Living Gluten-Free

Gluten is found naturally in spelt, barley, kamut, rye, and wheat. Oats should be chosen with care as there is always a chance of cross-contamination. As well, you will also need to watch any partially or fully refined food since gluten or wheat is quite often used for binding, as a filler, or even to keep spices from clumping. Some examples of these foods include cheese sauces & spreads, creamed or scalloped potatoes, egg dishes, pudding (thickener), sausages, deli meats, etc.

Learning to live with a gluten or wheat allergy can be challenging. It is extemely important to read labels. If you are buying fresh (for example at a deli or meat counter) make sure that you ask questions. It is equally important when you are eating out to talk to the restaurant server or cook to ensure a safe meal. I have ended up with unwanted gluten in my food because I didn’t ask questions and it was only when I was experiencing the ill-effects of being “glutened” that I realized what the culprit was.

Some alternatives to the grains containing gluten are amaranth, millet, corn, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, and chestnut. These alternatives are available in various forms – meal, flour, and starch. You will find, however, that there will definitely be a learning curve, in some cases, on how to use and enjoy them in the same way that you have used gluten products to date.

A lot of people, when starting a gluten-free diet, try to replace pre-packaged foods that you used to buy with pre-packaged gluten-free foods. While these gluten-free foods are certified safe, it must be noted that gluten-free products in general, due to the different ingredients used to make them, are generally higher calorically. You are also replacing highly refined foods with highly refined foods.

When you are first diagnosed and setting out on this journey, my recommendation would be to keep your food as clean as possible. Remember that you are trying to heal your body and initially that will mean keeping things simple. Making things from scratch will allow you to keep track of what you are ingesting and any negative reactions that you might have. This will allow you to easily determine the “culprit”, eliminate it for verification, and move forward.

Also, by making things from scratch, you will learn what you like and what you don’t like. It will give you greater freedom to explore new recipes going forward. Know that there is a different taste and texture to a lot of these foods, so it will take some time to get used to certain things. Unless you really don’t like something, try it at least three times in order to let your tastebuds acclimatize to this new way of eating.

If you set out to learn how to bake gluten-free, then you will find that there is an incredible variety of different gluten-free flours on the market. My caution, from experience, is to not buy everything that you find. Have a really good idea of what you want to attempt before you start buying supplies. For some of the gluten-free ingredients, you only use a really small quantity of it in baking due to its texture, weight, role in the product, etc.

When I was first diagnosed with my gluten intolerance, I bought a few gluten-free cookbooks and just about every type of gluten-free flour and baking ingredient that I could find. In the end, there were quite a few that I didn’t like the taste or texture of and others that I bought in large quantities (it is more economical to buy the bigger package – right?) that I would never use all of in a million years. At the end of the day, I ended up throwing out a lot of items and these products are not cheap, so really know what you are looking for before you buy.

There are some pretty basic pantry items that I use – about 4 different types of flour for baking and cooking. I also keep both tapioca and potato starch on hand. In some cases these starches can be swapped out (thickening a soup or gravy), but in other cases there are suggestions to use one over another due to the texture at the end of the process.

Click on the link below for a “Gluten-Free Pantry List of the most basic items that I use.