Tips for Following a Gluten Free Diet
While it seems overwhelming when you need to completely change your diet, it won’t take long before you’re an old pro at it. Mostly, it’s a matter of learning to read labels religiously, and knowing what to look for. There is gluten in so many items you would never believe.
1. On labels, there are code words that usually equate to gluten. Watch for words like: Modified Food Starch, dextrin, Food Stabilizer, brewer’s yeast, malt vinegar or anything with wheat, barley, rye or malt. The food starch might be corn or something similar, but if it doesn’t say, don’t risk it.
2. Most yeasts and vinegars are fine, just watch out for the two listed above.
3. Anything with oil should be made with corn oil, coconut oil, olive oil, etc. Just make sure it’s not vegetable oil.
4. Don’t use margarine used with vegetable oil unless it’s corn oil or olive oil. I recommend using butter, because, as Julia Child said, “With enough butter, anything is good.”
5. Even some of the sweeteners, coffee creamers, puddings and yogurts have gluten.
6. Be especially careful of yogurts as they contain yeast. Most plain yogurts are fine, but check the labels. Flavored yogurts are more likely to contain gluten.
7. For most people with celiac, oats are fine, but some have trouble with them, so this is really a trial and error issue. Make sure they’re not processed in a facility that also processes wheat.
8. Sadly, ice-cream is often made with a custard base, which means flour. This means even plain vanilla ice-cream may contain gluten. I mention this because it is natural for people to assume ice-cream is simply dairy. This was a harsh reality for myself and other gluten sensitive people I have known.
9. Frozen Vegetables (this was most shocking) are often not safe. Some are made in facilities that process wheat, and some actually contain wheat. This is why reading all labels is so important.
10. About sandwiches, gluten free bread is often like cardboard, but if you toast it a little bit, it will make it much more palatable. Keep bread frozen as GF bread, once opened, molds very quickly. You can thaw it quickly by wrapping it lightly with a paper towel and putting it in the microwave for 20 seconds.
The best source of information I’ve found is www.celiac.com . They have all the info you would need, but it’s a bit intimidating, and can be hard to wade through. Be patient.
Where to shop:
1. Trader Joe’s didn’t have as many gluten free items as I thought they would, and they are hard to find, but it’s worth a try for some items. In all fairness, they are slowly getting in step with the gluten-free market.
2. Whole Foods on the other hand has gluten free items in every section and they are clearly marked. You can also get gluten free sandwiches at their sandwich bar, at least in Fresno. Don’t be afraid to ask specific question about what is or is not gluten-free, and don’t be afraid to ask them to change their gloves and wipe down surfaces that your food will be sitting on.
3. Sprouts is also an excellent store for gluten-free. You can also purchase sandwiches in their deli.
4. WinCo (in the Fresno area), as well as most supermarkets, are offering more and more GF items all the time. They carry the Betty Crocker cake, brownie, and cookie mixes (as well as other items). Other stores, like Save Mart, are beginning to offer gluten free, but they’ve been slow coming to the table.
1. There is much advice about making your own flour mixes (this much rice flour, this much potato flour, etc.) I find that premade all purpose GF flour works fine for most (but not all) items. The best I’ve found are from King Arthur’s Flour, Bob’s Red Mill and gfJules. They’re more expensive than wheat flour, but so worth the money if you’re going to be baking regularly, or even semi-regularly. Bob’s Red Mill also has a bread mix that’s fantastic, the same taste and consistency of regular bread, and biscuit mix that’s every bit as good as Bisquick. I do have a recipe to make my own biscuit mix to keep on hand. Many stores that have bulk sections offer gluten-free flours. Be very cautious that there’s no cross-contamination.
2. I’ve been able to adapt most recipes. One thing to keep in mind is that however much Baking Soda you add, you need to add the equal amount of Xanthan Gum or Guar Gum unless the recipe says otherwise. It’s expensive, but lasts a very long time and is essential in baking.
1. Chinese food is dangerous because they use soy sauce in everything. You can buy GF soy sauce and take it with you, but make sure they don’t use the soy sauce in cooking (this was a tough one for me). I had to completely give up Mu Shu Chicken. I cried a little bit.
2. Never be afraid to ask what’s in any item. Ihop puts pancake batter in the eggs to make their omelets and scrambled eggs fluffy. I learned this the hard way. Always ask what’s in it, and never be afraid to ask if it can be made gluten-free.
3. Most Italian restaurants offer GF noodles upon request. Make sure they use separate water for boiling.
4. I recommend getting a restaurant guide for eating gluten free.
Baking can be tricky, but there are so many items that are naturally gluten-free. Look for those first.
This is the gist of it. Most of it is trial and error, but you’ll catch on very quickly.
Thanks for reading. Next time, let’s talk about preparing your kitchen for gluten-free cooking.