In October 2013, I decided to go gluten free (GF). I don’t have celiac disease, but I do have a chronic disease that I’ve been told can be controlled through the elimination of gluten in a diet. So I thought I’d give it a try. After the first week of GF, I was hooked. I did feel better! However, there was definitely a learning curve. If going GF is something you’ve thought about, I can give you a few pointers. You can avoid some of the pitfalls that I encountered in my journey.
** Please know that I’m not a GF expert, nor am I a professional. If you have questions about this diet, definitely check with your doctor.
First of all, you should know more about the GF diet. As the main chef in our house, I knew that if I went GF, my family would as well. I was concerned about the nutritional aspects of this on my son. I asked our friends at Huntsville Pediatric Associates for some articles about GF diets and child nutrition. They recommended these, and they should be required reading for starting out GF families:
- Gluten Free Diet Guide for Families
- Feeding a Gluten Free Toddler
- Advice For Going Gluten Free With Kids
Mythbusting: “Gluten Free Tastes Like Cardboard!”
This is something I hear a lot. And honestly, it’s not true. GF tastes like…well it depends on what you eat. Here’s some tips to make GF easier to swallow.
Avoid “replacement items” if you can. The stuff like Gluten Free Bread or Gluten Free Cake. Instead, try to replace those items in your diet with foods that are naturally gluten free. I eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, nuts, yogurt, and lean meats, and corn tortilla products (like chips, etc). By increasing the amount of fruits/veggies in the meals I cook for my family, I make sure we’re eating gluten free AND healthier!
If you MUST use a replacement item, make sure it’s high quality. The higher the quality, the more likely it is not to taste like cardboard. There are several great brands out there. Udi’s, Annie’s Organics, Glutino, and Target’s Simply Balanced is pretty good too.
Know where to shop. There are many other stores that have their GF/organic items separated into a section, which makes it very easy to shop for gluten free items. Krogers is good about this. Earth Fare and Fresh Market also have some good GF options. When in doubt, shop online. I’ve been able to find many products online through websites like Amazon for a better price than I did in the stores.
Make friends with Mason Dixon. Mason Dixon Bakery is AWESOME. They have many GF products that are fabulous: from pizza crust, hamburger buns, to cupcakes and cake pops. And bread! My favorite flavors are the Cheddar Jalepeno and the Maple Cinnamon Raisin bread. The breads freeze really well. Since I don’t eat a lot of bread each week, I just pop a slice or two in the toaster when I need one. My son absolutely LOVES Mason Dixon, especially their Cookie Monster cupcakes! You can also find their items in several stores and restaurants around town, like Star Market, farmer’s markets, and several restaurants like Commerce Kitchen.
Bake GF items from mixes. Betty Crocker has some great GF mixes. I’ve used their cake mixes and cookie mixes and been pleased with the results. GF Bisquick has saved my dinners many nights when I’ve been in a time crunch! Pillsbury also has some ready-made doughs (pizza, pie crust, and cookie) that are pretty good.
Baking GF items from scratch. This can be tricky. All of a sudden you have to worry about things like xanthan gum as a “binder” and the weight of GF flour. There’s definitely a learning curve, but this blog entry is a good starter guide: A Guide to Gluten-Free Baking.
Know What You’re Putting In Your Mouth
So far, my favorite thing about the gluten free diet is that it has made me very aware about what I am putting into the food I feed my family. It’s helped me strive to search harder for good, tasty recipes that my family will enjoy, but that will also keep them healthy. It’s cut down on the amount of fast food/processed food that we eat. It’s increased the amount of fruit, veggies, and other healthy foods that we eat. Overall, we’re happier, healthier, and feeling better all around.
Do you have any gluten free tips? If so, share them in the comments!
Lexie Robinson Austin is one of the few born and raised Huntsville natives. She is a stepmom to one, a librarian to many, a reader of books, and baker of cookies. She likes ridiculously impractical shoes and the color pink.