All posts in Going Gluten-Free

Help your dinner host prepare a gluten-free dinner with ease

Help your dinner host prepare a gluten-free dinner with ease

For someone who is not gluten-free, hosting a gluten-free dinner guest can be a stressful endeavor. Gatherings like baby showers, bridal showers, birthday parties and holiday dinners may bring added complexity. For those who are gluten-free, consider using the steps below BEFORE your next get together to help your host prepare a menu with gluten-free options — he/she  will thank you! (Remember: Your host wants you to enjoy the evening, and that includes enjoying the food!)

This list of tips looks long…don’t worry!   You may need just one – or all – of these steps. Use the list as it suits you. 

1.  Call your host. Tell him/her that you are looking forward to the gathering and then explain that you are gluten-free. You may choose to mention that your gluten-free status is not a choice, but rather due to a health condition, and if you eat gluten you will become sick. (Some people don’t realize the reasons for a gluten-free diet, especially because it is seen as a fad diet right now).

2. If attending a casual gathering – such as dinner at your friend’s house – you might offer to bring a gluten-free dish to share. However depending on the occasion, this may not be appropriate.

3. Tell the host that you are happy to eat before you arrive at the gathering, but that you realize he/she may prefer to have food options available for you and other gluten-free guests. (After all, serving your guests food is what hosting a dinner is all about!)

4. If the gathering is more formal, like a baby or wedding shower, and is being held at a venue such as a restaurant or country club, let the host know that you would be happy to speak with the chef directly so that he/she doesn’t have to explain your dietary restrictions. In most cases you’ll find the host is very receptive to this idea and that the hosting venue can easily accommodate your needs.

5. If you and the host decide he/she will prepare some gluten-free dishes, offer up the following:

  • A list of naturally gluten-free foods. Tell your host there is absolutely NO need to go out to buy gluten-free products (e.g., bread, crackers, desserts, etc.) – fresh meats, vegetables and fruits, along with many grains, are naturally gluten-free.
  • A list of foods to AVOID. This includes wheat, rye, barley (and any foods that contain these ingredients). Check out “Gluten-Free Diet: What’s allowed, what’s not” by the Mayo Clinic for additional information.
  • Your own gluten-free recipes. If you’re gluten-free, you have lots of gluten-free recipes to share!

6. Once the menu has been chosen, ask the host to send you the recipes, so that you can double check that the ingredients are in fact gluten-free (This will be of great help to the host!)

7. For the recipes themselves, recommend specific brands of ingredients which you know are gluten free. If it’s in your pantry, you can text a picture of the food to the host so he/she knows what to buy at the grocery store. (I recently did this with a friend who was making chili for our get together. The recipe called for chicken stock, so I sent her a picture of a brand that is safe. She was very appreciative!).

8. If there will be appetizers, such as chips and dip or cheese and crackers, volunteer to bring a gluten-free plate. This will relieve your host of having to make both a gluten-free appetizer and dinner.

9. Check out this great step-by-step guide for entertaining gluten-free guests by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Pass it along to friends and family with whom you frequently share meals.

Note: While the above tips are helpful in preparing your host, keep in mind that his/her kitchen is likely not gluten-free. Therefore, there is always a risk of cross-contact with gluten-containing foods. It’s up to you to determine what you are comfortable with. 

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If you can’t eat gluten, you still have plenty of options (trust me!)

If you can’t eat gluten, you still have plenty of options (trust me!)

To anyone about to go gluten-free, it may feel like you’ll never be able to eat like a normal person again. Stop right there and take a deep breath. Your gluten free life is going to be FABULOUS. Not only will you likely feel better once the gluten is gone, but you’re about to realize all the foods you CAN eat…and the options are endless. Trust me when I say that your gluten-free diet will be just as delicious as – if not more than – your gluten-full life.

When I first went gluten-free, I did so with hesitation and bitterness. I kept telling people about all the foods I couldn’t eat. Then one day someone helped me take on a new perspective. This person asked me “why not think about what you CAN eat vs. what you can’t?” From that day on, my relationship with food became healthier and happier.  I also became more open to trying new things, which is something I hadn’t anticipated but happily accepted. Fast forward many years later and my life with food is more delicious than ever (the proof is in the gluten-free chicken pot pie I recently made – see the image above).

So, to get YOU started in your GF journey…here’s a starter-list of foods that are FREE OF GLUTEN! And just think…this is just the beginning. Take them all in and imagine a life full of fabulous food from here on out. Enjoy!

