The line at my favorite coffee spot coiled the length of the room and landed me right in front of a shelf stocked with “all-natural gluten-free maple granola.” Since I had nothing to do but wait in line, I picked up a small bag of this gluten-free earthy, real food and read the list of ingredients. I recognized everything on the list and an added bonus, I could pronounce every ingredient. As I clutched this promising package with the hipster design, I sneered at the hefty price tag and re-shelved the simple, additive free granola.
We are a small family farm, so I understand why organic, grassroots companies need to charge higher prices for their products. Believe me, if I could afford to purchase this locally produced product on a weekly basis, I would! Regrettably, it’s just not in the budget. A granola girl in my situation has but one option and that is to whip up my own version of the crunchy concoction.
My Perspective on Gluten/Gluten Free Grains in Granola
I straddle both sides of the gluten fence. Here’s why: if I don’t grind my own grains then I take a pass on foods baked with processed flour. I don’t have any allergies to gluten, so it’s not imperative that I restrict or limit my consumption of gluten. My aim, though, is to avoid refined grains of any sort. Granola made with real food ingredients uses grains that are in their natural, unrefined state. Most non-gluten free granola recipes use oats as the main ingredient, but the gluten-free counterpart uses a GF grain like buckwheat. You can access my non-Gluten Free granola recipe along with other breakfast foods in the in the Simple, Versatile Real Food Breakfast Menu link at the end of this post.
My Perspective on Sugar in Granola
The real food factor with granola lies in what you add to the grain. When surveying any recipe scrutinize the sweetener. I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating—use sweeteners derived from nature. Sally Fallon, the author of the best-selling cookbook Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and Diet Dictocrats, defines natural sweeteners as “foods which the nutrients have not been removed, or may even be more concentrated due to boiling down and evaporation.” My granola recipe suggests using a half of a cup of honey, date syrup or maple syrup. However, the key to a life of clean eating is to avoid over-indulging even in nature’s sweeteners.
Beware of the Suspicious Ingredients
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and a self-proclaimed food detective questions, “How did we ever get to a point where we need investigative journalists to tell us where our food comes from?” You have an unparalleled wealth of food to chose from, what matters are the food choices you make. Boxes of industrial granola produced by king cereal manufacturers like Kellogg’s line the shelves of supermarkets. Kellogg’s Low-Fat Granola lists corn syrup as the third ingredient along with other suspicious ingredients like glycerin, partially hydrogenated cottonseed/soybean oil, modified corn starch, and polyglycerol esters. I did some ingredient sleuthing on polyglycerol esters and concluded that food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic companies use this synthetic ingredient as an emulsifier to replace fats.
Frugal Real Food Life
A frugal real food life often requires that you become a master at counterfeiting the expensive products or canvass the internet for real food sites. Thrivemarket.com, Vitacost.com, and Amazon.com offer deals on whole food items like granola made with clean ingredients. Frugally speaking, processed food is cheap so don’t be tempted to purchase fake food because of the low price. If you peruse a current sales flyer from your local supermarket, you will most likely discover the abundance of inexpensive processed foods. Conversely, real food ads occupy only a small corner in most supermarket flyers. Focus on the food in that small corner of the flyer because farmers grew or raised that food.
Make a Plan
The best way to incorporate real food into your everyday life is to plan your meals. Real food meal planning will help you resist the temptation of buying last minute pre-made foods. For example, set aside a few hours once a week to prep foods like my granola recipe. Try this real food meal plan for spring.
Resources for Buckwheat:
Gluten Free Maple Granola Recipe