Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Pancake Diet - Gluten-Free too!

Although I have been neglecting my Gluten-Free Blog a bit recently (my posting-frequency is suffering as I had to do some "real" work the past few weeks), my diet is going well. One of the core components of a healthy gluten-free diet I have been adhering to for the past six months or so now is pancakes. Yes, pancakes as a diet aid!

These are no ordinary pancakes either, as they are extraordinary in both composition and flavor and nutritional value. I would almost call them a "gluten-free meal replacement" diet product, as one pancake constitutes my entire mid-day meal (lunch or very late breakfast) on most days now.

I had a few objectives in mind when I designed these wheat-free and gluten-free pancakes, and I put a lot of time into tuning them and improving them over time - which didn't take long, since I eat them on most days.

My diet-pancake goals included:
  • Consistency and taste: always my top priority in baking! Gluten-Free or not, it has to taste good and have great texture in order for me to eat it - especially if I am going to eat it regularly!
  • Simplicity: I needed a formula or recipe that was simple to mix up in a hurry and bake without much thought or effort, plus one that is adaptable to simple flavorful/healthful variations.
  • Healthful: not just "empty carbs", but rather a mix of ingredients with a reasonable glycemic index coupled with a nice balance of protein, vitamins, minerals, and overall nutritional value.
The Result: Gluten-Free Super-Diet-Pancakes!
I met all my goals with the gluten-free pancake diet recipe that has evolved from months of continual use. I absolutely love the fact that I can now eat pancakes on a regular basis (which are, of course, rather closely related to cakes, and thus my primary passion: gluten-free desserts). The consistency and taste take care of my "need" for bread-like foods that I would so otherwise miss in a traditional diet, and I have enough flavor and variation in flavor to keep me wanting them day after day.

Simple would be understating how easy these are to "get right" just by eyeballing the ingredients. I can make any of a wide variety of these wheat-free Pancakes now just by pouring, shaking, or adding ingredients into a single bowl as I go, without any measuring equipment (don't worry - I give close approximations for proportions of ingredients in the recipe below).

Healthfulness objectives were met on most levels, though I vary the recipe a bit based on my add-on ingredients (I admit it: on more than a few days, I give into my chocolate addiction and add chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, etc.!) But, overall, it's pretty good on the "health scale", and makes up about a third of my daily 2000-calorie target diet.

The Diet-Pancake Recipe / Formula

I'm going to include a few pictures here to demonstrate how simple, and rather free form, this "recipe" is. This picture shows my various ingredients accumulating in a bowl. And, here is an approximation of what my typical "diet pancake" includes:

The "core recipe":
  • roughly 3/4 Cup buckwheat flour (please, please,... no posts from people that do not understand that buckwheat is safe, gluten-free, and not related to wheat in any way). If you need gluten-free buckwheat flour, you can get the Pocono Certified GF Organic Buckwheat Flour here.
  • roughly 1/3-1/2 Cup pumpkin puree (I am using all my freshly cooked pumpkin-pie pumpkin filling I made and froze last fall - see my various gluten-free pumpkin recipes blogs and such for prior discussions). I have used canned pumpkin too. This is a super-healthy ingredient with a low-calorie, low glycemic index, and full of nutrients (Vitamin A being one standout, and plenty of fiber!)
  • about a tablespoon of cinnamon. (Why so much cinnamon? Read the sub-discussion on this prior gluten-free blog entry about Cinnamon and health benefits).
  • roughly a tablespoon of molasses. This is a great source of Iron, Calcium, and Potassium!
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon Inulin (i.e., ground chicory root) - nearly pure soluble fiber.
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown rice bran (I use Ener-G's products for this). Again, great fiber source and more! Some studies have shown it useful for lowering cholesterol too. Note: don't use TOO much - this is one case where "too much of a good thing" is easy to reach...the flavor and texture can easily ruin the pancake if overdone.
  • 1/2 ounce of the miracle gluten-free "gluten" product: whey protein isolate. I did a prior blog about the marvels of baking with gluten-free whey protein here. This truly is an amazing product, and makes these pancakes hold up to any comparison to "real" (wheat-filled or gluten-containing) ones.
  • A bit of baking powder: 1/4-1/2 tsp max.
  • Water : enough to reach proper consistency... add some, mix, add more, until desired batter thickness (see below for discussion...)
  • Baking / Frying instructions: (see below...)
Recipe Variations / Options / Add-Ons
I will regurly add one or more of the following to this mix for both flavor and varied nutritional / diet objectives. Some options include (at whatever level of extra flavor - and calories - you desire):

  • Chocolate (a weakness of mine!) - chips, chunks, even cocoa on occasion. Full of antioxidants, fiber, iron, magnesium, and more (good excuses for sure!)
  • Frozen blueberries (or other frozen fruits), Raisins (or other dried fruits) - more antioxidants
  • Chopped nuts - walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, etc. All of them go well in here, and walnuts are full of Omega-3's!
  • Other grain(s) - I've mixed in some Flax Meal on occasion, and have even tried some perhaps unusual "experiments" (that came out fine) where I pre-cooked some whole Teff grain, and mixed the cooked grain into my pancakes (for a nice added Whole-Grain benefit)
One of my favorite combos included some 85%-cocoa chocolate with chopped hazelnuts. Fantastic!

