When people find out I don’t eat gluten, usually their first question is, “What DO you eat?” What they mean is, what foods are gluten free? The short answer is lots! There are still plenty of things I can eat with a gluten free diet – here’s a list!
Fruit and vegetables
All fruits and vegetables are gluten free. If I’m preparing them from fresh, I have control over how they are prepared and don’t have to worry. If they are frozen, I have to be careful about sauces and seasonings. If they are made in a restaurant, I have to ask what’s in (or on) them, and how they were prepared. For example, even if a restaurant is making hand-cut fries from real potatoes, there’s still a risk of gluten cross-contamination if they fry them in the same fryer with battered onion rings (little bits of batter can stick to the fries.) Depending on how sensitive to gluten you are, this might not bother you, but some people have to be really, really careful to avoid this.
Again, this is something I can mostly eat without worry in basic forms – milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Just like with fruits and vegetables, when you start getting into sauces and flavorings, you do have to be careful. Ice cream can contain bits of cookies, brownies and the like – and some of the new yogurts that come with toppings can have gluten in them too!
Proteins are gluten free too! From meats and fish to beans and lentils, you can rest assured you’ll have plenty of protein in your diet. Once again, the key is to be cautious about preparation. No battered meat (bye, chicken nuggets!) and always be careful about anything in a sauce. Also, avoid gravy as it’s just meat juice thickened with flour.
Fats, oils, and nuts
Again, these are generally safe in their basic forms. Beware of seasoned nuts; I almost got glutened by a package of honey-roasted peanuts the other day. Check those labels!
Here’s where it gets a little trickier. The grains that contain gluten, and therefore I don’t eat, are wheat, rye, barley and spelt. Although it doesn’t contain gluten, oats can be cross-contaminated with gluten due to growing, storage and/or processing next to gluten-containing grains. If you need oatmeal, be sure to buy one that’s specifically labeled gluten free. I like this one: *Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Whole Grain Rolled Oats.
So, what grains are gluten free?
There are plenty of grains (and flours) I can still eat. Rice is gluten free, as is corn. *Quinoa
(technically a seed) cooks similar to rice. It is a good replacement for cous cous and can even be used in tabbouleh in place of cracked wheat. It’s also nice to use in stuffed bell peppers!
As for flours, gluten free baking is a bit trickier than baking with wheat, but there’s been a lot of good work and kitchen research done and people are figuring this out. Common gluten-free flours include white and brown rice, potato, tapioca, and even fava bean and chickpea. I eased into it by buying a gluten free flour blend – I’d recommend *King Arthur Multipurpose Gluten Free Flour here, because Bob’s Red Mill has a lot of bean flours and can give your baked sweets a weird flavor. However, *Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
is good for breads and other savory recipes – it’s also perfect for flour tortillas. Another good starter product is *Gluten Free Bisquick Pancake and Baking Mix.
Another important must-have when baking gluten-free is *Xanthan Gum; it is one way that the sticky, binding properties of gluten are replaced in gluten free baking.
Breads, pastas and cakes
These are off-limits in their wheat-containing forms, but there are plenty of gluten-free options out there. Gluten-free pastas are usually almost impossible to distinguish from their gluten-containing friends when the right brands are purchased. Barilla is offering a few gluten-free pastas now, including *Gluten Free Penne, and generally any grocery store will have at least an option or two on the shelves.
If you’re looking for gluten free bread, get yourself to the freezer aisle at your local grocery store. Of the major brands, I prefer Glutino over Udi’s. For some reason, and I’m not alone in this, Udi’s products tend to upset my stomach. Your mileage may vary!
I haven’t found any packaged desserts that I love, but I have found a line of baking mixes called Pamela’s that are consistently high quality. As of this writing, Amazon doesn’t seem to have much in the way of dessert mixes beyond the *Gluten Free Baking & Pancake Mix, but I’ve tried the chocolate cake and the chocolate chip cookie mixes as well. Really nice and just like the wheat versions.
In summary: I eat food.
So there you have it. I eat what everyone else eats; I just have to be a little more careful about where it comes from, and how it’s prepared. Sometimes it means asking a lot of questions and modifying dishes in restaurants, and sometimes it means a few extra steps to bake something delicious at home. I’ve been gluten free for over three years now and it’s really not a big deal most of the time.
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