This is completely off topic from my normal posts here, which are rare, but will soon become more frequent as I expand the ways that I interact with you whom I’ve met through speaking engagements, through the radio ministry now retired, or through one of my novels, devotions, or nonfiction books.
Today, I’m responding to several friends who are new to eating gluten-free and feel the dizzying swirl of “How do I do this right? How do I do this at all?”
They’re questions I asked myself about twelve or thirteen years ago when my daughter and I found out on the same day that we were sensitive to gluten. For weeks, months, okay, years, we wandered through this surprising wilderness, thinking we were doing okay only to be sabotaged by yet another place where gluten hid–like hair products.
So here’s a quick, very quick Tip Sheet for those who would like to get their feet underneath them after hearing that they need to eat gluten-free, or choose to. It’s by no means comprehensive. As new ideas come to me or I discover new products, I may revisit the topic. Or as friends like you share your thoughts and successes with me, I’ll compile them to post to others.
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Here are the GF tips:
MAKE IT WORK WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND
EATING GLUTEN-FREE? Of necessity or choice? Either way, here are some quick tips for navigating these sometimes murky waters. (Imagine a really great picture here. It won’t load for me.)
It’s possible. Hard, but possible. And most of the hard stems from two things:
- Gluten is hidden in so many items (food, shampoo, makeup, laundry detergent, lotions…) that seem to have no need for gluten, so we don’t suspect it until it’s too late.
- Intentionality—or thought—has to ramp up significantly when eating gluten-free.
When you get the hang of it, you may be eating healthier than you ever have. For most people, converting to gluten-free means converting to fewer processed foods, more fresh fruits and vegetables, more raw fruits and vegetables, fewer rich sauces, fewer fried or deep-fried foods.
STILL MORE ENCOURAGEMENT:
Once you find the foods that work for you, you’ll realize that the four things you thought were left to you are really thousands of options and combinations. And thousands? More than enough.
FAVORITE GLUTEN-FREE PRODUCTS to make life have the appearance of normal:
- GF Tamari (great substitute for soy sauce, which is processed with wheat)
- Lettuce wraps in place of buns or bread (healthier for us anyway)
- Udi’s products (toast them, though, to bring out flavor and make the natural dryness of most GF products less noticeable.
- Personal favorite bread: Canyon Bakehouse GF 7-grain bread.
- Betty Crocker yellow or chocolate boxed cake mix—okay but a little grainy
- Krusteaz GF Fudge Brownie Mix* (Yum)
- King Arthur GF flour (can be used one-for-one in place of all purpose flour in most recipes)
FAVORITE RESTAURANT OPTIONS:
- This is tough, but getting better. More and more restaurants are offering GF options.
- The higher class the restaurant, the more likely it is to have a chef in the back who truly understands the needs of GF. But that is improving.
- Culver’s fast food chain has a comprehensive allergy pamphlet available both online and in the store. They offer a GF bun that is tolerable. And they use mostly fresh ingredients, which is a boost.
- Chili’s has a decent gluten-free menu.
- Applebee’s is getting better, but almost all of their meat products are not gluten-free, or haven’t been. I know. Crazy. Just a plain old steak, please? Nope. Probably because of the MSG they use to tenderize.
- Olive Garden has some good GF options. But you’ll find that to date many of the GF pasta substitutes there and other places are so gummy, you might as well leave the pasta off the plate.
- McDonalds is one of the more difficult fast food places, since their French fries are coated and to my knowledge they haven’t yet moved to a separate fry station for GF.
- Hu Hot does everything in its power to accommodate GF and other allergy needs. (Mongolian grill)
- When entering a restaurant, always ask, “Do you have a gluten-free menu?” Sometimes it will surprise you which restaurants do.
- Some restaurants are getting so smart and noting on the regular menu which items are gluten-free…or which can be MADE gluten-free by leaving off the sauce, substituting a side for another side, etc.
FOODS THAT WORK:
- Most fresh or cooked fruits. (If canned or frozen, read the label first)
- Most fresh or cooked vegetables. (If canned or frozen, read the label. Many items like frozen corn have additives that make them unsafe for GF people.)
- Most undoctored meat (unbreaded, uncrusted, unmarinated…but you have to read the labels of EVERYTHING, including bacon. At my store, only one brand of bacon—Farmland—qualifies. Only two kinds of ham. Some frozen hamburger patties have fillers added, etc.)
- Homemade salad dressings and sauces, where you watch every ingredient added
- Sauces and gravies made with corn starch for the thickener (not that we need sauces and gravies all the time)
- SOME can tolerate GF oatmeal. I can’t. But there are some decent substitutes for a hot cereal.
- Use ground up GF pretzels as the filler for meatloaf, rather than breadcrumbs.
- When you travel, take along options that you know are safe—travel packets of a GF peanut butter for protein, almonds, dried fruit—because you may be stuck for at least one meal with no or few options.
- When invited to dinner at someone’s house, don’t be afraid to say, “May I bring something?” and make sure it’s a dish you can eat, even if that’s all that’s available that you know is safe. Letting your host know ahead of time about your allergy is so much less stressful to your host than having her/him find out at the meal.
- Consider using more wild rice (actually a grain rather than a starch), quinoa, and loading your casseroles, etc. with a higher percentage of vegetables rather than relying on the starch, as the typical American diet does.
- Quinoa spaghetti noodles are a nice substitute.
- They say it takes up to five days for an accidental gluten encounter to leave your system. So it’s often difficult to point a finger to what it was that triggered the reaction. When in doubt, leave it out. Allow yourself to get a little giddy about all the options that ARE available.
- Create a list of meals that work. Build on that list. Refer to it on the days you feel deprived or at a loss for an idea.
Stay tuned for exciting news soon!
And may you know all-encompassing peace and hope to hem your life today.