, when people stop eating wheat, they start consuming up to 40% less calories in a day. Because they feel satiated and don’t feel that compulsion to eat (and eat and eat). Sign me up for that.

Plus, they are avoiding those blood sugar spikes, which means their overall health is in a better position. BTWs, the blood sugar issue is why he says we should also avoid all grains, not just wheat.

(If you want more information, without committing to read his whole book, start with this post on his Wheat Belly blog.)

Now, I’m sure there are plenty of people calling grain-free lifestyles a fad. Just like twenty years ago, we were told to eat low fat foods and so we all ate low-fat Snackwells and look where that got us.

But skepticism aside, what Dr. Davis said about both the gliadin issue and the blood sugar issue really resonated with me.

So much so that I told Frankie on the way home from the lecture that I’d be willing to try going grain-free for a month.

Note: I did not commit to giving up dairy (no way, no how) – Dr. Davis doesn’t even recommend it. And honestly, I’m not planning on eliminating beans, lentils and other legumes either (although apparently Dr. Davis and the whole paleo-world say to do so).

Especially as I’m figuring out what to eat instead of bread, pasta, and rice (oh, yeah, Dr. Davis says to eliminate rice, too – due to those sugar spikes, but I will be using brown rice sparingly), I’m gonna need those legumes.

So four days in and I’ve become completely grain-free, with the exception of two very tiny bites of challah for Shabbat.

(By the way, I also haven’t had a Coke. Honestly, that’s probably the hardest – because there were some afternoons when that fountain coke felt like my last grasp on sanity. Some of you may know what I mean.)

Since Wednesday, I’m down a pound – which is a very fast weight-loss for me.

But more than that, I feel different. Let me be clear – it’s not a miracle. I still am getting my headaches, and the afternoon lull is still rearing its ugly head. But my belly isn’t distended and crampy all the time. I’m not about to call it flat, but it’s definitely far less poochy.

Even more noticeable is that I’m not as hungry, and I’m shockingly not craving the junk. The Cokes, yes, those I’m craving, but each afternoon, I just make a deal with myself that I only have to not have one today.

Regarding my kids’ eating, since some have already asked, they will be eating whatever I cook for dinner and lunch, but their breakfast and snacks will still have grain. We’ll see how I do this month before I decide if I want to try to rope them into this.

As for what it is that I’m cooking, I’m honestly fumbling in the dark on that, so I’m working right now on a one-week menu plan, which I’ll share with you on Monday. I’ve also started a Pinterest board with grain-free recipes. Please feel free to check it out!

For those of you who are interested in making some changes to your diet, I hope these grain-free posts will be interesting and helpful. For those of you who think you’d rather give up your right arm than your bowl of spaghetti, believe me, I hear you. In fact, I’d have said the same thing five days ago before I drank that darn Kool-Aid! So rest assured, grain-free won’t be taking over the blog – you’ll still get all the deals and money-saving tips you came for.

I welcome those of you who have gone grain-free to share in the comments. I know there are many of us interested in your stories!

And please do consider joining the grain-free Facebook group.


  1. I am very, very proud of you!

  2. Are grains such as spelt, rye and millet allowed?

  3. It’s worth a shot for a month, Mara. I think you’ll feel differently.

    I had to go Paleo last September because I already had so many food intolerances including gluten and most of the grains. I’m dairy free (and have been for 3 years thanks to my intolerance), and, what was most difficult for me, I went sugar free.

    I feel SO much better. Since mid-September 2012, I’ve now lost 73 pounds! That’s in just 9 months!

    I don’t know if I’ll stay Paleo forever because, like you, I wonder about the long term repercussions. However, right now it’s just what I need.

    I’ll join your FB discussion and cheer you on! I’m guessing you’ll be happy with your experiment, though in my case, it did take longer for the cravings to go away. After two or three months, I no longer missed the foods I couldn’t have.

  4. I have been thinking about this too.. but don’t want to go cold turkey.. want the freedom to have things I like every once in awhile..

  5. Hi – is quinoa a grain?

  6. Congrats on making the leap! It is a challenge esp. with cooking. My husband has been grain-free (on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet) for 3 years now. It’s helping to heal his Crohn’s. I go on it every so often and lose weight easily. It’s because I eat more protein and don’t feel hungry like I would when I eat carbs. I also feel better. I’ll be looking forward to your posts!

  7. I’m a long-time member of the right-arm-for-spaghetti club (maybe not that drastic, G-d forbid, but pretty darn close). I’ve heard about these kinds of diets but always in relation to celebrities doing them, and it didn’t sound very realistic. So I’m very interested to hear how it works for you, a fellow normal person with a stressful life, limited budget, and soda cravings. Thank you for sharing with the readers!

  8. I find that most of my cravings disappear when I stay on the paleo diet. I then take a tiny bite of pizza and immediately want more. It is hard to give up all the treats like cookies and bread and sandwiches but the results are worth it. (I hope)

  9. I have a couple of friends who have gone wheat-free and they say they feel great. Both are thin, it wasn’t an issue of weight loss. They gave me that book, which I read. I’ve been thinking about trying it but haven’t had the energy to try. Maybe you’ll inspire me, because I do believe it will help me with my energy levels and even weight loss. Good luck.

    • Tamar Pearlman says

      I tried going grain free just for a week….that was in February LAST year. I have lost a few kilos but the main difference is the way that I feel. The Wheat Belly book was an inspiring start, that together with support from family and friends has helped me on my journey. I am joining your FB group! Good luck!

  10. My husband was diagnosed with Celiac disease 4 years ago and if keeping kosher weren’t expensive enough, we now buy a ton of other products that break the bank. Even if you avoid prepared foods, which we do, gluten free shopping is expensive. But, if you’re going to stick with it, I would check out Elana’s Pantry (gf and paleo, not kosher, but friendly) and a “Gluten Free Baking Calssics” by Annalise G. Roberts. My husband was devastated to give up pizza, chulent in shul, and the freedom to eat out without asking a million and a half questions. And be extra careful, it’s not a “low calorie diet”, he’s gained 15 lbs. in 4 years and many gf grains, while healthier over all, are much higher in calories and fats. Good luck, it’s definitely not easy.

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