Gluten Free Living Tips

23 Oct

I’ve been thinking about this, hearing about a few friends-of-friends who have just been diagnosed with Celiac or discovered they have a gluten intolerance. What do I wish I’d known, when I started all this?

Gluten Free cooking isn’t hard, it’s just different. Don’t get me wrong, transitioning to gluten free cooking from cooking with wheat, or not cooking at all, is hard. But once you learn how to use a new set of ingredients, it’s not really any harder to cook gluten free than to cook “regular.” Be daring. Be willing to make mistakes. Challenge yourself to make the foods you want, gluten-free, and as good as or better than the original. Begin to stock your cabinet with different kinds of flour, and learn how to use them. If you’re into baking (or just crave bread and cookies), two good cookbooks to learn from are The Gluten Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by Bette Hagman (mostly breads), and Gluten Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly (mostly quick breads and desserts). They’re not designed for beginners, but you’ll learn a lot by reading through them and making even a few recipes.

You don’t have to sacrifice good nutrition. It’s tempting to just shop the convenience foods in the gluten free section of the health food store. But most of them aren’t very healthy. Gluten free flours mostly have less protein than wheat flour, and they’re not usually fortified with vitamins. Look for ingredient lists that have high-nutrition flours listed first — buckwheat, sorghum, bean flours, and brown rice flour are a few that are much better for you than white rice flour, tapioca flour, and cornstarch.

You can find a few good restaurants. You’re certainly taking chances ordering anything from a fast food restaurant. Plan to eat out less often, but at better restaurants. There’s a nice one in our town that serves high quality food for reasonable (not cheap though!) prices, and they’re very accommodating to people with gluten sensitivities. Don’t be afraid to tell your server about your needs. Good restaurants will do their best to accommodate you, and let you know when they can’t. There’s no doubt that for me, eating out has been the thing that’s changed the most since I quit gluten.

There are good gluten free convenience items. Don’t settle for things that aren’t nutritious and delicious. Find good food. For me, that means pasta (Tinkyada Pasta Joy), bread (Canyon Bakehouse — unfortunately not available in Canada), and graham cracker crumbs.

You can still use most of your old recipes. Keep an easy to use flour mix around that you can substitute 1 for 1 in most recipes. For me, that’s 1 bag of Bob’s Red Mill GF pizza crust mix + 1 bag Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour. It works pretty well for everything I’ve tried it for except yeast breads. I sometimes add an extra egg for binding and fluffiness, and a little extra baking powder because GF flours don’t rise as well.

It doesn’t happen all at once, but this type of diet doesn’t have to be as restrictive as it seems at first. Especially as gluten sensitivities are becoming more prevalent, more and better options are becoming available all the time.

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