Uniting a Gluten-Free Lifestyle and the Mediterranean Diet

Many readers are finding out about Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Some people are even adopting a gluten-free diet as a path to better health whether or not they themselves have gluten allergy or intolerance. I have not seen convincing evidence that this is medically valid, but hey, it probably can't hurt you and if the upside is that you're eating more vegetables, and you're feeling better -- why not? (Just be sensitive to chefs when eating out and don't impose unnecessarily if you don't have a medical need. Remember: it's a menu, not a list of ingredients!)

May is both Celiac Awareness Month and the Mediterranean Diet Month. As I've been experimenting with new grains and seeds like quinoa and it's cousin kañiwa, I thought it would be a great time to host a giveaway fo this lovely looking title by our friends at Oldways.


Uniting the Mediterranean Diet with a Gluten-free Lifestyle

You've got questions. We can help. I asked Kyle Potvin of Splash and our friends at Oldways for their Top 5 tips. I mean, we know that the Mediterranean diet is heart healthy and delicious. These days, I'm particularly sensitive to those struggling to meld healthy eating habits like that with food sensitivities and allergies. (If you want to hear someone whine, just ask me about this new dairy allergy of mine. Seems like every vegetarian recipe I want to make has cheese. Okay, pouting over.)

When you’re living a gluten-free life, the foods you cannot safely or comfortably eat seem to outweigh those you can. Gluten-containing or gluten-contaminated foods and ingredients seem to be everywhere, and although new gluten-free products are coming on the market at an ever-increasing rate, they can often be too costly, hard to find, or relatively low in the important nutrients your body needs.

Enter the Mediterranean Diet: a pattern based on healthy foods and drink that have traditionally been consumed by people living in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Although many people associate this traditional dish with gluten-containing foods like pasta and bread, there are many ways to unite a gluten-free life with this gold-standard for health. Whether your gluten-free lifestyle is dictated by gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, or Celiac Disease, the Mediterranean Diet can provide satisfying, nutritious, and safe ways to bring new flavors and dishes to your table.  Here are some tips from our friends at Oldways:

1. Learn more about gluten-free whole grains. Did you know there are more naturally gluten-free whole grains than there are whole grains that contain gluten? Gluten-free whole grains like quinoa, amaranth, brown and wild rice, and many more can serve as healthy and nutritious bases for salads, pilafs, soups, breads, and desserts. Certified gluten-free whole grains are easier to find today than ever before, but if you can’t find them locally, it’s always a good idea to do some browsing online. Whole grains store well, freeze well, and offer more “bang for your buck” – in terms of both health and taste!

2. Focus on what’s fresh. Not only is May National Mediterranean Diet Month, but it often heralds the opening of many farmer’s markets and farm stands, and the arrival of local fresh produce in grocery stores. Traditional Mediterranean meals are based on plentiful fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, all of which can bring fabulous flavors and colors to your dishes. Our Boston Farmers' Markets are opening this week around town. Dewey Square is this Thursday!

3. Cook once, eat often. It would be great if every meal could be made fresh at home every day, but in today’s busy world, that simply isn’t the case. Prepping for a gluten-free meal can take time and planning, so why not make the most of this cooking time to make bigger batches of soups, stews, and other gluten-free dishes? It’s common to find one main ingredient like fresh fish or potatoes appearing in Mediterranean meals served within the same week, and vegetables that are grilled or roasted on a Sunday often taste better on a salad for lunch on Monday. Keep in mind that flavors often build over time, so use fresh or dried herbs with a gentle hand, knowing that you can always add more at the table if your mood dictates.

4. Make your Mediterranean meals in modern ways. Let’s be honest – why would you break out a mortar and pestle to make pesto when you can whip up a batch in your blender or food processor? And you can certainly let a delicious soup simmer slowly on your stovetop, but why not dust off that slow cooker and let it do the work for you? If the thought of grilling fish or vegetables leaves you worried about the clean-up, reach for the aluminum foil and your olive oil to make foil packets that will keep everything moist while baking evenly. Whole grains, beans, meaty mains, and even sauces can all be prepared in large batches quickly and easily using modern tools and techniques. Best of all, leftovers can be frozen in air-tight containers and repurposed in future dishes.

5. Don’t cut out your “safe” carbs. Pastas, breads, crackers, and cereals are now readily available in gluten-free forms and can cook, taste, and please just like their gluten-containing cousins. The Mediterranean Diet is well-known for celebrating healthy and balanced pasta dishes, yogurt and granola pairings, and bready goodness in multiple ways. If the gluten-free bread you eat doesn’t always satisfy in terms of texture, a brush of olive oil, a sprinkle of fresh garlic and herbs, and a quick trip through the oven can transform even the least ideal bread into croutons for salad or crostini for cheese and olives. And if you’re still not satisfied, take your culinary skills one step further and start making your own gluten-free bread at home. It might take a little research and some special ingredients, but nothing transforms your kitchen quite like the smell of freshly baked bread.

Remember that almost any Mediterranean meal can be made in a gluten-free home, it just takes some creative substitutions and the willingness to try. So what are you waiting for? Unite your gluten-free lifestyle with the Mediterranean Diet today!


♥ Drop a comment with YOUR favorite GF Mediterranean Diet style recipe or tip and you will be entered to win this beautiful book. Share a link back to this post on your blog and be entered twice.

Winners will be chosen using the random number generator the week of June 6.



Kañiwa with southwestern flavors: cumin, corn, red bell pepper, scallion.