Beans
Rice
Eggs
Avocado
Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Squash
Carrot
Bananas
Kiwi
Mushrooms
Grapes
Strawberries
Blueberries
Raspberries
Blackberries
Peas
Milk
Tomatoes
Spinach
Fresh Chicken
Fresh Beef
Fresh Turkey
Fresh Seafood
Fresh Fish
Nuts
Seeds
Fresh (unprocessed) Cheese
Olive Oil
Canola Oil
Grapeseed Oil
Peppers
Onions
Cantaloupe
Grapefruit
Butter
Chia seeds
Flaxseed
Quinoa
Corn
Millet
Buckwehat
Amaranth
Sorghum
Teff
Distilled Vinegars
Coconut
Collard Greens
Kale
Papaya
Mango
Lettuces
Oranges
100% Rice Pasta
Pineapple
Cherries
Lemons
Limes
Pears
Peaches
Pomegranates
Asparagus
Artichokes
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Celery
Cucumbers
Garlic
Sprouts
Fresh Herbs

Get the support you need to go gluten-free and stay gluten-free!

If purchasing packaged or processed versions of these foods, make sure to READ the labels to ensure they truly are free of gluten. Avoid products that are manufactured in facilities where wheat is also processed to avoid foods that are contaminated. 

 

 

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Do not fear, gluten-free doesn’t mean pasta-free.

Do not fear, gluten-free doesn’t mean pasta-free.

I remember when my healthcare practitioner uttered the words “go gluten free” to me. I was horrified. My diet was gluten-FULL, so how in the world would I ever go gluten free?  She gave me a list of foods to avoid and sent me on my way. This was years before gluten free living had hit the mainstream, so along with my list she included directions to some obscure grocery store in the suburbs where I could find gluten free foods. As a girl who was raised on spaghetti and pasta salad, I was especially haunted by the notion of giving up pasta. Pasta was a staple and I couldn’t imagine life without it. I enjoyed pasta in all forms and topped it with almost anything.

I’m happy to report that I survived going gluten-free and even discovered a whole new world of pasta. The gluten free pasta market has expanded exponentially in the past few years. There are so many options I’ve lost count, and believe it or not, most of these options are delicious.

If you’re considering going gluten free but are worried about the prospect of a pasta-free existence, rest assured you won’t have to give it up. Here are some of my favorites, available at most grocery stores now.  You’ll also be happy to learn that even some of your favorite Italian restaurants now offer a GF option. In fact, just last weekend I had dinner at Chicago’s Topo Gigio and enjoyed a delicious GF dish.

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta: Who doesn’t love quinoa?  This pasta is made with a combination of quinoa and corn plus its USDA certified organic (especially important with corn, which is one of the most genetically modified crops in our country, and unless grown organically, surely sprayed with pesticides).

Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Pasta: Trader Joe’s just makes me happy. The employees are happy and polite, and if you’re on the lookout for gluten free snacks and other packaged foods, they have a nice inventory. I don’t generally prefer brown rice GF pastas, but TJ’s version is exceptional! You’ll never miss the wheat.

Explore Asian Organic Bean Pasta: Looking for something grain-free? Look no further – Explore Asian’s Organic Bean Pasta is fantastic. You’d never know it was made out of beans. Plus, unlike many other GF pastas, it keeps well in the refrigerator as leftovers (doesn’t get sticky or dry). Added bonus – it’s jam packed with protein because it’s made out of BEANS!  Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it…I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

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Gluten-free websites that will help you go gluten-free and stay gluten-free.

Transitioning to a gluten-free diet can be a confusing and overwhelming process. When my health practitioner first recommended I remove gluten from my diet, I didn’t even know what gluten was! She gave me a list of foods that I couldn’t eat and sent me on my way.  I was left feeling lost and worried I wouldn’t get it right. And from this initial recommendation, it took many attempts for me to finally commit to the diet. Critical to my ultimate success? Easy-to-go-to resources including websites that spelled out how to go gluten-free and offered ideas for gluten-free substitutes so that I wouldn’t feel like my daily food routine was being turned upside down.

Here are my main go-to sites:

Living Without: As indicated on the site, Living Without is “The magazine for people with allergies and food sensitivities.” Packed with recipes and forums, there’s not much in terms of gluten-free that you can’t find on this site.

