How to SHOP When Going Grain-Free and Sugar-Free

24 Aug

Fresh Produce at a Farm Market 

Going only gluten free will definitely have some health benefits, but if you want to lose weight and feel even healthier, I strongly suggest going grain-free and sugar free, not just gluten-free. (We follow The “Wheat Belly” plan by Dr. William Davis, though this is also essentially a primal diet which Mark Sisson promotes)

The reason for suggesting grain-free and sugar-free, is that the GF (gluten-free) processed foods are made of alternative grains and they are every bit as high carb and bad for you as wheat products. We avoid GF packaged foods like the plague! They are the reason that going GF gets a bad rap in the press, and why some claim that going GF causes you to miss out on key nutrients. If you replace processed wheat foods with processed wheat-free foods, the improvement to your diet is minimal. However, if you fill that gap in the diet with more healthy food (which is naturally gluten-free), the payoff is incredible. You will not lose out on nutrients from bread (which are ADDED in the first place), if you eat in a smart way. How anyone can doubt that ditching processed foods (with all of their sugars, chemicals, colorants and toxins) is a GREAT idea for anyone, is completely beyond me!

Friends often ask what we eat, and what to shop for, to get started. Remember, the best way to eat right, is to keep ONLY compliant foods in your fridge and pantry. That way, even if you are tempted to indulge, it will be with good foods. Shopping at Farmer’s Markets and Meat Markets is part of my weekly routine.

We (husband and I) eat very few beans/legumes because they are high in carbohydrates, and often cause intestinal distress. Rice is a rarity that I save for sushi maybe once a month, but it is also high in carbs and we don’t purchase it for the pantry. We have stopped eating corn (partly because it’s a high-carb grain, but also because corn now contains its own pesticide within its DNA structure!) We don’t eat sugar either. The whole point of eating this way is to avoid BSS, which are blood sugar spikes that release insulin. Insulin is the fat storage hormone. The idea is very similar to Atkins or South Beach Diets, but grains are never added back into the lifestyle. You want to get to the point where your body begins burning fats as fuel, instead of carbohydrates. Therefore, it’s important to get enough fat in your diet, and eat plenty of food, just not high-carb foods.  The goal is to keep NET carbs (carbohydrate grams minus fiber grams) between 20-50g a day during the weight loss stage.

Within the first few days you will probably notice immediate relief from bloating and may lose a few pounds of water weight right off the bat. (My brother lost 17 lbs the first WEEK! Unheard of, but it happened.) Some people experience withdrawals from wheat, because it is actually addictive. I didn’t go through that, but my husband did for about 2 weeks. Even if you do experience a tough week, stick with it, it’s worth it!


~All kinds of meat, chicken, beef, pork (bacon is fine), fish, seafood. Grass-fed, free-range, organic and wild-caught are the best choices if you can afford them, but not necessary.
~Eggs… we eat them almost daily and try to buy free-range, organic

~Real cultured cheeses, Swiss, cheddar, blue, Parmesan, etc (just meaning real cheese, not Velveeta or processed types)

~Full fat dairy, such as sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, mayo, heavy whipping cream. We eat these in moderation. Avoid skim and low fat milk as well, as it’s loaded with sugar and carbs.

~Above ground (non-starchy) veggies, LOTS. We eat plenty of green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cukes, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, pea pods, etc… So everything except potatoes, corn (grain!), carrots, etc

~Greens like lettuces, cabbages, kale etc, fall in love with salads!

~Avocados, important source of fat and omega 3

~Nuts and nut butters, especially almonds and walnuts, but others are good too. Just not too many peanuts.

~Dark chocolate 70-85% is fine in moderation; I have a couple squares most days and use it in recipes.

~Healthy fats and oils. We rely most on coconut oil and butter. Refined coconut oil is less expensive and doesn’t taste like coconut; Virgin unrefined coconut oil costs more and tastes coconutty (I love it.) Olive oil is good, walnut oil too. Avoid canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil and other vegetable oils, hydrogenation is VERY bad.

