Skipping out on gluten won’t do your waistline any favors unless you do it the right way. But if you choose to go gluten-free for whatever reason, make the most of it. Celebrity nutritionist JJ Virgin, author of the New York Times best-seller “The Virgin Diet Cookbook,” advocates a gluten-free diet — as long as it’s chock full of nutritious whole foods, not processed junk.

READ: 5 things you didn’t know about gluten-free diets

“When you focus on a whole foods gluten-free diet, you optimize caloric intake with the most nutrient-dense foods available, and you'll probably find — if you're really interested — that you reduce calories on a gluten-free diet,” she told via email. “Obviously, eating gluten-free junk food becomes an easy way to rack up calories, but that's exactly what you're NOT going to do here.”

And while experts caution that going gluten-free can cause people miss out on important nutrients, Virgin says that you can get all the nutrition you need if you’re eating naturally.

“You can get all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients you need from lean clean protein, veggies, low-glycemic fruits like berries, and starchy fiber-rich carbs like sweet potatoes and lentils,” she said.

And when it comes to price of gluten-free foods, which always seems to be creeping up, Virgin says the key is to skip packaged foods and to include a variety of in-season produce in your regimen.

Need some inspiration? Here are some nutritious, low-calorie and delicious gluten-free dishes from “The Virgin Diet Cookbook” that are a snap to make at home.

Blueberry power muffins

Makes 12 muffins


  • 1 1/3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Biscuit and Baking Mix
  • ¾ cup (3 ounces) ground raw almonds
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup freshly ground flaxseeds
  • 2 teaspoons monk fruit extract
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut milk (such as So Delicious)
  • ¼ cup macadamia nut oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup fresh or frozen organic blueberries, thawed if frozen


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12‑cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Combine the baking mix, almonds, chia seeds, flax meal, monk fruit extract, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl; whisk well.

Combine the coconut milk, oil, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until just moistened. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups. Bake until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 27 to 29 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the muffin pan.

Nutrient content per serving

Calories: 175; Fat: 11 grams; Protein: 4 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Saturated Fat: 1 gram; Carbs: 16 grams; Sodium: 330 mg

Quinoa fusili with cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil

Makes 4 servings


  • 8 ounces quinoa fusilli pasta
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup organic no salt-added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the grape tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 7 minutes.

Stir in the beans and cook for 1 minute.

Drain the pasta and add it to the tomato mixture.

Cook, tossing, until hot, 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and salt.

Nutrient content per serving:

Calories: 416; Fat: 16 grams; Protein: 10 grams; Fiber: 8 grams; Saturated Fat: 2 grams; Carbs: 63 grams

Sodium: 222 mg

pan-seared salmon

Pan-seared salmon over tri- color salad with Dijon dressing

Makes 2 servings


  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ small head radicchio, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 Belgian endive, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cups baby arugula


  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 (6‑ounce) wild salmon fillets, such as king or sockeye
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Combine the lemon juice, shallots, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil until well combined, and set aside. In a separate bowl combine the radicchio, endive, and arugula; set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle the salmon with the salt and pepper and place in the skillet, flesh side down; cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Remove from the skillet.

Toss the dressing with the lettuces and divide the salad between two plates; top each with a salmon fillet.

Nutrient content per serving

Calories: 370; Fat: 21 grams; Protein: 38 grams; Fiber: 2 grams; Saturated Fat: 3 grams; Carbs: 5 grams; Sodium: 647 mg

Recipes from "The Virgin Diet Cookbook" by JJ Virgin. Copyright © 2014 by JJ Virgin. Used by arrangement with Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved. 

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