A Gluten-Free Lifestyle

Salad from quinoaA few months ago my son was diagnosed with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is consumed. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye. The treatment is a strict gluten-free diet. Celiac sufferers must remove all wheat and wheat based products from their diet. Through this process I’ve come to see how much wheat is in the average American’s diet and it is in most processed foods. It has been truly eye-opening.

Needless to say, these last few months we have been cooking and eating gluten-free which definitely calls for thinking outside the usual foods that kids often want to eat. Pasta, pizza, chicken nuggets, cookies, cakes; you name it, it probably has gluten. I’ve been experimenting with recipes for delicious snacks and desserts as well as adding in more diverse grains. All the while keeping veggies and fruits a priority as usual.

Eating a whole foods diet makes it easier to eat gluten-free, but eating the Standard American Diet makes it very difficult. I’m finding we are actually eating healthier since we are adding in more diversity with sweet potatoes, quinoa, millet, and brown rice in place of regular white pasta. Meats, fish and eggs are naturally gluten-free as are legumes, vegetables and potatoes. I’ve created recipes to make gluten-free versions of some of our favorites, including macaroni and cheese as well as pancakes or crepes for a weekend treat. We also now make the tastiest cookies with almond flour that are not only delicious but quite nutritionally dense as well!

In my research on celiac and gluten I’ve come to learn that gluten intolerance is more common than I realized. Aside from celiac disease, which is a serious medical condition, there are many people with gluten sensitivity and who avoid gluten for that reason. Gluten is a common allergen and can cause inflammation in the body. Some argue it is the way wheat is processed in this modern time that has changed dramatically from the wheat of our ancestors. But whatever the reason for a growing negative reaction to gluten, people are looking to gluten-free options more than ever before. However, simply buying packaged foods labeled gluten-free isn’t the answer. The benefits of a whole foods diet are highlighted again here. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, meats, seafood and gluten-free whole grains (there are MANY beyond whole grain wheat to choose from) is a very natural and healthy way to be gluten-free. I’m not saying to eliminate gluten if it agrees with you, but certainly expand your culinary experience with other grains as well. And, by all means, avoid processed and packaged foods.

So take the opportunity to look beyond all the gluten containing carbs and consider some of the other less popular yet tasty options that exist! The more diverse your diet the more nutrients you are getting. You’ll be surprised by all the options that exist when you look beyond gluten…I know I was!

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