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.)

Breakfast Strategies:

Eggs + Sweet Quick Breads: Quick (no-yeast) breads, e.g., apricot-orange bread and cornbread, can easily replace bread.

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.)

Lunch Strategies:

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
  • Apple

Vegetable SoupsA 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
  • Cheese
  • Fruit
  • Yogurt
  • Hummus
  • Raw vegetables

“Kitchen-time” snacks: A little preparation will widen your choices.

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!

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