Thursday, October 13, 2011

I'M GLUTEN-FREE?! HELP!

This post is long overdue and for that I am sincerely sorry [well, for that and the lack of photos of this one]. My hope, upon reading this post, is that you find encouragement, gain knowledge, grasp confidence, and know that you have a fellow gluten-free com padre cheering you on.

Alright, so you just came back from the doctor and it's official - no more gluten. Or, you've noticed that wheat products seem to have some negative effects on your body and you've decided to remove gluten for a while, just to see what happens. Or, the recent diet craze has captured your attention and the verdict is in - gluten is out. Different stories, same dilemma. You've recently found yourself "gluten-free" and have no idea where to go, what to do, and don't have a clue what quinao is. Shoot, you're still struggling how to explain gluten! With your bottom lip set at a small quiver and a tear [or two] gently careening down your cheek, you sit there wondering "Is this hopeless?".

Trust me, I've been there. I've ceremoniously emptied the cupboards and refrigerator of anything that had "wheat" or "gluten" in the label, finding that the items remaining were less than appealing. I've avoided dinner invitations, not wanting to be such a burden to the host. I've wandered through the grocery store looking like a lost puppy, circling around a half a dozen times before leaving with nothing in my cart. I've excused myself from the dinner table at a restaurant to find the nearest restroom stall, praying no one was there so I could have a short cry after realizing I couldn't eat anything on the menu. Not. one. thing. 

"What can I get you?"
"I'll have a water please."
"And?"
"And ice."

I've been there.

On the other hand, I've successfully navigated a grocery store knowing exactly what I needed and where to find it. I've brought my own pasta to a restaurant and, with confidence, asked them to prepare it according to my specifications. I've filled my pantry and refrigerator shelves with delicious, healthy, and safe foods. And I've never felt better.

When people find out that I have lived gluten-free for some time now and have a degree in holistic nutrition, I generally get asked, "Can you help me with...[fill in the blank]" or some version of that question. I love when this happens. For me a spark is lit and a door is opening to a new challenge and a potential friendship.

A common theme in this question deals with how can someone live, and live well, a life free from gluten and other common allergens. My response generally involves that "it can be done, quite simply in fact" and "mentors and teachers are essential in making a smooth transition".

So, as a tribute to all of those who have guided me through my early days of gluten-free living, here are some of my GF-living "secrets" I'd like to share with you. Where to start, what to eat, some of my much-loved products, and other tips I've picked up along the way.

May your journey be filled with challenges that make you stronger, victories that give you hope, teachers who have walked where you are, and friends and family who are overcome with empathy, compassion, love and support. May your life be changed and good health fill you with peace.


[HOW TO EXPLAIN GLUTEN AND THE IMPORTANCE OF FOOD SAFETY]

"Gluten" is essentially the term given to certain types of proteins contained in some grains. Gluten can make some people violently ill. In a lot of cases this is understated and not taken seriously. It is really difficult to get someone who does not suffer from food allergies to wrap their mind around what you deal with on a 24/7 basis. Become educated on what gluten is, the symptoms, and the measures you take to avoid gluten. Educate yourself so that you can educate others. At the bottom of this post are some additional resources. Glance at some of those to learn more [specifically celiac.org and the like]. 


[WHERE DO I BEGIN?]

First, remind yourself daily that this will be a journey. Take a deep breath [seriously, breathe in, letting your diaphram expand, and breathe out, slowly releasing the tension and stress that this has brought you]. Now, take another deep breath and remind yourself again, this is a journey.

Okay, ready? If you find yourself tensing up [because all anxiety is first realized physically], repeat the breathing.

I want to first list the foods you will be able to enjoy. It's best to focus on what you will be eating rather than what you won't.


Foods That Are Safe For A Gluten Free Home


Rule of Thumb: Remember to ALWAYS read the label. I can't emphasize this enough. Read. Read. Read.

ALL plain fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables and their juices.

ALL plain meats.

