If you or your child are newly diagnosed as gluten intolerant, it can be a devastating blow…at first. But believe me, it gets better. I promise. No one could possibly have been more gluten dependent than I was for my younger years, and if I can make the switch and honestly say I don’t miss it (most of the time) then anyone can. Truly. So, the first step is to understand what has gluten in it, and what is safe to eat. Gluten in the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. That means anything made with the general name flour, as in white flour, or pastry flour, flour tortillas, etc, have gluten. (We’ll get to the flours that are safe to eat later.) Spelt is a type of wheat and therefore has it too, although less of it than the typical wheat flours on the market now. Wheat can also be found in soy sauce and vanilla ice cream, or any flavor with cookie bits or other things, so do be careful. Luckily there is wheat free soy sauce, and also frozen treats labeled wheat free, so you don’t have to give those things up. Barley can be found as barley malt in a lot of things, including tea, so watch out for that sneaky ingredient. Rye is pretty straightforward, don’t eat rye breads or crackers. It is always important to check sauces, salad dressings, and basically anything pre-made for gluten. It can show up in the most unexpected places. Those are the big things, but you do also need to make sure your vitamins/supplements have a gluten free symbol and check all medicines with your pharmacist to make sure they are gluten free. I’ve even been told to make sure the dentist knows b/c they need to use a special toothpaste, apparently there is even gluten in the typical toothpaste.
As for the good news, there is every bread, pastry, and pasta out there to be eaten just waiting for you to try~ all made with alternative flours. Oat flour is my personal favorite for baking, but you must make sure it says gluten free on the front of the package because most are not. Other typical gluten free flours are brown rice, quinoa, corn, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, chickpea, fava bean, and many more. For all those who were diagnosed before food allergies were well known, you know what I mean when I say there has been an explosion of ready made foods in the last couple of years. Gluten free used to mean, dry, cardboard-isht, and awful. Now the pastas have been perfected (corn, quinoa, rice, or any combo of those three do great as pasta), the pastries are delicious, and the cracker aisles are sprouting gluten free options right, left and center. So, my first piece of advice is to experiment with these ready made alternatives to what you normally eat. If you are devastated you can’t eat pizza after the game with your team, try every frozen gluten free pizza available, or make your own, or go to a restaurant that serves gf pizza because they are not hard to find. If a box of mac and cheese is your one and only comfort food, you can get it gluten free style in both the boxed version and as a frozen dinner. If you eat a sandwich every day for lunch, you still can, as there are many different gluten free breads to try, English muffins, rolls and even bagels. Once you realize you can still eat your favorite foods, even though they might taste a bit different at first, then move on to step two. Finding other favorite foods. Most of the foods I now eat on a daily basis were ones I found after I had to step out of my sandwich and pasta comfort zone. Once you start trying new things, your palate opens up to the possibilities. Instead of a garden burger on a bun I now often eat a bistro burger salad at lunch. I’ve learned to bake focaccia and hard crusted European style bread. I eat corn tortillas instead of flour and have soup almost every day of the colder months. And I honestly don’t miss gluten, 99% of the time anyway. Actually, for some people finding the gluten free versions of their typical foods might not even be important, but for kids it definitely is nice to let them know their whole world hasn’t changed. Food is such a source of comfort, and it is tied closely to our identity. When our diets change, our world does indeed change a bit too, but in the case of gluten intolerance, a life without gluten makes one’s world automatically better. Once you feel the effects of not eating something that makes you sub-optimal (to say the least), you’ll be excited about it, love it, and never want to go back.
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