How to Embrace the Gluten-Free Lifestyle - dummies

How to Embrace the Gluten-Free Lifestyle

By Jean McFadden Layton, Linda Larsen

The act of giving up gluten may seem overwhelming at times. But you can look at it another way: Eliminating gluten from your life means you’ll regain your health and energy. And nothing’s more important than that. Changing your diet and the way you cook seems like a small price to pay for increased vitality and the ability to enjoy life again!

Gluten-free doesn’t mean flavor-free

The first forays into gluten-free baking weren’t promising. Gluten-free bakers were really trying to replicate the look, taste, texture, and flavor of wheat breads. And that’s pretty impossible.

So instead of focusing on what gluten-free baked goods aren’t, focus on what they are! The flavors of rice flour, sorghum flour, buckwheat flour, almond flour, and millet flour are unique. Each one allows you to build a flavor profile that fits your taste buds. Try that with boring old wheat.

And if you don’t love the taste of one gluten-free flour, use another as a substitute. You can find more than a dozen different varieties of gluten-free flour. As long as you use a combination of flours and use starches and additives such as gums judiciously, you should have success.

Some gluten-free flours are more suited to certain baked goods. The flours with a higher percentage of protein do better in yeast breads and pizza doughs. The flours with a lower percentage of protein do better in cakes, cookies, and soufflés. Just use some common sense and have fun experimenting!

Here are some other tricks for adding more flavor to gluten-free baked goods:

  • Substitute fruit and vegetable purées for some of the liquids in the recipe.

  • Increase the amount of extracts you use (be sure they’re gluten-free!). More vanilla or some almond extract can help add lots of flavor.

  • Increase the amount and number of spices you use. If a recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, double it, and then add a bit of nutmeg and cardamom for a more complex flavor.

  • Use brown sugar, especially dark brown sugar, in place of some of the granulated sugar in a recipe. Brown sugar contains molasses, which adds flavor and moistness.

Raising kids to love the gluten-free lifestyle

Removing wheat and gluten ingredients from a child’s diet is probably one of the most challenging things you’ll do. When your child learns that she won’t be able to share pizza with her best friend at the bowling alley or that cupcakes at the next birthday party are verboten, she’ll probably break down in tears.

That’s where you come in. Your attitude is crucial to making your celiac child’s life better. You must be the gatekeeper. But this is also an incredibly important learning experience. Your child watches everything you do, so adopt a positive attitude and look for the good in a diagnosis on the gluten intolerance spectrum.

Getting your child involved in choosing foods, helping her learn to bake, teaching her which foods she can and can’t eat, and then baking special treats she loves (and taking them to that birthday party) are the crucial steps to getting her to love her new lifestyle.

The most important part of a child living gluten-free is that she can be a child again. Nothing’s more painful than watching your child suffer physically and emotionally. When your child hits a home run or wins a swimming competition, she’ll know that her gluten-free diet is the reason her body is powerful once more.

Setting realistic expectations when going gluten-free

Although many gluten-sensitive people feel better immediately when they eliminate gluten from their diets, you may not be so fortunate. Depending on the severity of your condition and how long you suffered undiagnosed, you may take months to see the true results of a gluten-free diet.

Sure, immediately being able to run a marathon would be wonderful, but be realistic! Your body has to heal itself. Your body is a complex organism, and you may have to consider other variables. You may have developed other allergies or intolerances because of the damage done to your intestinal tract. You may have to eliminate casein and/or lactose from your diet to feel better.

If your child needs to be gluten-free, be realistic about recovery. If your child is older than 5 or 6, he may never completely catch up on the growth charts because of the damage that’s been done. But that doesn’t mean he can’t live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. Stress feeling good. Don’t stress about not being 6’3” and a football star.

The point is, healing takes time. Be gentle with yourself during the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle. Eliminate all gluten immediately, of course, but still eat your favorite foods. Don’t hide in your house. Go out to restaurants. Travel. Bring gluten-free treats with you to parties and events. And learn to love life again, because you’re going to feel great!