Gluten Free For Good


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1. What the average American consumes in one year (courtesy of Visual Economics, check here for the over-indulgent details).

• 53 gallons of soda
• 24 lbs of ice cream
• 141.6 lbs caloric sweetener, includes 42 lbs of corn syrup
• 24 lbs of artificial sweetener
• 600 lbs of non-cheese dairy products
• 110 lbs of red meat
• 134 lbs of wheat flour (who ate my 134 lbs?)
• a total of 1996.3 pounds of food per year

Seriously, how can 1 person (in 1 year) consume 600 lbs of dairy products, excluding cheese? Add in the 31.4 lbs of cheese the average American eats per year and that adds up to 632 lbs of dairy products. Yuck. Just the thought makes my nose stuffy and my head ache.

2. “Per calorie, cooked spinach has more than twice as much protein as a cheeseburger; lentils have a third more protein than meatloaf with gravy.”

Bittman, Mark. Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, page 85. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2009.

3. What does the word natural mean on food labels?

Not much, if General Mills’ Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Peanut Granola Bars are any indication. The product claims to be “only natural” and that you’ll always be getting The Taste Nature Intended (which is a General Mills registered phrase). Okay, here’s the label ingredient list. Is this what nature intended? Would you call this natural?

Ingredients: roasted peanuts, high maltose corn syrup, sugar, rolled oats, high fructose corn syrup, palm kernel oil, crisp rice (rice flour, sugar, malt, salt), wheat flakes (whole wheat, sugar, salt, malt), fructose, peanut butter (peanuts, salt), yogurt powder (cultured whey protein concentrate, cultured skim milk, yogurt cultures), canola oil, water, maltodextrin, salt, nonfat milk, soy lecithin, color (yellows 5 & 6 lake, red 40 lake, blue 1 lake, and other color added), natural flavor, almonds, baking soda, honey, sunflower meal, mixed tocopherols added to retain freshness.

Whew, did nature really intend for us to eat all that icky stuff? If nothing else, the list of dyes should be a tip-off that natural isn’t natural to the folks at GM. And what does “other color added” mean? Like yellows, reds and blues aren’t enough? And what does “natural flavor” mean in the midst of all that? Does that mean the other flavors are unnatural? My online dictionary/thesaurus includes “undyed, uncolored and unbleached” in its description of the word natural. UH-OH, I can no longer call myself (or at least my hair) natural as I occasionally have “other color added” in the way of a few sun-kissed streaks here and there. Don’t tell anyone.

Bottom line? The food industry has a weird and skewed definition of the word natural. Make your own granola bars. Check here for one of my recipes. Or, here for one of Shirley’s recipes at Gluten Free Easily.

4. Who hates Brussels sprouts?

Whoa, almost all of you? Okay, here are some tips and facts to help you warm-up to Brussels sprouts.

• Don’t overcook them as it promotes the release of those unpleasant (and stinky) sulfur compounds that give them a bitter taste. It also destroys the vitamin C. Quick cooking leaves the delicate, nutty flavor of the vegetable. You can also eat the leaves. It’s okay, I promise.
• To retain nutrients and flavor, quick steam, stir fry or quick roast sprouts. Sauté the leaves with other veggies in a touch of coconut oil and mix with brown rice.
• Hold sprouts in your hand and choose the ones that feel heavy for their size. If possible, pick sprouts still on the stalk and buy the smallest stalk. Those are the sweetest.
• One cup (60 calories) of Brussels sprouts provides 273% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K and 161% of the recommended value of vitamin C. They’re also high in folate and vitamin A, along with a host of other cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory, heart healthy, detoxing, and health-loving plant chemicals. These little gems are the real deal, hundreds of research studies have taken place on the health benefits of Brussels sprouts.

5. Gomasio
I love this stuff. It’s SO good sprinkled on salads, rice, quinoa, soups, stews, sautéed veggies, Brussels sprouts (see above). Be creative, sprinkle outside the lines.

Here’s a simple (and wonderful) calcium-rich, nutty, yummy condiment. The sesame seeds provide lots of bone-building nutrients. They’re high in calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and zinc – and rich in fiber. One fourth cup of sesame seeds also contain 74% of the recommended daily value of copper. Studies show that copper may help people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Good stuff, although not low in calories (high oil content) so keep that in mind. Store in a glass jar in a cool, dark, dry place.

• 1 cup white sesame seeds
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground sea salt

In a small skillet, dry roast the seeds on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often until they begin to brown. Using a blender or mortar and pestle (I use a mortar and pestle), blend or crush together the warm sesame seeds and salt. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks. Recipe from The Kripalu Cookbook: Gourmet Vegetarian Recipes.

* You can also add dried garlic or dried celery to the mix.

Peace, love and REAL natural food!

