If you’ve been advised by your doctor to follow a gluten-free diet, it can seem an insurmountable task to try to figure out where to start. Here are a few tips to help you get going.
First and foremost, it’s absolutely imperative that you gain a clear understanding of what gluten actually is. Gluten is not the same as carbohydrates – a common misconception. Gluten is a type of protein that is found in things like wheat, rye, and barley. It is what gives pizza dough its characteristic stretchy texture. It’s also commonly used as a thickener in things like sauces (in the form of flour) or in a coating or filler (such as the breadcrumbs in a crab cake). Once you learn how to read nutrition labels to find the gluten.
Next, it’s important to go into a gluten-free lifestyle with the right mindset. Instead of focusing on all of the things you “can’t” eat, shift your thinking toward all of the delicious foods you can enjoy. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meats are all generally gluten free, so go ahead and enjoy! And for those times when only pasta will do, find a gluten-free brand you love.
By far one of the biggest challenges in eating a gluten-free diet is the fact that many of the convenience products most families have in their freezer and pantry contain gluten. Things like cake mixes, pancake mix, breading mixtures, and even sauce mixes typically contain gluten, but that doesn’t mean you have to start making everything from scratch (although that is always the freshest, healthiest way). There are gluten-free versions of all of these convenience foods widely available these days, allowing you to continue to follow a gluten-free diet while still keeping pace with your family’s busy schedule.
Baking is another challenge for GF eaters. After all, the foundation of most baking is flour – a decidedly NOT gluten-free ingredient. What can you do? The best strategy is to stock your pantry with gluten-free substitutes for common baking ingredients. Gluten-free flours, GF baking soda, and xanthan gum are important items to have on hand when you have the urge to bake up something delicious.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to arm yourself with a collection of gluten-free recipes. Head to the library to get a gluten-free-recipe book, or head online – there are lots of recipes to be had there. Websites such as onlyglutenfreerecipes.com are a treasure trove of ideas for your family’s dinner table. When you make something and your family loves it, bookmark the recipe to put into your rotation.
Eating gluten free has its challenges, but like everything else in life, it’s about adapting and being creative to find ways to solve a problem. You don’t have to live a life without pasta or bread and it’s definitely possible to make all of your family’s favourites without gluten. Do your research and have fun! The result will be family dinners that are delicious and enjoyable for the entire family.