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Monday, July 25, 2016

The Best Grain-Free Family Meals on the Planet: Book Review


One of the many food groups often demonized by self-proclaimed health experts are grains.  The Paleos eschew them as do a lot of low-carb, high fat diet advocates.

Its bullshit.  I am not saying everyone should eat tons of grains.  As people age, they need fewer carbs and more protein to help prevent sarcopenia (muscle loss), and diabetics have to limit their carb intake, from not just grains, but all sources of carbs.   But it is not true that they are inherently bad for humans.  There are also huge differences between whole grains and the refined grains most North Americans eat. Also, its not a guaranteed way to lose weight as many grain-free products contain large quantities of high calorie nut and coconut products.

In any case, over the last several years I have gradually found myself eating much less grains and much more protein.  Its just what I crave.  I don't see myself ever giving up oats, however, I'm not a huge bread lover, and to my surprise, I've pretty much lost my taste for rice and pasta.  I am perfectly satisfied with shirataki noodles as a substitute. I believe my shifting tastes are due to my gradual decrease in endurance cardio exercise and a shift to more strength training.  But who knows.  All I know is I'll take a huge hunk of salmon, chicken or trout over a bowl of spaghetti any day.

More out of sheer curiosity than anything, I have dabbled a lot in the grain-free baking world.  I find it fascinating that nut flours, coconut flour and plantains can be used to produce products that look and taste like grain-based stuff.  I also have a kid (Big A) who is a total carb-junky, so I like the idea of making her grain-free, lower carb things, and lucky for me, both kids gobble up all my healthy baked good creations.  That's why I often add protein powder to my baked goods, because sometimes that's the only way to get protein into my 10 year old! The only protein foods she likes are hotdogs (are they really food?), yogurt, and on occasion, eggs.

For this reason, I was eager to agree to review, The Best Grain-Free Family Meals on the Planet, by Laura Fuentes.  Not because I think grains should be cut out of our diet, but, cutting back is not a bad idea, especially to help balance out Big A's diet.  Kid-friendly grain-free meals? Yes please!!

First off, I like in the introduction that Fuentes explains why she's developed these recipes (due to her own and her children's allergies and intolerances).  She doesn't make any claims that eating grains is causing every health problem from A to Z and we should all be giving them up.  Hallelujah!

The cookbook is not vegan, but many of the recipes are. They are all gluten-free.  Fuentes also includes lots of tips and allergy substitutions.

There are nice photos, though not all recipes are pictured.  They mostly appeal to me, but I know my own kids wouldn't touch a lot of them.  My kids aren't particularly adventurous though.

Some recipes are quite unique (love the idea of Tropical Meatloaf made with ground turkey and mango!), but again, probably too 'different' for my kids.  I can only hope there will be a day that my kids will eat cauliflower rice!  They aren't even big fans of regular rice.  Zucchini noodles are definitely a no-go as both girls hate zucchini.  Sigh!

Of course, the biggest challenge when going grain-free is replicating recipes that are inherently based on grains, like baked goods. And how many kids don't love muffins, cakes and cookies?  As can be expected, the book includes a few baked goods that use coconut flour and almond flour in place of grain flours.  Personally, me and my family prefer the results of baked goods made from plantains.  We just haven't had much luck using coconut flour.

In any case, whether there is someone in your family who eats a dairy-free, gluten-free and/or grain-free diet, this book has lots of yummy and inventive recipes to try.  If your kids are super picky or unadventurous, however, some of these recipes might be a no-go, at least at first.  My kids won't touch most of the stuff, however, I think I might just make some of them for myself!  Cilantro-Avocado-Lime Cauliflower Rice?  Yum!!

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.