~Flax seed, ground. It’s good for adding omega 3’s. I use it sometimes in crackers or smoothies. It’s kind of nutty, and I think it’s an acquired taste.

~Almond flour and perhaps coconut flour if you want to bake something. I have several recipes on the blog. Avoid rice flour, sorghum, tapioca, potato… all very high carb and starchy.

~For sweeteners, I mainly use Truvia, but also some Stevia and Erythritol (which I order online, it’s a sugar alcohol) as they don’t cause BSS. Honestly, I don’t crave sweets as much as I used to, so it’s mainly Truvia in my coffee or a smoothie, but also a little in desserts sometimes.

~Fruit in moderation. All types of berries are the best choices. We eat strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. Avoid the high-sugar tropical fruits like banana, mango, pineapple, papaya, or just have very rarely.

Tuscan Shrimp and VeggiesSo, that’s a basic run-down, but I am sure I have forgotten something. A typical meal for us is some type of meat with one or two veggies on the side, prepared in different ways, often with butter and cheese of some kind. We love creative salads. If you want sandwiches, we often use lettuce to wrap meat and cheese in with fixings. Stir-fries are great choices! (Try my Tuscan Shrimp.). Grilling meat and veggies is good, as is baking. You can pan fry fish, chicken breast and pork chops using coconut oil (only), and coating the meat in eggs/mayo and pressing into a mix of grated Parmesan and almond flour with seasonings. (Or try the baked Parmesan Perch as a basis for other meats.) Super easy, very low carb.
The hardest thing is just not over-thinking it, and getting used to eating REAL food, and knowing which things will spike blood sugar. Focus on what you can eat, instead of thinking about what you can’t. Let me know if you have any questions 🙂 or join many like me over on the Wheat Belly Facebook page! Seriously, it’s amazing that a best-selling author and cardiologist like Dr. William Davis has such an active FB page where he actually comments on posts from his followers. THAT is commitment!

My husband and I have been following this plan for 5 months this week… and I have lost 27 lbs; Mitch has lost 31. Most of that happened in the first 2.5-3 months. I know I would lose more if I was perfect with it, but I still enjoy  wine/cocktails which will stall weight loss 😉 Just remember that while weight loss is GREAT, the health benefits from following this plan are almost too numerous to mention!!!

I hope that this helps for those that want to get started and need to SHOP!!


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24 responses to “How to SHOP When Going Grain-Free and Sugar-Free

  1. Myrna

    August 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Well said, You started WB around the same time as our family. I didn’t need to lose weight but 10lbs. left and I struggle to maintain now. I’m the only vegetarian on the FB page (who admits it). Love your site. Glad you make the time for all us.

    • Gretchen without Grain

      August 24, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      Thank you for the supportive comment Myrna! While I have no inclination to be vegetarian, we are all on the same bandwagon when it comes to living without the toxins in grains. I always find that regardless of specifics, we all have much more in common than in contrast!

  2. Deby

    August 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I am following you . Great article…I am glad you are doing this !!!

    • Gretchen without Grain

      August 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      Thank you Deby 🙂 I started this blog back in April when my family first went on the WB plan… right from the start it just felt a very important thing for me to be doing!

  3. changeforbetterme

    August 24, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Great post! Although with me being a diabetic it’s hard to go completely carb free as my blood sugars go too low then. But being grain free for a little while now I have seen a big difference in how much better I feel! I sleep almost the whole night thru, maybe getting up once or twice, where before I was waking up every hour and a half! My joints are not hurting near as badly. My bloating as gone way down and my breathing is so much better!! I’m not 100% yet, but getting there! Thanks again for your great posts Gretchen!

    • Gretchen without Grain

      August 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      I’m so glad that you have seen a difference in going grain-free! The most amazing thing to me is the wide array of symptoms that are relieved once the systemic inflammation is no longer being aggravated by the grains. You don’t have to go no-carb (I think that would be nearly impossible unless we ate zero veggies or fruit), but low-carb is what aids in the weight loss aspect. Also remember that we are looking at NET carbs, which is the carbs minus fiber. There have been people that I know, who have followed the WB plan and have completely “reversed” diabetes!!! Glad you enjoyed the article.

