So many people are gluten free today whether it’s due to Celiac disease, a sensitivity to gluten, or simply wanting to be healthier. It’s clear this isn’t just a fad or phase, it’s a lifestyle and for many people it is not a choice.
When you go gluten free, however, that can be daunting and scary as you wonder what on earth you will eat. Luckily just because you are going gluten free does not mean you can’t eat delicious foods that are the same if not better than the ones you are used to eating. I post many gluten free recipes here on my blog and some of them are among my favorites. Gluten Free Monster Cookies, anyone???
Let’s talk about exactly what gluten is. It’s a protein found in grains such as rye, barley, triticale, and wheat. These grains are found in many common foods. Wheat, for example, is commonly found in salad dressings, soups, cereals, pasta, and sauces—just to name a few. Barley is commonly found in food coloring and malt vinegar. Rye is found in cereals, and, of course, in rye bread. Triticale is also in common foods like cereals, pasta, and bread. It’s important to note that wheat has different varieties and derivatives, which also affect those who need to have a gluten-free diet. The varieties and derivatives of wheat include wheat berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, kamut, and more.
Like mentioned before, gluten is no longer a trend or a buzzword. Having problems with wheat isn’t only limited to people with celiac disease, which is an autoimmune reaction to gluten. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, the immune system reacts as if the gluten was a poison. The immune system tries to destroy the part of the small intestine that absorbs nutrients, causing malabsorption of nutrients. The symptoms of celiac disease vary greatly and include intestinal difficulty, constant fatigue, anemia, and headaches. People can experience these symptoms and not have celiac disease; instead, they could have a wheat allergy or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Diagnosing celiac disease or a wheat allergy can be done through a blood test. What I found really interesting when personally being tested is that those preparing for a blood test are required to eat foods with gluten in order for the blood work to detect the presence of gluten or wheat. However, while non-celiac gluten sensitivity doesn’t have a formal diagnosis, the condition is usually determined by ruling out celiac disease yet still experiencing the symptoms. People with sensitivity to gluten also observe whether there’s any improvement in symptoms after following a gluten-free diet, and if so, following a gluten-free diet is the only treatment that keeps symptoms at bay.
But let’s go back to how to adjust to a gluten free diet. It may seem daunting to change your diet to one that’s gluten-free, especially since gluten is found in many common meals and treats. However, there are still many options and more down the pipeline for gluten-free foods right off the shelf. Gluten-free meals are more common these days, and San Francisco-based company Hampton Creek is bringing some awesome new gluten free products to the market. They are making classic salad dressings like ranch, Italian, and Caesar along with some fun new varieties like Just Goddess. You know I have a sweet tooth though, so Hampton Creek’s gluten free desserts include cookies, brownies, and cakes.
It’s great to rely on foods that you know and love in gluten free form to make the transition easier. Many candies, potato chips, and corn chips are automatically gluten free. There are gluten free pretzels, cookies, crackers, and more. So many stores have amazing gluten free sections these days. Just be sure to read any and all labels to make sure products are really gluten free.
My favorite is to make gluten free desserts from scratch. I do this for my hair stylist and his family regularly since they are gluten free. The easiest and most reliable way to do this is to use an all-purpose gluten free baking flour. That way you don’t have to worry about mixing flours and gums. You can take any recipe and swap out the all-purpose flour for gluten free all-purpose flour. How easy does that sound? I’ve made cookies, pies, cakes, cupcakes, crisps and more that are all gluten free and no one would ever know the difference. Also, remember that fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish are all gluten free. They are great foods to rely on and pick up on every trip to the grocery store. Right now I can’t get enough summer fruit: peaches, cherries, blueberries, and more can make a dessert all on their own.
With these tips, hopefully going gluten free won’t seem so daunting.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by a guest contributor but all opinions, as always, are mine.