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21 Responses to “weird food facts, secrets & tips”

  1. I have a confession. I LIKE Brussels Sprouts.
    However, perhaps I would like them even more with some Gomasio-that sounds wonderful, I will have to try it. I wish I could get medieval with a mortar and pestle, but alas, I will make do with a food processor.
    On another note, in all fairness to cheeseburgers, doing a calorie per calorie comparison with spinach isn’t quite fair for protein content. You’d have to eat a metric crap-ton (the specific measurement) of spinach to get the amount of protein that is in ground beef. You’d never be able to eat it all. And that’s not even going into the amino acid profiles, because now I’m splitting hairs 😉
    Good stuff Melissa! REAL natural food for the win!

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks for your great comment, Erin. I always like it when you join in on the conversation!

      I like Brussels sprouts, too (not immensely, but I do like them). Especially roasted with some gomasio sprinkled on them. As for the burger/spinach comparison (calorie per calorie), you’re right, it might not be “fair” to compare the two, but it was just to make a point that you can get protein from low calorie plant sources as well as from animal products. People don’t always realize that. I can easily sauté (and eat by myself) 3 or 4 cups of spinach, although that still wouldn’t compare to the protein content of a burger. Having said that, spinach provides a good shot of protein for only a handful of calories. Plus, lots of other good nutrients, so there’s a lot of bang for the (caloric) buck.

      Have a fun weekend. I hear it’s going to be a big, important one. =)


  2. Melissa, i think it’s time we face the facts: we are not average! Did you say “600 lbs of non-cheese dairy products”?! SIX HUNDRED POUNDS?!!! That’s obscene.

    I do love gomasio and brussels sprouts, though. And the fact that spinach is a high protein food. Makes sense. How could leaf-eating gorillas build those powerful muscles, except from…well…leaves!

    • Melissa says:

      Diana — Yeah, I know. That’s pretty bizarre when you think about it. I almost wonder if that’s correct, but I guess when you think about all the milk people drink (and ice cream, yogurt, butter, etc.), it’s a possibility. As for us being average, there are several things on that chart that I never eat, so I wonder who’s eating all that stuff. =) The gallons of soda pop? All that wheat? The “alternative” sweeteners, etc.? It’s sad that the average American diet is made up of foods with such low nutritional value (and loaded with sugar and junk).

      Hope all is well in your neck of the woods. I’m planning another trip to Kripalu one of these days. Might have to stop and say hello. xo

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kbouldin and Melissa, Gluten Free Emily. Gluten Free Emily said: Gluten Free For Good weird food facts, secrets & tips: 1. What the average American consumes in one ye… #GlutenFree […]

  4. Alta says:

    Great post! I can eat a LOT of spinach by myself, so while I’m probably not getting a huge amount of protein, it’s always good to know that along with the other vitamins spinach provides, I’m getting protein. yay! As for those natural granola bars, I still will never understand why any product needs 3, 4, sometimes more sources of sugar. What is all that about? And of course, the dyes. Ugh. And I love brussels sprouts! And last but not least (apparently I like starting my sentences with “and”) what would you top with gomasio? Besides brussels sprouts.

    • Melissa says:


      I find it’s very easy to eat large amounts of spinach and because my CSA is delivering abundant amounts right now, I’ve been eating it daily of late. Yes, it’s full of nutrient-density and with very few calories. You do get a LOT of bang for the buck with leafy greens like spinach.

      You did pick up on the fact that those granola bars come with many versions of sugar. That way, they get to spread it out over the label and I’m sure they’re hoping people miss the fact that it’s the number one ingredient, even if it’s not listed first. Dyes?! Gosh, you can skip that part altogether or use a real “natural” dye like beet root or chlorophyl.

      Gomasio is wonderful on brown rice, salads, fish, fresh corn on the cob, steamed veggies, quinoa — anything you can think of. It’s delightful stuff. You can make a batch and keep it in a shaker for quick use. I love it!

  5. anne says:

    haha – this was funny, interesting and educational, all rolled into one…I like brussels sprouts too! Have neglegted them for a while, though, so I’ll give them a go soon. Thanks!

    • Melissa says:


      Thanks for the “funny, interesting and educational” comment. I appreciate it! I have a tendency to “neglect” Brussels sprouts, too. It’s nice to be reminded of their value!

  6. lo says:

    Alright. First things first: I LOVE brussels sprouts (and I swear, a dab of bleu cheese makes them just heavenly). So, does that make me weird?

    Secondly — 600 lbs of NON-cheese dairy?
    Wow. I think I probably eat 600 lbs of cheese… but maybe not so much the other stuff 🙂

    • Melissa says:


      No, liking Brussels sprouts with blue cheese does not make you weird. Now, there are some other things that do make you a bit quirky, but those are more charming than weird. 🙂 I know, 600 lbs of non-cheese dairy products per year is beyond comprehension. I don’t get it, but I guess when you add up all the ways dairy is part of a meal, you could end up with a lot of those products consumed per day (but 600 lbs???).

