For Newbies: A Day in the Gluten-Free Life
When I became a gluten-sensitive newbie a year ago, I couldn’t figure out what I’d eat on a day-by-day basis.
This hadn’t been a problem when I became lactose-intolerant because so many alternatives to cow’s milk products were in the grocery stores. Nor had it been a diet problem because my program (Weight Watchers) was not restrictive in choice, just in portion size.
But gluten-intolerance (and also a problem with oats, alas) threw me into a complete tizzy. So many of my favorite foods were out the window. What was I going to eat at breakfast? For lunch? What about when I just wanted to grab a snack?
Oh yes, I could eat potatoes, rice cakes, rice crackers, and rice/corn cereals until I was blue in the face, but eventually I overdosed. Basically, my food choices shrank to the point that they fit in a very small box. To say I was unhappy would have been a major understatement.
Fast forward a year later: I’m no longer down in the no-gluten dumps. In fact, I have a more varied and interesting diet than I’ve ever had. Why? It’s not because stores are carrying a lot more gluten-free products. I can’t eat most of them because they contain milk and/or are too high in calories.
Rather I decided to change my mind-set and develop healthy, non-gluten food strategies. This required
- Working with alternative flours and baking methods.
- Researching gluten-free blogs to see what other folks are doing.
- Spending more time in the kitchen preparing what I wanted to eat.
- Experimenting with food and food possibilities.
Originally, my greatest food problem wasn’t with dinner because that meal usually has potatoes or rice. Rather, I had problems with breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Here are the food strategies I developed. (I’ve created links to my version of these foods for your convenience, but you can also search the Internet and find many others.)
Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Farina: If you’re like me and can’t eat oatmeal, this is a filling substitute. Add fruit, milk, or a sweetener. (Note: I have no connection to the company in any way.)
Sandwiches: Use corn tortillas instead of bread.
Salads: To make a salad more filling, add
- Cold, cooked quinoa grain
- Chickpeas or other beans
- Nuts and/or seeds
- Hard-boiled egg
- Canned tuna or salmon
- Cold cuts
- Baked tofu
Vegetable Soups: A big pot of soup provides a number of lunches. To make a soup more filling, you can add
- Potatoes or tofu while cooking
- Cooked rice or rinsed beans at the end of cooking
- Some plain yogurt to your bowl
- Grated cheese to your bowl
Roasted Vegetable Medleys: A large pan provides several lunches. Think cauliflower and broccoli, onions and leeks, carrots, and parsnips, and any root vegetable.
- For carbohydrate, add potatoes to the mix.
- For protein, sprinkle a bowl of roasted vegetables with grated cheese and nuke for a few minutes.
Broccoli Slaw with Turkey, and Apple: This qualifies under “salads,” but I make this so often that it deserves its own space. It’s fast to make, filling, healthful, and delicious.
Snack Strategies (sweet and savoury):
“Grab quickly” snacks include:
- Nuts and/or seeds
- Raw vegetables
“Kitchen-time” snacks: A little preparation will widen your choices.
- Marinated, baked tofu slices
- Quick breads (see above)
- Quinoa fruit puddings
- Vegetable fries, i.e., sweet potato, turnip, kohlrabi, etc.
- Vegetable chips, i.e., kale, beet, carrot, etc.
Bean Bakes: No flour, no dairy: just white navy beans, eggs, baking powder, salt, and whatever ingredient(s) I experiment with. These cinch-to-make, low-cal, nutritious bean bakes have turned out to be my favourite snack food, and I’ve created The Bean Bake Blog to make a home for them. Some examples include:
- Banana-Coconut Bean Bake
- Chocolate-Orange Bean Bake
- Cauliflower-Salsa Bean Bake
- Chocolate-Cauliflower Bean Bake (imagine that!)
Clearly, creating your good non-gluten day will depend on your own preferences, diet, time constraints, and so on. But think of your research and learning curve as a free education, and your time and experimentation in the kitchen, not as a chore, but as self-indulgence.
The payoff is worth it!