The Pancake Batter

The above picture shows the resulting pancake batter after being hydrated. I don't know how to best advise getting the moisture level right, other than by a bit of trial and error, since altering the ingredients list varies the amount of water needed.

Even the different batches of cooked pumpkin I use vary in their water-content, and thus alter the amount of extra water I must add. I just know what the consistency and thickness needs to be in the end to get the pancake right. It's probably not much different than what a "normal" pancake batter would be like.

NOTE: the batter may be a bit "lumpy" looking with all that pumpkin-fiber (and optional nuts, fruit, chocolate) in there.

Baking / Frying the Gluten-Free Pancake

Notice I said "pancake" and not "pancakeS" here -- I'm making one LARGE pancake (10" wide, nearly 1" thick), though you can certainly split into smaller batches. I use a 10" cast-iron frypan, and pour the entire bowl of batter on to a well sprayed (cooking spray) pan that I pre-heat a bit. I have found that getting the heat-level right is important, especially for these mega-pancakes.

I cook on low heat for a longer period of time. I have found that 7-10 minutes frying on the first side makes flipping easier by far, and then I cook the mega-cake for another 4-5 minutes on side two. The end result is the plate-sized super-pancake pictured at the beginning of this gluten-free blog entry.

That is one serious pancake!

It's always hard to get a sense for scale in a picture, so here's a cross-section picture showing the full depth of this cake, while also exposing my chocolate chunks! :) Now you can see how a single pancake can be so utterly filling (And fulfilling!)

Nutritional Data
If you were trying to count carbs, protein, sugar, and so forth during the ingredient list above, I can help out here (in approximation). I'm targeting about 600 calories total in my single massive meal-replacement pancake, and the breakdown is roughly:
  • buckwheat: 300 calories, 66g carbs (9 of which is fiber), 12g protein, 3g fat, 15% RDA potassium
  • pumpkin: 20 (yes, only TWENTY) calories, 6g carbs (1/4 of that is fiber), 1g protein, 100% vitamin-A RDA
  • cinnamon: 20 calories, 6g carbs (4g is fiber)
  • molasses: 50 calories, 12g carbs (all sugars), 15% RDA potassium, 15% RDA Calcium, 20% RDA Iron
  • brown rice bran: 25-50 calories - high in potassium, carbs are nearly 50% fiber, and it's high protein
  • Inulin: 2.5g carb (2 of which is soluble fiber)
  • Whey Protein Isolate: 50 calories, 12.5g protein (25% RDA)
  • [optional recipe ingredients]100-200 calories of walnuts, blueberries, etc.
I point out the fiber content of the carbs here, since fiber is quite important in the diet plan, as it "fills you up" and makes you feel full, while keeping the overall glycemic index of the carbohydrates in check a bit. I wanted something that would satisfy my tastebuds while making my stomach think it had plenty to eat, and something with a "slow burn" (vs. simple sugar and carbs). This seems to do the job nicely!

Pancake-Diet and Weight Loss - the Results
While eating my "diet pancakes", I have lost nearly 20 pounds over the past 4 months. These pancakes make up the "core calories" in my day-to-day life, and they are enjoyable and delicious calories that satisfy my cravings for carbohydrates while also being generally healthy with a good balance of protein, fiber, carbs, and nutrients.

I do not attribute all of my weight loss to these pancakes, as I am also working out regularly and staying active (as any real diet plan should include) - 20-30 minutes/day, 6 days/week of some form of exercise. One day/week is resistance training (with light weights where appropriate): pushups, chinups, situps, curls, dips, squats, military press, leg-lifts, etc. The other 5 days is moderate aerobics: stationary bike (well, stationary for Winter at least), rowing machine, and/or walking or jogging.

I was not technically overweight to begin with, but I did see room for improvement, and certainly room to tone up a bit more. And, by sticking to my diet and my exercise routine, I am now able to wear the same size jeans I did in College - which isn't bad considering that was some 20 years ago! So, one way or the other, the pancake diet (using my specially formulated gluten-free diet pancakes) has certainly been an integral part of the plan and has helped me meet my health goals.

I hope this formulation / recipe can be of use to anyone else that may want a great dietary option for health and/or weight-loss reasons. If nothing else, it may at least give you a great basis for some experimental gluten-free baking :)

I can see easily adapting this recipe to create "health bars" or such... perhaps such a recipe will be coming in the future on the Gluten-Free Blog.


Lynn Barry said...

