GF Dieters: Please Be Cautious with this Cookbook!

Recently, I checked The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking by Peter Reinhart and Denene Wallace out of the library. It is a newly published cookbook, and the title and claim—“80 low-carb recipes that offer solutions for celiac disease, diabetes, and weight loss”—sounded as if its recipes would be perfect for me and many of the readers of this blog.

The reality, however, doesn’t live up to the hyperbole, particularly if viewed through a Weight Watchers lens. If you’re a gluten-free dieter or a person with diabetic issues who has to keep your weight down, caution is in order. Here’s why.

The Problem for Dieters

To keep their recipes low-carb, the authors use artificial sugars and nut and seed meals, e.g., almond flour. These meals are very high in fat compared to bean and grain flours.

Take, for example, a recipe for eight small, but mouth-watering (in the photograph) Cajun Dinner Rolls.  The items* in the recipe with significant caloric value are

  • 2 cups of almond flour = 1,280 calories, 112g of fat
  • 1 cup golden flaxseed meal = 480 calories, 32g of fat
  • 3 eggs = 210 calories, 15g of fat
  • ¼ cup oil = 480 calories, 56g of fat

In other words, ONE roll = 306.25 calories, 51.25g of fat, and 9.25 Weight Watcher points.**

Now, let’s look at the same recipe using grain and bean flours.* The taste and texture would, I’m sure, be different; however, this is the type of flour blend*** I would consider for baking.

  • 2 cups of quinoa flour = 960 calories, 16g of fat
  • 1 cup of garfava flour = 440 calories, 6g of fat
  • 3 eggs = 210 calories, 15g of fat
  • ¼ cup oil = 480 calories, 56g of fat

With these flours, ONE roll = 261.25 calories, 11.6g of fat, and 6.25 Weight Watcher points.**

Thus, the problem: Although the caloric difference per roll is only 45 calories, the fat difference is a whopping 39.65 grams. The Weight Watcher points reflect this: The quinoa/garfava roll is 2/3 the WW value of the almond/flaxseed roll. Why is this?

Weight Watchers bases point values on current food research which demonstrates that calories are not equal in their impact on our bodies. Calories from fats contribute more to weight gain than calories from, say, protein.

Is it any wonder the authors of this cookbook do not include nutritional information for their recipes? People, very rightly, would be scared away, and not just for diet reasons. Fat-rich foods are connected to high cholesterol, blocked arteries, and heart problems.

Frankly, I think it outrageous to make weight-loss claims for high-fat products and irresponsible not to acknowledge the health issues surrounding high-fat foods.

Proceed with Caution

This cookbook is not unique in gluten-free cooking circles. The use of nut and seed meals has been spreading throughout the GF blogosphere for about a year now.

These meals make delicious baked products because of their taste and the oils they contain. For dieters, however, such products are generally out-of-bounds. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t bake with them altogether.

My suggestion is to use them in small amounts in your everyday recipes**** and as primary flours for bread, cakes, and cookies when you’re baking for a special occasion.

In the meantime, I will return the cookbook to the library and stick with my bean and grain flours.


*Nutritional data are from the Bob’s Red Mill and SparkPeople web sites.

**WW data are from Point Values of Gluten-Free Flours, Starches, and Ground Meals.

***For more information, see How to Blend Low-Calorie, Gluten-Free Flours/Starches.

****For an example, see Protein-Packed Chocolate Quinoa Cookies.


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