The amount of information about celiac and eating gluten-free is almost as overwhelming as the first gluten-free trip to the grocery store. We’re traveling for Thanksgiving, and our families have asked about the food.
Those of you who have followed a gluten-free diet already know what I am going to share. You gave me so many good suggestions the other day. This post is really for family and friends who want to have guests for dinner and need a quick gluten-free guide.
I am intentionally leaving out details so this will be the short, simple version.
First of all, what is gluten?
Gluten is what makes bread so great and gives it that nice chewy texture. It’s a protein found in wheat and other grains.
What is celiac?
When you have celiac disease, your body reacts negatively to gluten, and the result is that your small intestine can’t absorb the nutrients from food. The only way to avoid being malnourished is to eat a strict gluten-free diet. Celiac has a wide range of symptoms, but they don’t show up for everyone.
Foods to avoid
The short list: wheat, barley, rye, (and possibly oats)
The long list: unsafe ingredients
The significance of the long list is that if you are kind enough to cook for us, I will want to know the recipe. If one of the foods is pre-packaged, then I will ask to read the ingredients list, even if you’ve already looked to make sure it doesn’t contain wheat.
Please don’t take my caution personally. It’s just that I’m not sure if you will recognize that barley malt or caramel coloring, for example, contain gluten. I need to check the list of ingredients myself, because it’s not worth the risk.
Good news! Foods that are ok:
rice, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, potatoes, millet, and more
(not to mention fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy)
Cooking without wheat
Gluten-free bread just won’t taste the same, no matter how you bake it. Good recipes are available to try, but they take practice. The best strategy for someone inexperienced is to choose familiar, appealing foods that are already gluten-free, such as roasted chicken and vegetables, or grilled fish with rice. Use salt and pepper instead of seasoning mixes, just to be safe.
What I’m most nervous about is cross-contamination: that somehow a bread crumb or a tiny bit of flour will accidently mix in with the food. Please be careful about your spoons, cutting boards, and other cooking equipment, to make sure they don’t get mixed up in the cooking process. A small amount matters a great deal to stay healthy.
These are not the medical websites. These are the gluten-free food blogs that make me cry into my keyboard almost every time, because I’m so relieved to have found them.
And every now and then, when I start to worry or wonder if this is going to be ok, I read this blog and am cheered by her young, positive, and now healthy outlook:
Honestly, being gluten-free is like being in a special club. People you don’t even know will share their knowledge, so that you can avoid what they went through. It wasn’t Lane’s pediatrician who identified her intolerance to gluten, it was an online friend who recognized the reason for Lane’s low weight and picky eating. (Once we switched to a gluten-free diet, Lane’s growth rate doubled.)
One final word: 97% of people who have celiac don’t even know it. Last week, my husband Doug realized that he is intolerant to gluten too. If you’re having health troubles but don’t know why, try removing gluten or other foods from your diet for a while, and see if it helps.
Related post: The Poison Protein – identifying an intolerance to casein (Prior to going gluten-free, we had already switched to a milk-free and casein-free diet for Doug, so you’re welcome to ask about that too.)