GRAINS / FLOURS / STARCHES: Rice, Soy, Tapioca, Sorghum, Millet, Arrowroot, Teff, Corn, Potato, Beans / Lentils [and their flours], Quinoa, Buckwheat, Amaranth, Nut Flours, Pasta and Breads [made from these ingredients and labeled Gluten-Free], Gluten-Free Oats*, Hominy

*Oats, especially if you have Celiac's Disease, should be purchased gluten-free only. Even though oats are inherently gluten-free, cross contamination with wheat is prevalent in the fields. In this case it is best to stay on the safe side

BEVERAGES / MILK: Coffee, tea, some carbonated drinks, wine made in the United States, rum, some root beer, milk [fresh, dry, evaporated, condensed], cream [regular, sour and whipping], yogurt

CHEESE: All aged cheese such as cheddar, Swiss, edam, parmesan; cottage cheese, cream cheese, pasteurized processed cheese, some cheese spreads

FATS: Butter, margarine, vegetable oil, nuts and nut butters, some salad dressings, some mayonnaise, non-stick cooking sprays

SOUPS: Homemade or Canned if labeled "Gluten-Free"

DESSERTS / SWEETS: Some baked and pastry products if labeled "Gluten-Free", cornstarch, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, guar gum, agar powder / flakes, rice and tapioca puddings, some ice cream, sorbet, some meringues, some mousse, sherbets, frozen yogurt, jelly, jam, honey, brown and white sugar, raw cane sugar, stevia, molasses, pure syrups, plain chocolate, some candy, pure cocoa / cacao, coconut, marshmallows

OTHER: salt, pepper, herbs, herb extracts, plain spices

For many of you, quitting gluten cold turkey may be required or preferred. If this is the case, use the below list to purge all of the foods from your pantry and refrigerator that contain [or may contain] gluten. Don't panic. Donate the items you can to the local food pantry.


Foods That Contain Or May Contain Gluten


Rule of Thumb: If it doesn't say "Gluten-Free" somewhere on the package, don't buy it.

GRAINS / FLOURS / STARCHES: Wheat, Durum, Semolina, Kamut, Spelt, Rye, Barley, Triticale, Regular Oats*, Wheat Germ / Bran / Starch

BEVERAGES: Malted milk, some chocolate milk, some non-dairy creamers, Ovaltine, ale, beer, gin, whiskey, flavored coffee, herbal tea with malted barley

CHEESE: Any containing oat gum, some veined cheeses [bleu, stilton, roquefort, gorgonzola]

*Oats, especially if you have Celiac's Disease, should be purchased gluten-free only. Even though oats are inherently gluten-free, cross contamination with wheat is prevalent in the fields. In this case it is best to stay on the safe side.

OTHER [only purchase these foods if "gluten-free" in on the label]: Breading, Broth, Coating Mixes, Communion Wafers, Croutons, Imitation Bacon, Marinades, Salad Dressings, Soups and Soup Bases, Imitation Seafood, Pastas, Processed and Prepared Meats and Meat Products, Roux, Sauces, Gravies, Creamed Vegetables, Self-Basting Poultry and Injections, Stuffings, Thickeners, Brown Rice Syrup [generally made out of barley], Caramel Color, Dextrin, Flour, Cereal Products, Vegetable Protein [HVP, TVP, HPP], Malt or Malt Flavoring, Malt Vinegar, Modified Food Starch, Mono-and Di-glycerides, Meat Flavorings, Soy Sauce, Vegetable Gum, Curry Powder and other dry seasoning mixes, Ketchup, Mustard, Horseradish, Chip Dips, some Distilled White Vinegar, Instant Dry Baking Yeast, some Cinnamon, some Alcohol-Based Flavoring Extracts.


[THE GLUTEN-FREE PANTRY]

There are some things that no gluten-free pantry should be without. Generally, if you have these things in your house, you'll be able to alter most traditional recipes fairly easily. The flours, starches, and seeds are best if kept in the freezer. Of course, as time goes on, you will add more products to your GF repertoire but for now, this is a good [and manageable] start.

Brown Rice Flour, Buckwheat Flour, Tapioca Flour / Starch, Potato or Arrowroot Starch, Xanthan Gum, Flaxseeds or Ground Flax Meal, Gluten-Free Oats, Quinoa, Brown Rice, GF tamari or Bragg's Amino Acids.


[WHERE TO SHOP]

Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Harvest Health, Meijer, and many other local natural foods stores [and even some grocery stores] carry gluten-free products.


[PRODUCTS THAT WILL FOOL THE "GLUTEN-FULL'S" IN YOUR HOME]

Breads: I haven't really found a good store bought bread so I always make and freeze this. 