      Thanks for the comment. You always make me smile.

  7. Love this post! I always shock people when I tell them the sugar stat.
    With Gomasio I also add dried kelp and reduce the salt a smidge. And cheers to Lo for the Brussels sprouts with blue cheese idea…
    Cute picture, too:)

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks Karen! It’s so good to hear from you. Yes, the sugar piece is pretty amazing, isn’t it? How about the soda pop? Ugh! Dried kelp is a great idea. Thank you for adding that idea to the mix. And yes, Lo doesn’t do things in traditional fashion. She’s very creative with her recipes. 🙂

      Take care of yourself. Sending good energy your way!

  8. Love this post, Melissa! There’s nothing like seeing the stats in black and white–wowsers! Like everyone else, I’m especially blown away by the non-cheese dairy amount. Reading labels should make anyone head over and give the Brussels sprouts another try. I have liked them since eating them fresh sauteed in a little garlic and butter–heavenly!

    Thanks for the mention, dear. 🙂 The Popeye bars are delish, but I had your protein bars (Diane made them for our trip) and enjoyed them just as much. In fact, they helped me survive the plane trip ride home last night. 😉

    Finally, I had a fabulous opportunity to ride the airport shuttle seated beside Michael Ruhlman yesterday (he’d given the keynote speech with Shauna and Molly Wizenberg at BlogHer Food) and educated him on what “naturally gluten free” means and my gfe approach. How cool is that, huh? I love his passion for getting folks in the kitchen and not being obsessed with recipes (just do it!). 🙂


    • Melissa says:


      Thanks so much for stopping by and joining in on the conversation. Yes, the non-cheese dairy category is hard to believe, but I guess when you add in all the processed stuff, it adds up quickly. I’m so envious of all your fun at BlogHer, not to mention your visit with Michael Ruhlman. You do get around, don’t you?! =)

      As for the mention, you’re welcome. Your bars fit into my post perfectly. I love it when that happens.


  9. I am so glad that my family is not part of those scary stats!!! Those numbers are exactly why our nation is in the state of health that it is. This is a fabulous post, Melissa! And, I actually like brussels sprouts (though I am the only one in my entire family that does).
    This is a wonderful post, Melissa!!! You are a total wealth of info!

    • Melissa says:


      Thanks so much for your comment. I do appreciate the kind sentiments and agree, these are scary stats. As for the Brussels sprouts, I guess my readers aren’t the norm as most of you say you like them. =)

      And I’m not surprised your family isn’t part of these crazy numbers. With a mom (and wife) like you, they’re destined to be on the right track. Lucky bunch!


  10. Christi S says:

    I have always loved brussel sprouts even as a kid. I could imagine I was a giant eating a whole head of lettuce in one bite – and yes, I know that they are closer to cabbages but I was more familiar with lettuce. Unfortunately (or luckily depending on how you look at it) no one else in my family likes brussel sprouts or beets so that means I don’t have to share have to eat them all by myself.

    As for the wheat, since I have been off of it for only a short time (less than a year) I can remember how most meals were almost wheat with a side of wheat (spaghetti with garlic bread.) There were very, very few meals without wheat. Going gluten-free has broadened my food horizons so much.

    And on the dairy, a gallon of milk weighs 8 lbs, subtracting the ice cream (which I think should be measured in gallons since there is so much air whipped in to them) it is less than 1 1/2 gallons a week (1.38 to be precise). Having also gone dairy free (casein), I know it is added to a lot of foods. On the other hand, except when I am on a yogurt kick I don’t like milk. I cook with it occasionally and use it on cereal but that’s about it so somebody is using a good portion of my share.

    • Melissa says:


      Wow, what a great comment. I really appreciate it! Love the idea of Brussels sprouts being eaten by giants! Very good. And you’re so right, “wheat with a side of wheat” is definitely the average American meal. Or, if you’re eating fast food, you might say corn with a side of wheat since corn seems to be a main ingredient in most junk food. Thank you for the diary breakdown. Perfect!


  11. Jessica says:

    While it might not be acceptable for all diets…I’m sooo looking forward to Thanksgiving, because one of my very favorite recipes is to saute brussel sprouts with bacon and shallots in coconut oil. Yes, bacon. Once a year, (maybe a few times in between), I do it. I’ve found EVERYONE eats the brussel sprouts when cooked this way – delish. Another favorite recipe is to make creamed spinach, replacing all the dairy ingredients with coconut equivalents. Creamed spinach doesn’t appear to be the most appetizing thing to eat, but again – this was fantastic with the coconut. Most of us weren’t ever fans of creamed spinach until this crossed our plates. Try it!

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