CeliacCentral.org: This is the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’ website. Find up-to-date news and endless information related to health, food, medical research and more. The NFCA also offers free webinars and a list of gluten-free blogs.  This site is useful for anyone affected by Celiac Disease or a non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.

Whole Foods: Not only does Whole Foods offer a range of gluten-free products, but this market’s website contains over 1,300 gluten-free recipes. Simply do an “Advanced Search” in the recipe section of the site and filter by “Gluten-Free”.

 

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PB&J and Banana Smoothie

This gluten-free and dairy-free smoothie is refreshing and loaded with goodness. It’s great for kids who love peanut butter and jelly, and moms who’d rather pass on the processed bread and jam.  You can use fresh or frozen berries. If you choose fresh, you may want to add a little ice to cool it off a bit. You may opt to add more greens…don’t worry, your kids won’t even know they’re there!

1/4 cup frozen or fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
1/2 cup greens (kale or spinach)
1/2 banana
3 tbsp whole flax seed
1 tbsp natural almond or peanut butter
1 1/2 cups filtered water
Optional: replace 1/2 cup of water with plain organic milk (non-dairy works too) to make it creamier.

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and enjoy your gluten free breakfast! Great as a snack too!

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Easy substitutes for your Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year again – menu planning at my house is in full force and I’m excited for another gluten-free Thanksgiving. Though the sound of a gluten-free turkey or side dishes may initially leave your guests feeling turned-off, they can rest assured that a gluten-free Turkey-Day won’t mean any less taste on your dinner table, nor will it keep you from serving a classic Thanksgiving feast! It will require some planning on the host’s part, but what Thanksgiving menu doesn’t?

This year, make these items your gluten-free staples to replace  the “regular” versions:

  1. A FRESH Turkey. Avoid turkeys that have broth or stuffing already added. These ingredients are red flags for gluten.
  2. Gluten-Free Gravy. Make your own using the juices from your bird and adding corn or potato starch as a thickener instead of wheat flour.
  3. Gluten-Free Corn Bread. Make a batch of Bob’s Redmill GF cornbread instead of dinner rolls.
  4. Gluten-Free Stuffing. Check out Udi’s recipe!
  5. Gluten-Free Pie Crust. You can make your own or buy it already made. Whole Foods has it in their freezer section and I highly recommend it…very tasty!
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If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one food, what would it be?

What would your answer to this question be: “If you were stranded on an desert island and could only have one food, what would it be?” My answer to this question used to be “cereal”. In fact, my life used to be one big bowl of cereal. I’d have it for breakfast, for snacks, and even for dinner some nights, especially the nights my husband was out of town and I didn’t feel like cooking.

My stock of cereal always included a variety – from shredded wheat to cheerios to frosted flakes. Cereal was my favorite “food” and I couldn’t have imagined my life without it. And it always tasted great, but little did I know it was wreaking havoc on my system.. The common ingredient to most cereals – wheat (which contains gluten) – was a food I needed to ELIMINATE from my routine (versus eating it everyday!) Realizing and understanding this took time and patience and motivation. I fell off the wagon many times until one day I decided I’d had enough of not feeling well.

I started with baby steps. I didn’t give up cereal in general – I just found cereals that didn’t contain gluten. At first, I thought this would be an impossible tasks, but to my surprise, it wasn’t that difficult. Gluten-free cereals (and foods) are everywhere today. Some popular brands that now offer gone gluten free options include Chex and Rice Krispies. You can find a list of even more gluten free cereals here.

Removing gluten made a world of difference for my health. I regained energy and shed GI discomfort that I’d been dealing with for almost 14 years. And as I started to feel better, eliminating other not-so-healthy foods became much easier – trust me when I say feeling well is all it takes! What seemed like an impossible step – eliminating gluten – ended up being what empowered me to commit to a healthy lifestyle. The continuum of my journey led to me choosing to removing other foods that didn’t work for my body including dairy, and yeast from my diet. Today I’m happy, healthy and amazingly cereal-free! Are you ready to eliminate gluten or another inflammatory food? Consider working with me, your health coach, to help you achieve your own wellness! Check out my menu of health coaching services!

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Happy [Gluten-Free] Birthday!

I don’t indulge in sweets very often…my health depends on me maintaining a whole foods diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and seeds. Yet when it comes to my birthday, I prefer to have my cake and eat it too. And with my 35th birthday coming up, I thought I’d post some of my favorite recipes for Gluten-Free treats, including a delicious cupcake recipe that you can easily make without refined sugar or dairy with just a few simple substitutions!