All-Purpose Flour Mix: 


http://www.livingwithout.com/resources/substitutions.html [scroll down to GF Flours]


http://www.livingwithout.com/issues/4_1/gluten_free_flour-1073-1.html [this is a valuable guide to the different flours available but may be a bit overwhelming at first. Come back to this once you've gotten more comfortable with gluten-free baking and cooking.]

http://thepioneerwoman.com/tasty-kitchen/recipes/gluten-free/my-gluten-free-all-purpose-flour-mix/ [the almonds is this can be substituted with cashews, walnuts, or nut / seed of choice]

Pasta: http://www.tinkyada.com/ 

Cookies: Pamela's brand 

Baked Goods: Namaste Foods


Waffles: Van's Frozen Waffles or make your own if you have a waffle iron.

Pizza Crust: Namaste Foods

Cereal: Chex [corn or rice], Arrowhead Mills  

Soy Sauce: Gluten-Free Tamari or Bragg's Amino Acids


Chips: Costco Organic Corn Tortilla Chips, Rice Chips

Please let me know if you don't see a favorite product on this list and I will try to provide a gluten-free alternative.


[WHERE TO EAT AND QUESTIONS TO ASK]

Quite a few restaurants now host a gluten-free menu but not all restaurants are equal in their knowledge. It will be up to you to be a discerning patron. My best advice is to question, question, question. If you are not confident in your server or the kitchen staff do not go to that establishment.

That being said, the below list isn't meant to be exhaustive. It is a simple start and places that I have found work for me.

Chains: Qdoba Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Chipotle

Local Restaurants: If you live in Michigan: Marie Catrib's is a must go to place. It will restore your faith in eating. Others include The Gillmore Collection, The Green Well, The Electric Cheetah, and City Vu Bistro.

If you don't live around my area, call your favorite restaurants and ask them if they have a gluten-free menu. Ask to speak with the chef when you call [or ask to have the chef call you back if he / she is unavailable] and then again prior to ordering [many chef's are happy to come to your table and talk with you directly]. Be polite but firm in how you need things prepared. If they seem confused or unable to accommodate you, simply thank them and excuse yourself. It is far better to walk out and experience [potentially] momentary embarrassment than spend days being miserable or in my case, having water for lunch [and in another case, vomiting for 4 hours in a row].


[HOW TO TRAVEL]

Plan ahead. Pack your own snacks. Have an emergency stash on had in case of, well, and emergency. It sounds so simple but will take some work and effort on your part. Let me tell you, the worst thing you can do is find yourself starving in a foreign country. Bring a laminated card explaining what gluten is and what your needs are. One side should be in English [or your native language], the other in the predominant language of the country you visiting. Like your passport, keep it on you at all times [you can make your own or go here for resources]. If the person serving you seems too confused, forego the meal and dip into your emergency stash!


[ADDITIONAL RESOURCES]

Blogs / Websites

   http://www.celiac.org/
   http://www.celiaccentral.org/
   http://www.glutenfreehope.blogspot.com/
   http://glutenfreegirl.com/
   http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/
   http://www.thespunkycoconut.com/
   http://www.elanaspantry.com/
   http://simplygluten-free.com/
   http://www.livingwithout.com/

Cookbooks / Magazines

   Some of the above bloggers have cookbooks - any / all are great!
   Living Without Magazine / http://www.livingwithout.com/
   Gluten Free Quick & Easy by Carol Fenster
   Cooking Free by Carol Fenster
   The All Natural Allergy Cookbook: Dairy Free, Gluten Free by Jeanne Marie Martin
   The Complete Food Allergy Cookbook by Marilyn Gioannini



Please email me at tvanderklok@gmail.com if you have any specific questions regarding eating gluten [or any other allergen] free. I am happy to give any guidance I am able and will help transform traditional recipes into gluten-free ones. 

2 comments:

Meredith said...

I'm so happy I came across your blog via TasteSpotting. I recently cut gluten from my diet after suspecting it was the reason for my feeling lousy and tired. I'm originally from Grand Rapids and spend most weekends there so I was thrilled to see you mention some of my favorite restaurants (especially Marie Catrib's). I'll definitely be following your blog. Thanks for the great info.

TINA VANDERKLOK said...

Meredith - I am as well! I hope that you find encouragement, information, and inspiration as you read. Please let me know if you need any help / advice! Blessings on your journey!