Avoiding Gluten

One of the few things eating advisers agree on is the value of eating foods without labels.  Foods that look the same (or nearly so) when you prepare them as when they were grown: vegetables, meat, dairy, fruit, even fats. Everyone may quibble over the best kinds of these, or the “correct” ratios, but all will agree you will be stronger and healthier if these dominate your food-choices.

None of these whole foods contain gluten in their original form.

In point of fact, very few “real foods” contain gluten at all.  Gluten is a specific protein that only appears in a limited number of grains: wheat, spelt, barley and rye.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

If you have a “whole foods” approach to eating– the type where you maximize label-less foods– you are well on your way to going gluten free “the easy way.”

Shirley Braden of gfe (gluten free easily) writes about this all the time. I heartily recommend her blog for food ideas and encouragement for the newly shell-shocked GF transitioning, especially her (PDF) tip sheets that include such hope-inspiring titles as 50 GF foods you can eat today, and 50 meals that are gfe

GO. Benefit. Be encouraged.

The difficulty in going gluten free, then, isn’t the limited number of foods available. The difficulty comes down to relearning.  New basics. New habits. Too many of our go-to food are contaminated, and most of the ostensible replacements are prohibitively expensive (if we’re being sensible) and/or a huge disappointment pleasure-wise.

Eventually, if you want to be happy as GF-for-life (GFFL), you’re going to have to make peace with your kitchen, and the amount of time you will spend there, for the rest of your life.

The food you make, the skills you will master, will strengthen you.  You don’t have to embrace it right away, but prepare your mind for it.  Anticipate it. Look forward to the time when the work that is hard now will become the invisible step to your new favorite meal.

~ ~ ~

No longer can you just grab a bottle of salad dressing or a box of cereal or a loaf of bread from the store shelf.  Now you have to read labels.  Now you have to learn code words for hidden gluten– like malt, or malt-flavoring (it’s a type of sweetener made from barley– one of the gluten grains).

Always read labels.

The hard part about avoiding gluten comes with labels: a discouraging number of foods have been contaminated that would otherwise be gluten-free naturally.

And of course there’s bread, that you’re just going to have to make on your own if you want it good or regularly.

Some of you think this is awesome: a new way to explore and conquer. Others are ready to cry (or already have).

My transition story has me stuck in the middle.  I “live for the learning curve.” I like to explore new things. At the same time, I crave mastery. I want to know it’s possible to get something right, and that I do.

Cooking can be a way to indulge these (sometimes conflicting) elements of my personality. The summer before I went GF I joined Weight Watchers and (with the weekly encouragement/admiration of my group and group-leader) became a fairly creative cook. I grew a sense of mastery in the kitchen.

But when I learned I ought to cut out X, Y, Z, Q and R.  I hit overload way-fast.

Here’s what I learned about going GF permanently:

In the beginning, I needed recipes that just. worked.

I didn’t care about “points” (WW terminology) or even “healthy” very often.  I just wanted to have food to put on the table that wasn’t going to make me feel sicker.

I went to GlutenFreeGirl.com, M.A.G., and pretty much limited myself to those, so as not to overload further. The voice of those women (and especially Erin at M.A.G., who was juggling multiple allergies for multiple children), showed me a world “beyond the looking glass” where they had reached a new normal.  It gave me hope.

And hope, as I’ve been meditating on this year, is the critical element for any endeavor.

But as soon as I had a few of those (namely sandwich bread and pancakes– recipes I have since replaced with what I use now), I got antsy and resentful.

I was creative, doggoneit. And smart. There was no reason to be tied to other people’s *exact* experience.

I wanted a chance to discover things too.

And that sparked another round of digging and learning. And pancakes.

Very, very good pancakes.


3 thoughts on “Avoiding Gluten

  1. Great post, Amy! Thanks for the very kind mention, too. You have addressed some of the very stages that I went through. It was very important to me to have success baking and cooking gluten free without having to rely on others. Luckily, it didn’t take that long to get there, but it is definitely a transition with alternating waves of despair, frustration, hope, excitement, pride, and joy. Those last ones perhaps when one finally does create those fabulous gf pancakes. 🙂


  2. […] to say it wasn’t just about being a mom. Or a homeschooler or managing the animals or the special food stuff… It’s the whole package. And sometimes it’s just too much to think about. Sometimes when it […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *