Look at most elimination diets and you’ll find many call for grain free recipes.
From keto to Paleo to a Whole 30 meal plan, grains are on the no-no list. Thank goodness I’ve found out it’s not hard to come up with grain free elimination diet recipes!
First off though, how in the world do you go grain free without going crazy? More importantly … WHY would you want to go grain free??
You’ll find all my grain-free resources here with the benefit of years of experience eating grain-free on and off with a family of 6.
Should You Go Grain Free?
Gluten can spell big problems for some people (yes, even if you don’t have full blown Celiac disease), but the buck doesn’t stop with wheat. Even other grains can contribute to leaky gut, autoimmune disease, and mental health problems.
When my husband had undiagnosed Crohn’s Disease, stomach pain after eating was a major symptom and telling factor. Seven blissfully symptom-free years after surgery to remove part of his small intestine, when he had chronic diarrhea for two months, the medical establishment couldn’t do anything to help him.
I was inspired to start a no grains challenge the day after I heard Jordan Rubin talk about his Maker’s Diet. You can also see how the Maker’s Diet compares to other healing diets in this article here.
Two days of going grain-free fixed his elimination better than it had been in his whole life and nixed any stomach pain after eating. Just. Like. That.
People talk to me a lot about digestive issues, and my first reaction is generally: “You should try gluten-free…and it’s easier to just go grain-free and see what happens.” Friends and family have seen impressive results! (Some also see no results, which is also helpful information.)
Just one example: My mother accidentally got dragged into one of our early grain-free experiments when we spent a week with them in Florida and cooked gluten-free and largely grain-free for the week. She had a burger bun once or twice, but for my mom, who eats a half peanut butter sandwich and an apple nearly every day for lunch, it was a pretty serious reduction in grains/gluten.
Her results? She lost weight and noticed more regular digestion, without a doubt (and she’s not a heavy woman). When she returned home, after just three days of her typical sandwich lunch and unsoaked oatmeal for breakfast, she felt a negative difference.
Although a 2015 study showed that just switching from refined grains to whole grains made positive health impacts, many people find that they learn more by completely cutting grains and then easing back in, one grain at a time. This 2017 study on the AIP diet showed massive improvements for Crohn’s Disease patients, and these authors recommend cutting specifically gluten to improve mental health.
Honestly, I think it’s fascinating to see the difference grains make in the diet! But it’s not easy…
Cutting Out Food Groups IS Hard!
It’s daunting to cut an entire food group out of your diet, especially one that may have previously been, say, the foundation of your eating habits (aka the Food Pyramid). An elimination diet may sound intimidating, but I’ve picked up some tricks for how to start an elimination diet successfully (even with kids!).
At first, when I shared we were going to try a grain-free elimination diet, there were some folks who pretty harshly told me that new diets are easy and I should stop complaining.
I beg to differ.
Cutting something from your diet that you usually eat every day, if not every meal, is far from easy.
I’m no superwoman, and I don’t claim to be.
Going grain-free, or dairy-free, or nut-free, or gluten-free…those are BIG changes. And it’s okay to be scared to death of trying them.
It’s okay to wonder, “What in the world am I going to eat?”
It’s okay to wish you didn’t have to do it.
But it’s also okay to take baby steps and do what you can each day.
If you feel like you should try an elimination diet of some sort, well…you probably should.
Tell yourself you’ll do it for one day.
Tell yourself you’ll do it every lunchtime for five days.
Tell yourself you’ll start next week, then spend this week researching recipes, collecting ideas, making lists, and buying a few new ingredients that you might need. Make a meal plan and just start thinking about it. You’ll be so much more prepared.
My Three Best Tips for Starting a Grain-Free Diet
If you do want to try eating grain-free, do these first:
- Buy a lot of vegetables.
- Plan meals where you can just skip the grains – stir fry without rice, a burger without a bun, soup laden with veggies and no pasta or rice. For a few days, that’s really not that hard.
- If you want some bread-like products, don’t freak out about all the Paleo or grain-free recipes (or gluten-free ones) and ingredients you’ve never heard of. Buy one bag of coconut flour and find 2 recipes you want to try (see below for ideas!).
Most people can benefit from cutting grains, but where do you find elimination diet recipes for a grain-free experiment?
Elimination Diet Meal Plan
There are lots of grain free recipes out there, but some can have mixed results. Cara, who feeds her family grain-free (GAPS) and has for quite a few years, is an expert I turn to when I need a new recipe. This lovely lady has a number of resources for sale:
- Health Home and Happiness GAPS Starter Package (most popular!)
- Grain-free freezer cooking class – do it in an afternoon!
You don’t need a completely done for you elimination diet meal plan though to get started.
Many healthy recipes can be adapted to grain free.
There’s always the good old standby of meat and veggies, salads, and yet more veggies. When I first surprised my husband with, “We’re cutting grains, legumes, and dairy from our diet starting tomorrow,” our family ate a salad every day since it was simple and doable.
A Salad Every Day???
If you add enough fresh veggies to a salad, some crispy nuts, and a good selection of homemade salad dressings, you don’t feel like you’re “eating light” or missing out on anything at lunch. We include:
- lots of peppers
- water chestnuts
- dried fruit
- cut fruit
- crispy sunflower seeds
- I add cooked chicken, hard boiled eggs, or cheese when I need a little something extra and don’t feel like a raw lunch.
These don’t go all in at once, but you can imagine the variety we end up with. I also vary the greens a bit, using fresh spinach and cabbage sometimes.
Make a list of what you CAN eat.
As Haley explains in this beginner’s guide to going gluten-free, you’ll find many normal, everyday meals your family already loves probably don’t include grains, and there are plenty of new recipes to find if you’re feeling adventurous. Many recipes can easily be converted to grain free with a few tweaks.
For example, this Chicken Leek & Barley Soup can be converted to grain free by nixing the barley, and upping the leeks and carrots for a thick, delicious soup. Or a homemade Burger & French Fries becomes grain-free simply by skipping the buns. You can always use lettuce or portabella mushrooms instead, and many restaurants are getting the hang of this request (some wrap the burger beautifully in lettuce!).
Everyone Should Know Some Grain-Free Baked Good Recipes
I think everyone should have a few “grain-free baked good” recipes they feel comfortable with, even if you don’t need to eat grain-free.
Grain-free baking is easier than gluten-free baking because you generally need only one flour.
Especially if you’re only baking without gluten (or grains) occasionally, you’ll want grain-free recipes you know how to make. I think it’s good for everyone to stretch their boundaries a bit and get out of their whole grain (or especially refined grain) comfort zone sometimes.
If you think carbs are a problem (or not), if you use a food combining strategy where some meals are low-carb, or if you need to make something for a diabetic dinner guest or a gluten-free classmate – it’s handy to have a few low-carb baking recipes that fit the bill. Grain-free options are perfect for these and so many other reasons.
It can be easy to overdo it though and eat a ton of coconut products, eggs, or /coconut/eggs. The key here is balance!
What is Grain-Free Baking?
Grain-free baking mimics bread products most people make with wheat flour: muffins, tortillas, crepes, banana bread, biscuits, pie crusts, ETC., without using any grains.
No rice flour, no cooked oatmeal, no sorghum, buckwheat or any other seed-based grains.
Which Flours are used for Grain Free Baking?
The most common flours for grain-free baking are coconut flour and almond flour and you’ll sometimes see some starch, like arrowroot starch, thrown in on certain recipes. Cassava flour is making a name for itself in grain-free baking as well (it’s a root vegetable and full of prebiotic resistant starch).
Grain-free baking isn’t nearly as tricky as gluten-free baking, but here’s some more detail on the major 2 flours?
- Substituting with Coconut Flour in Baking
- How Do 3 Brands of Coconut Flour Differ?
- Comparing 3 Brands of Almond Flour (and the difference of almond meal)
Blend it Up for a Keto/Paleo Recipe
Some grain-free recipes use whole nuts or legumes ground into the batter, so you don’t even have to buy a special flour.
- grain-free almond apple pancakes (above)
- brownies made with walnuts as the base from the cookbook Nourishing Meals (they’re amazing, truly)
- “looks like whole wheat” biscuits, also with walnuts, from Health Home and Happiness
- black bean brownies found in my eBook, The Everything Beans Book
- nifty cashew-based grain-free waffles I adapted to include veggies for my Healthy Breakfast eBook.
