One of the first things people learn about the gluten-free diet is that all unprocessed, unmarinated meat is naturally gluten free. Many people leave it at that, never thinking anything more about the type of meat they eat. That’s exactly what Julie Matthews did. “I had this idea that all the animals we were eating for meat grazed on grass in open ranges. Boy, was I misinformed!”
Julie learned that most animals live in crowded, inhumane conditions and are fattened up on foods such as corn and soy to which they are not well adapted. She further learned that raising animals on grass is healthier for the animals and the people who eat them. Julie decided to select pasture-raised meat instead of grain-fed commercial meat whenever possible, and she not only lost eight pounds and felt better physically, but she also felt emotionally better about the food choices she was making.
Compared with feedlot meat, meat from grass-fed cows, bison, lamb, and goats is much more nutritious: It has less total fat, saturated fat, and calories. (Get this: grass-fed beef can have the same amount of fat as skinless chicken breast, wild deer, or elk!) It also contains more vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and a number of health-promoting fats—including anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, which has fat-burning properties and may be a potent cancer fighter.
Some studies suggest that opting for grass-fed meat also may lower your risk of acquiring foodborne illnesses, such as infection from Campylobacter and E. coli bacteria.
Using less grain in meat production also helps the environment in numerous ways, says author Jo Robinson in Why Grassfed is Best. It eliminates the fertilizers and herbicides used to grow large amounts of corn that are fed to cattle. It also eliminates the oil and natural gas used in the mowers and combines that harvest the grain and in the vehicles that ship it to feed lots.
Shopping for Grass-Fed Meats
The terms “grass-fed,” “pastured,” and “pasture-raised” are not currently regulated or certified, so keep in mind two important points when shopping. First, organic meat isn’t the same as pasture-raised meat. Animals raised organically may not be given hormones or antibiotics to promote growth, and may eat only organic feed. But that doesn’t mean that they’re raised on organic pasture, unless the meat is labeled both certified organic and grass fed.
Second, all animals are raised on pasture for some or most of their lives, but most of them are “finished” or fattened up on grain. To get all of the benefits attributed to grass-fed meat, look for meat that is both grass fed and grass finished, or labeled 100% grass fed, as well as organic. Sommers, Eel River, and Panorama organic grass-fed meats are three such brands. Mindful Meats, the first Non-GMO Project Verified beef company in the United States, is another. You can also search for local organic grass-fed meat, poultry, egg, and dairy companies in your area at Eatwild.com, which lists a directory of pasture-based farms across the country.
Grass-fed meats are much lower in total fat and cook more quickly than commercial meats, so be careful not to overcook them. For burgers, don’t cook them as long as you normally would (but use a thermometer to check the internal temperature to be safe). For other cuts of meat, add moisture and prevent sticking by cooking them at low temperature in a sauce; adding a good quality fat such as organic pastured butter or extra virgin olive oil; or marinating them overnight to tenderize before cooking.
Greek-Style Grass-Fed Lamb Shanks*
To offset the cost of grass-fed meats, substitute less expensive cuts—such as lamb shanks instead of leg of lamb. This Easter, try making grass-fed lamb shanks fixed southern Greece-style, with lemon juice rather than tomato sauce.
4 grass-fed lamb shanks
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced into slivers
4 Tbs. organic extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 organic lemons, plus more if desired
1 Tbs. oregano
Unrefined sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 cup water
* Adapted from a recipe developed by Melissa’s mother, Helen Smith.
PER SERVING: 472 cal; 32g pro; 36g total fat (12g sat fat); 3g carb; 120mg chol; 121mg sod; <1g fiber; 1g sugars
Gluten-free Rescue Kit
If you live gluten free—or are on any other type of specialty diet—it pays to keep appropriate nonperishable foods on hand in case of unexpected events
Last October, Hurricane Sandy pummeled the northeastern United States, leaving millions without power and causing widespread evacuations. If a weather disaster happened where you live, would you be prepared with ready-to-eat, gluten-free foods to keep you going?
For most people, the answer is no. When adverse weather conditions or accidents happen, it’s important to have an emergency food kit packed and ready to use at a moment’s notice.
Give yourself peace of mind and get prepared by making up an emergency kit containing non-perishable, super-nutritious, transportable gluten-free foods. Try including the following items:
Making a Gluten-Free Emergency Kit
Never made up an emergency kit before? Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.
Melissa Diane Smith, a nationally known writer and holistic nutritionist who specializes in personalizing the gluten-free diet, offers long-distance telephone counseling and coaching services to clients across the country. She is the author of Going Against the Grain and Gluten Free Throughout the Year: A Two-Year, Month-to-Month Guide for Healthy Eating. To learn about her free newsletter, visit www.againstthegrainnutrition.com. For info about her books, long-distance consultations, nutrition coaching programs, or speaking, visit www.melissadianesmith.com.