Almond-Cashew Butter Fudge: Great for dinner parties (everyone loves something sweet at the end of the meal) or as an after-school snack for the kids. It’s not too sweet and has a touch of saltiness.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites: These are gluten-free and grain free!  And if you use vegan chocolate chips, they are dairy free too! You may be turned off by the main ingredient – but don’t be! These really do taste like little chocolate chip cookies.

Dairy-Free GF Cupcakes: Replace the 2 cups of sugar with a little less than 1/3 cup of raw honey. Oven temperature should be 325 (instead of 350). Use store-bought GF/DF frosting or make your favorite homemade version (in this, substitute your favorite dairy-free  milk).

 

 

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Myth: Gluten-free is for Celiac patients only

The choice to go gluten-free is personal and one that I’ve found generally comes out of medical necessity for most people. The majority of people I’ve met who are GF eliminated gluten after receiving a diagnosis of Celiac Disease. And though GF lifestyles are becoming more common, it appears Celiac diagnoses are still relatively infrequent. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, 85% of people with Celiac Disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions, and the average time it takes for a person to be accurately diagnosed is 6-10 years!

If you’ve noticed, gluten-free foods are showing up even in mainstream grocery stores and even some restaurants are now offering gluten-free menus. Thanks to organizations like the Association for Celiac Awareness, many restaurants (including some Chicagoland establishments) have trained their staff to ensure the gluten-free meals they serve are free from cross-contact with foods that contain gluten. Both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer their customers GF resources and label many of their gluten-free foods in their stores, suggesting the GF customer base is on the rise. This past summer an all gluten-free bakery (Cookie Bar) popped up two blocks from my house.

So why are gluten-free diets so popular today when diagnosed cases are often slow to occur? My guess – which comes mostly from being a part of this gluten-free movement and talking to many, many gluten-free individuals – is that people are starting to take matters into their own hands by simply eliminating gluten and self-determining that this ingredient is the culprit for their symptoms. Symptoms associated with both Celiac and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity can vary  and may include digestive issues, joint pain, fatigue, eczema, headaches and fogginess, and the list goes on and on and on….

I’ve personally never received a diagnosis for Celiac but my reactions to foods that contain gluten have made it quite clear that it does NOT belong in my body! You name the symptom, I’ve experienced it – depression, eczema, chronic joint pain, severe irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, nausea, fibromyalgia and migraines.  My husband jokes that through my 20’s all I ever wanted to do was take a nap – and he’s just about right.  I had difficulty staying awake during the day even after getting upwards of 12 hours of sleep the night before. My symptoms plagued me from my early teens through my 20’s yet I had no apparent health conditions – on paper I was healthy. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that a healthcare provider suggested that I try eliminating some foods, including those that contained gluten, to see if my symptoms improved. And so I did and I figured out rather quickly that when on a gluten-free diet, my symptoms significantly improved. Whenever I’ve re-introduced gluten to check if it really is toxic to my body, the symptoms re-appear.

Moral of the story: You don’t always need a diagnosis to move forward in healing yourself. If you suspect a food like gluten is causing or contributing to your health problems, take it upon yourself to eliminate it. If you feel better – congratulations! – this likely means you’ve unlocked at least one way to contribute to your overall health! In my case, gluten-free living did not require a Celiac Disease diagnosis…rather just my willingness to pay attention to how I felt with and without gluten in my diet.

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New staples for your gluten-free pantry

When you’re first attempting a gluten-free lifestyle, the process of clearing out foods that contain gluten can feel like an overwhelming endeavor. But with a little time and organization, it’s much easier than it sounds. And once you get your kitchen in order, it’s a breeze from there.

The first step is to consider the foods you eat regularly and how to replace them with equally tasty gluten-free options – these will become your new (and improved) staples.  Some of these foods might include cereal, bread, wheat pasta and couscous. Here’s a list of replacements that you can find at any grocery store near you.

 Gluten Free Staple Foods

Remember: Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley and their derivatives. Gluten is a common ingredient in many packaged foods, even those that you would never expect to contain it, so be sure to ALWAYS read food labels. And if you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or a Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, it’s always safe to live by this motto — IF IN DOUBT, GO WITHOUT. 

 

 

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