      • changeforbetterme

        August 24, 2012 at 10:08 pm

        I’m hoping I get the diabetes to go away. We will see, it’s early days yet. Thanks again for the great information.

  4. Myrna

    August 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    No one is suggesting “carb free” just low carb.

  5. Kate Cook

    August 24, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Well, I was on Dr. William Davis’s blog asking if Almond Flour was really ok to use.. he replied yes and included this site!! What great information. We are newly (over a week now) gluten/wheat free and are feeling fantastic.. lbs. dropping without effort !! A new life!! Love your blog!! Yay!!

    • Gretchen without Grain

      August 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      Hi Kate, Welcome!
      I’m flattered that Dr. D sent you here… take a look around at the recipes and I am sure you can find a few good ways to use almond flour. Congratulations on getting rid of the grain in your life; it’s the most amazing thing we’ve done for our health!

  6. Patti McCready

    August 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Gretchen,
    I am Kate’s Sister. Am reading WB and extremely excited for health reasons, the weight loss will be a gift! Most important for me at this point is to know how and what to buy. I will be eliminating Wheat from my food, but I am caring for my husband who has been fighting a very rare cancer for almost 4 years. He recently had his Pancreas removed in May of this year. I can’t make any dietary changes with his diet yet as digestion is a key issue when you no longer have the pancreatic enzymes required. I am juicing for him to get him predigested smoothies with great nutrients directly to his bloodstream, but fear this removing wheat would be too radical and too soon for him, so I will unfortunately still have some things in my cupboard and fridge that are not for me! I am strong tho and have remained medication free for my diabetes II and had heart bypass 7+ years ago and adult onset asthma. I adopted total lifestyle changes, so, I know I can resist when I reap the health benefits that Dr.D indicated that I would realize. I thank you for this grocery list and I will seek to feed him the same nutritious foods that I eat, but am sure that I can’t eliminate all foods from my kitchen that might cause him to loose weight. Some foods are not easily digested for him, thus my turn to juicing for him which I partake in too. Thanks again!

    • Gretchen without Grain

      August 27, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      Hi Patti,
      Thanks for visiting my blog, and I’m glad that you found this shopping post to be helpful. I hear you when you say that you have to be cautious in changing your husband’s diet due to him fighting cancer. I don’t know how much of a wheat “detox” he would go through, but I can tell you this… Wheat is INCREDIBLY inflammatory! It is the worst of the worst, which is why people experience so many health benefits by going wheat-free (and further, grain-free.) Inflammation is at the root of many illnesses and symptoms, everything from digestive issues, asthma, to joint pain, migraines, and heart disease. Also, diseases like cancer feed on excess sugar in the body and thrive in the acidic environment caused by the sugar. I’m not sure what steps would need to be taken because of him having had his pancreas removed, but likely Dr. D could shed some light on that if you were interested. For yourself in regards to WB: I know that juicing is a good way to get a lot of nutrients, but be cautious of what you are juicing, as it can really increase the carbs in your diet. When we calculate our daily carbs for WB, we look at NET carbs, which is carbs minus fiber… when juicing, I’m not sure how much of that fiber is lost, but judging by the pulp that remains, it is quite a bit. Enjoy the book and the journey; it sounds like you are on the right track and ready to make the switch! ~Gretchen

  7. Patti McCready

    August 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Thanks Gretchen. My husband is already diabetic requiring insulin. He is very balanced right now, so I am well aware of the “sugar” and other things that spike sugar in our daily diets. I am juicing with a juicer that pulvarizes all that I use. No left over pulp. Using only organic veggies and greens, apples, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and banana’s. I am using this method to get him the iron he needs from greens like spinach because he is extremely anemic right now and his glucose does not spike after the veggie smoothies,, but a little after the fruit smoothies. I too have had the veggie smoothies and noticed a change in my joint pain (better), but am going to do a lot of investigating before moving him over entirely to wheat free. We know how to count carbs and more importantly for him than myself, because I am not insulin dependent. Just so wonderful to find this whole new world of health because I thought we were eating healthy. As you know, medical folks tell you to eat those grains as a part of heart healthy diet……yikes!!! Anyway, been on this for 3 days and am going shopping today, so needed a shopping list! Felt a little tummy ache this morning, but my blood pressure was the best it’s been in a long while for the first time in months. Scale shows a loss of 2 lbs and I am very excited!!! Thanks again…..will follow your blog!