Why Almond Flour Isn’t my Favorite
I prefer coconut flour for starting out over almond flour for a few reasons (although both make great end products):
- Although both are expensive, you use far less coconut flour per recipe, stretching one bag quite far. It feels more frugal to start out with.
- Coconut flour can also work for nut-free individuals, plus sometimes I feel like we might eat too many nuts as snacks between basic trail mix and our favorite almond-flour crackers from Costco…
Is Grain-free a Deprived Diet?
Would you be disappointed if these were offered to you?
There are plenty of delicious, real food, grain free baked goods to try! These muffins are from Megan Stevens’ incredible book Eat Beautiful, Grain-free, Sugar-free and Loving It, which you can get on Amazon or with additional video helpers straight from Megan. All her baked good recipes use NO nut flour, just whole nuts and meal, so no special ingredients to buy!
If you ask the average real food cook to make pancakes without any grains, she might look at you sideways. It’s not on the list of normal recipes people have on hand.
But with these grain-free orange vegetable pancakes in your repertoire, breakfast doesn’t have to be a challenge at all!
RELATED: Why Kids Shouldn’t Eat White Sugar.
How Does Grain Free Affect Your Food Budget?
I have no good news here.
There’s no getting around it: meat, nuts, dried fruit, and even vegetables, most of the time, cost much more than grains and legumes. Especially coming from my perspective since I grind my own bulk whole grains, make everything from scratch, and use dry beans.
I just stocked up on $130 of grass-fed beef and chicken, which usually lasts 2-3 months. I don’t think it will stretch that far this time, although I still managed to stretch one package of meat into 2-4 meals, including leftovers.
I discovered spaghetti squash, which is the one replacement for grains that is just as cheap as its namesake. I promptly bought a half bushel of them the day after we decided to go grain-free so I had some easy-as-spaghetti meal options.
The Time Budget Upside of Grain Free
Someone asked last week if NOT buying the grains would at least help tone down the food budget.
Because I buy so much in bulk, it’s hard to say what we’ve spent the last few weeks compared to normal Kimball life, but I have noticed this: not preparing the grains has spared a lot of prep time, especially in the evenings. I don’t miss soaking things and getting sourdough sponges started…not one bit.
I wonder what I’ve done with all that extra time? I think I’ll go look for it now.
Grain Free Elimination Diet Recipes
FREE Download: 5 Paleo Snacks Your Kids Can Make
Solve the “What’s for Snack???” problem once and for all!
Your kids might not be doing this grain elimination diet with you, but it’s still nice to have food everyone in the family can eat.
I have four kids, and we try hard to reduce the refined grains and white flour in our diets, and since my kids all know how to cook, they often make their own snacks!
Request our little ebook to see some of our favorite grain-free paleo snacks that my kids like to make.
In the mood to browse through recipes here? Here are my grain free, elimination diet friendly recipes broken down by category.
Grain-Free Breakfast Recipes
(use coconut flour or almond flour)
Grain-Free Main Dishes
(AIP and GAPS friendly) or try this other meatball recipe with the almond flour substitute
with arrowroot to thicken
Homemade Burger and French Fries
(just skip the buns and use lettuce or portabella mushrooms instead)
(Leaving the barley out and being heavy-handed with the leeks and carrots made for a surprisingly thick, very delicious and nutritious soup.)
Grain-Free Side Dishes
Grain-Free Baked Goods
I have SO many more grain-free recipes! FIND THEM ALL HERE!
Hungry for more?
- WHAT IF GRAIN-FREE DIDN’T WORK FOR ME?? Sometimes, grains aren’t the problem. If you’ve tried an elimination diet and it didn’t work to decrease bloating, constipation, or stomach pain, you’ve got to read Suzanne’s story and the very real solution.
- Five Keys to Weight Loss with Real Food
- Key Steps You Can Take to Heal Your Gut
- Elana’s Pantry is a wonderful grain-free resource
- School Lunch? Try Momables’ ideas or my Bread-Free Sandwich Alternatives for Packed Lunches
- Huff Post’s grain free recipes
Phew! I think that’s it. All my grain-free knowledge, all in one place.
If you have weird digestive stuff going on, diarrhea, stomach pain after eating, or wonder about a gluten or grain sensitivity…give it a try for a few days. You don’t need a ton of resources to skip grains, even for a week.