Going Gluten-Free

Gluten Free

If you’ve been told by your doctor to remove gluten from your diet, it can be confusing as to what that actually means. It also depends on why your doctor is recommending you to do so. If you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease that affects <2% of the population) you will need to indefinitely remove all gluten and traces of gluten from your diet and kitchen. If your doctor suspects that you have a sensitivity or adverse reaction to gluten, they may recommend an elimination diet to see if your symptoms improve. You may not need to be as strict as stated above, as food sensitivities are often dose-dependent (even reducing the amount and frequency of gluten in your diet-without strict elimination-can be helpful in reducing inflammatory reactions in the body). It’s best to talk to your dietitian before starting an elimination diet of any kind.

What is gluten?

But what is gluten anyway? Gluten is a family of proteins that is found in wheat, rye and barley and all of the products that are made from them. You will find it in anything that contains wheat flour (pasta, bread and most baked goods), beer, and many cereals. Gluten is also used as a thickener in sauces and salad dressings. Although oats do not contain gluten, they are often grown near wheat crops or processed on the same equipment, so they can be cross contaminated. Finally, gluten can be hidden in some foods such as soy sauce or any product that contains malt. The best thing to do is to check labels carefully to see the ingredients. Just because a product doesn’t contain wheat does not necessarily mean it is gluten-free.

Is a gluten free diet healthier?

Although many people believe that gluten-free diets are healthier than a traditional diet, this isn’t necessarily true. Eating processed foods, whether they are gluten-free or not, may not be a healthy choice. Ideally, if you need to take gluten out of your diet, you will replace foods that you previously ate that have gluten with non-processed foods like fruits, vegetables and other grains. Although grocery stores now stock plenty of gluten-free crackers, cereals and pastas, your best bet is to start by trying to eat more whole foods from the produce section and then save those pre-packaged foods for occasional meals. There are also plenty of grains and starchy foods that are naturally gluten-free like quinoa, rice, corn, potatoes and beans.

Dining out gluten free

Dining out can be challenging if you are gluten-free, especially at the beginning. But more and more restaurants are listing gluten-free items on their menu and almost all restaurants can accommodate your diet. For example, Chik-Fil-A now offers a gluten-free bun. Local restaurants like Divine 12 Café in Cockeysville and Points South Latin Kitchen in Fells Point are totally gluten-free restaurants. For more local resources and events around Baltimore, head over to baltimoreglutenfree.com!

If you’re cooking at home, there are lots of options for making delicious gluten-free meals. Many meal planning r offer customizable meal plans with recipes and a grocery list specially for a gluten-free diet. There’s also plenty of ways to get creative in the kitchen! For example, you can try zoodles (zucchini “noodles”) in place of pasta for spaghetti dishes or try cornmeal or almond meal as breading for your favorite baked chicken recipe. Here is a tasty alternative to traditional pizza that is mostly veggies:

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 Medium head of cauliflower or 5-6 cups of store bought cauliflower rice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or basil
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated/shredded Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese
  • Cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. Rinse cauliflower, remove the outer leaves, separate into florets and chop into smaller pieces. Process in a food processor until “rice” texture forms (skip if using store-bought “rice”). Transfer cauliflower rice on a prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 mins.
  3. Remove cooked cauliflower rice from the oven, transfer to a bowl lined with a double/triple layered cheesecloth or linen towel, and let cool for 5 minutes. Then gather the corners of the cheesecloth or towel and squeeze the liquid out of the cauliflower as hard as you can. Be patient and do this a few times until barely any liquid comes out. This is the key to a crispy cauliflower crust.
  4. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg with dried herbs, salt and pepper for 10 seconds. Add cheese and squeezed cauliflower; mix very well with spatula until combined.
  5. Line same baking sheet with new parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Transfer “dough” in the middle and flatten with your hands until thin pizza crust forms.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, carefully flip with spatula and bake for a few more minutes. Top with your favorite toppings and bake again until cheese on top turns golden brown. Slice and enjoy.

Recipe reprinted from ifoodreal.com

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