    • Gretchen without Grain

      August 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      You know so much already, that following the WB way will just expand your understandings. Sorry to repeat information that you were already well-aware of! I have never used a juicer that pulverizes everything; it sounds like a much better option for getting everything you need, especially for your husband who needs it to be potent. As for the experts recommending heart healthy whole grains… I know, I thought I was doing the “right” thing by buying 9-grain bread for my morning toast, who knew! My husband used to buy bulk grains and cook them like rice, and thought he was being healthy, ACK! Thank you for following my blog, and for your comments, I wish you the best in your new lifestyle!

  8. Kerry

    September 17, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I have been following the Wheat Belly for two weeks now. It has been difficult but I have not given up. I am disappointed that I have only lost 1 pound…I am not sure why…I plan to stick with it and hope that the weight starts to come off.

    • Gretchen without Grain

      September 18, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      Hi Kerry, glad you found WB! Stick with it, and if weight-loss is a primary goal, just be sure your carbs are staying on the low side as well as being grain-free. It’s different for everyone, and we all lose at different paces. After giving it some time, you may see results, or if not you may want to dig a little deeper to look for an underlying cause. I hope it goes well for you!

  9. zee

    October 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    hi,Gretchen, i am glad i found ur blog . my name is zee , i gave up sugar ten years ago. i gave up fast food and soda years ago as well. i had breast cancer when i was 35 and i had a tumor in my pancreas 3 years ago. i changed my diet so no sugar no fry food and now its been 2 months no grain. i lost 12 pounds in 2 months, drs, never knew why i was having stomach pain and Bloated everyday. it was one pill after another lol. i feel so much better with out grain, people always tell me how can i live and enjoy food with out sugar and grain lol. i tell them its not hard after when u get use to it, my brother has cancer and now my sister has cancer its been tuff but i try to help both of them with the way they eat, no sugar no carbs no acid no fry food they dont like it lol, but they will get use to it , some times they get mad oh well lol i love them both

    • Gretchen without Grain

      October 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      Hi Zee, I’m glad that even though it took a long time, you have found a healthy way to eat and relief from your symptoms! It seems like a drastic change to people from the outside, but eating without grains and sugars actually feels very natural once people get through the detox phase of it, and get used to eating without processed foods. I wish you luck in inspiring your family to make the change as well. I hope you find my blog useful on your journey, and thank you for visiting!

  10. Katie

    October 17, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Bravo Gretchen!!

  11. Sharon

    October 24, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Have you tried Swerve sweetener? It is Maria Emmerich’s favorite as well as mine. No aftertaste, no digestive upset, zero on the GI, bakes beautifully and measures equal to sugar. Just wonderful.

    • Gretchen without Grain

      October 28, 2012 at 7:48 pm

      Hi Sharon, thank you for stopping by!
      I have tried Swerve, and I love it too 🙂 I am using it in some of my more recent recipes like Pumpkin Maple Spice Muffins. I do find that it is less sweet than Truvia, so I often amp up the sweetness with a little Stevia when using larger amounts in order to stretch the product further. I agree that it’s a wonderful product and I look forward to being able to buy it locally some day… though in the meantime, ordering online is a great option.

      Thank you for the comment!

  12. Raegen Autry

    April 1, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Started on the Wheat-free journey today. A little nervous but excited about the changes I hope will happen. I not only want (need) to lose weight, but I want to feel less lethargic, depressed and achy!

    • Gretchen without Grain

      April 5, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Raegen, I sure hope that you find relief from the symptoms you are experiencing. Give it some time, as some people do go through a withdrawal period and detox in the first week or so. Best of luck starting out! ~ Gretchen


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