CONGRATS! TO be honest I thought you must be as big as a house with all the gooey ooey yummy desserts in your kitchen all the time, but I kept it to myself...just kidding...GOOD FOR YOU with the pancake diet and what a delicious way to lose weight. HUGS

Mike Eberhart said...

Lynn, good to hear from you. Perhaps if I didn't exercise all the time I'd be "as big as a house" :) I do also have height as an advantage, as being over 6 feet helps spread the weight around. But, generally, it is the staying active that really helps any diet plan work well.

I always love those TV ads (or magazine, radio, etc) for super diet plans and products - which always have the small print or subtext about "when combined with regular exercise". Just like those ads, I have to say that the exercise portion of my "diet" certainly contributes quite a bit to the net effect, though calorie-restriction and tailoring definitely helps. I'll be enjoying my "pancake diet" for quite some time -years probably.

Take care Lynn.

Dianne said...

HaHa! Mike isn't as big as a house, but he's certainly as tall as one! Fortunately, (for me) he's also got a sense of humour too!!!

Seriously though!

The pancakes look interesting and I love pancakes. There look to be a couple of ingredients in there, that I anticipate problems with. I'll need to investigate!


Mike Eberhart said...

Well now... tall as a house? I think you exaggerate. Though, I do remember some of those old 1800'S UK homes where I had to bend down a bit to get through doorways. Then again, I think those homes were designed for Hobbits :)

I'm not sure which ingredients would give you problems, but drop me an email if you want to discuss alternates. I've played with a few.

Anonymous said...

Yum, that's a great-looking recipe (and wonderful variations). Thanks for spelling it all out in such great detail.

Anonymous said...

I need to avoid dairy. Does that mean I need to avoid whey?

Mike Eberhart said...

Thanks for the comments, and for stopping by!

I have another use for this same recipe: COOKIES :)

I basically mix it all up without added liquids (or perhaps an ounce or so of water), and drop it on a cookie sheet and bake for 12min@400F. I'll just borrow some of my pancake batter (before it's batter) and make a few cookies, and use the rest for my pancake. They are "healthy cookies" that allow me to have my meal spread out over the day in a couple different ways.

Anonymouse: regarding whey and dairy avoidance... well, from what I understand, the whey protein is lactose-free, and perhaps casein-free too (at least the type I am using is as far as I can tell). But, it depends what your dairy-avoidance is all about; meaning, if you are lactose-intolerant, the whey should be OK, but if you have issues with milk-proteins in general, Whey could be an issue. I wish there was an easy and painless way to find out. If you want to just try and see what happens, I did find some little trial-packet sized whey-protein (or individual use size) at Whole Foods recently. Could be a good and cheap way to try it. Regards.

kbabe1968 said...

WOW!!!! I think I could try those!!!! WOW....they look really YUMMY! :D Clever use of ingredients as well! :D

Anonymous said...


I am really impressed. You not only go for delicious, but you really do your homework on the nutrition angle. My patients with gluten intolerance usually have the initial 'oh no, I won't be able to eat anything' reaction. Great blogs like yours prove that is far from the case. There is so much excellent food that works for those with gluten intolerance and other food allergies/intolerances. Keep up the good work.

Mike Eberhart said...

Dr. Wangen,
uh... thanks for the comments, but my name is MIKE, not Lynn. Lynn is the first person that posted a comment here, so I understand the confusion. But, Lynn also has a GF blog, so I hope you enjoy hers too if you get a chance to read it.

Dr. Stephen Wangen said...

Mike, My apologies. Stupid mistake. I shouldn't post at the end of a long day of seeing patients.

Still, it is good to see adventerous cooking for celiacs like us. My patients at the IBS Treatment Center ( will be glad to know you are posting recipes here.

(to anonymous: whey is a dairy product. If you need to avoid dairy, you also need to avoid casein, whey, and other 'hidden' dairy products often used in processed foods)

Tree said...

Holy Smokes, these look AWESOME. Can't wait to try 'em!

Tree said...

You are sooo onto something with your whey protein isolate discovery. I just made this gigantic pancake, which seems like enough food for a family of four. It was delicious and had a beautiful texture. You rock!

Mike Eberhart said...

tiny morsels,
Thanks for the feedback! Glad to hear that you experienced similarly wonderful results. We have been experimenting with all sorts of recipes and the added whey as a "gluten" of sorts, and today's was our jalepeno cornbread recipe - it came out quite nice. Enjoy the gluten-free baking fun!

Kelsi said...

I wanted to first say thank you for your blog and recipes!! I was diagnosed a year ago and it is blogs like yours that really help!!

I wanted to also tell you that I linked to this entry on my blog. I made the pancakes with strawberries and chocolate chips. YUM!

Thanks again!

Bella The Healthy Diet Planner said...

Tried your gluten free pancake. Simply delicious. Great way to lose weight and satisfy the taste buds!