Gluten Free: Where to start?

This blog post is designed for clients new to a gluten free lifestyle. It has been prepared for us by the wonderful Claire Lochrie, Nutritional Therapist, Doula and Registered Nurse of Indigo Cocoons

Changing your diet to be gluten free can be a significant step to improve your overall health, as well as one way to address some of the specific issues that you may be concerned with.

Any diet changes may seem daunting at first and many people ask themselves “What can I eat now?” While there are a large range of processed gluten free foods available now days, many are no healthier than processed foods with gluten. The simplest way to good health, is to read the ingredient list and apply a simple Golden Rule of Thumb: If you can’t pronounce it, or need a degree in Industrial Science to know what it is- then don’t eat it.

Let’s start with the basics. Gluten is a protein found in certain grains and is widely used in many processed foods and some cosmetics like conditioners as well. Gluten is found in Wheat, Barley, Spelt, Oats, Rye, Kamut and Triticale. It is the base ingredient in bread, crackers, cakes, biscuits, pasta, bread crumbs.

Foods that are naturally gluten free include, vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy, nuts, seeds, eggs, legumes. 

Gluten free grains and starches

While that is pretty straightforward, where most people get tripped up is the other names of wheat or the ways it is used in processed foods. Other names for wheat include:

SEMOLINA | BULGAR | WHEATEN CORN FLOUR | DURUM | FARRO | FREEKAH | COUSCOUS | SPELT | RYE | KAMUT | FARINA | ATTA | WHEAT BRAN | WHEAT GERM | WHEAT STARCH | CRACKED WHEAT

Always check the packet, other foods that can have wheat hidden in them include:

  • Soy sauce
  • Stock cubes/liquid
  • Tomato sauce
  • Hot chipspackaging
  • Gravy
  • Spice and herb mixes
  • Felafel
  • Miso paste
  • Curry powder
  • Soup mixes
  • Yogurt
  • Condiments
  • Baked goods
  • Sausages
  • Deli meats
  • Stuffing

A really common way wheat is used in the majority of processed foods is by acting as a thickener. Most sauces, marinades, soups, stews/ casseroles etc. are likely to have wheat in them, which can become tricky when eating out. The only way to know is to ask the waitperson- it is part of their job to find out.

gluten free grainsThere are some recipes for making gluten free sourdough bread, such as on the Quirky Cooking blog. They are not for the faint hearted, so I suggest you try some other gluten free cooking first to get used to it. If you are going to buy gluten free bread, try to find one with as few ingredients as possible, and apply the Golden Rule of Thumb I gave you above, breads often have a very scary ingredient list. The Paleo Spirit blog has a very simple paleo bread roll that is delicious if you use butter or coconut oil instead of olive oil and ensure you don’t over cook it. It is somewhere between a scone and a dense roll. However the recipe can be adapted to be a pizza base, ‘boats’ to be stuffed with a vegetable/meat filling like a pie, can be put in muffin cases for quiche as well. I do find I often need to double the amount of coconut flour, otherwise they are too wet.

Hint: if it’s paleo it is definitely gluten free!bobs red mills gluten free flour

Cakes and biscuits are possible with the use of “Gluten Free Plain Flour” or the “Self-Raising” version. The Bobs Red Mills gluten free flour available from most health food stores has the healthiest ingredients. Raw cakes, slices and biscuits are usually gluten free and a healthier more nutrient dense option.

It really is just a simple change in the way you think about serving a meal- instead of having something with gluten grains as a part of the meal, replace it with a vegetable first or a gluten free grain if a vegetable won’t do. Vegetables are far more nourishing than any grains- gluten free or not. Nourishing your body well will speed your healing. This could look like eggplant parmigiana instead of lasagne, rice with your curry, extra potato, carrot and pumpkin in your goulash, Tamari instead of typical soy sauce (it’s just a different type of soy sauce, no real taste difference), zucchini or bananas to round out your pancakes. Zucchini ZoodlesYou can also use zucchini cut very finely with a spiralizer instead of pasta. Commercial hot chips and potato wedges have wheat in the coating and really are not a healthy food at all, so just make them at home in the oven.

Many Asian dishes still look exactly the same, you would simply need to watch out for spring rolls, dumplings, noodles and the sauces, which often use wheat to bind and thicken.

Going gluten free is not a life sentence for dry, tasteless food. Simply change the way you look at food by focusing on what you can eat with comfort, and not placing a lot of emphasis on “I can’t have ….” If you focus on what you cannot eat you will feel deprived, frustrated and depressed and you won’t stick to a gluten free lifestyle, and so ultimately not heal your body from the damage that gluten has been causing it. For more snack ideas and recipes, join the mailing list at www.indigococoons.com  Here’s to your vibrant good health!