Saturday, November 30, 2013

Five Reasons NOT to Offer Sympathy for A Gluten Free Guest

Do you ever go to a dinner party at the house of a family or friend who has known that you’re on the GF diet for years and when there’s a dish you can’t eat the host says, as though he/she just remembered, “Oh, sorry – you can’t eat this!” Then they offer you sympathy, which only makes you feel worse.

This has happened to me a number of times. From my own experience, I believe sympathy for a person on a special diet should be downplayed or, better yet, omitted. They don’t need it, for one thing, but also it is annoying and even more annoying when the host should have remembered that they could have made the dish gluten free. 

 Five Reasons to Drop the Sympathy for a Gluten Free Guest

1.       There are ways to make almost every dish gluten free, so although they may miss out on a certain dish at that meal, they can make it themselves later.

2.       They may feel like you could have made the dinner gluten free so that they could eat every dish if you’d tried.

3.       They probably already feel upset about not being able to eat everything. Offering sympathy will remind them of what they are missing, like opening an old wound.

4.       They might be tempted to ‘cheat’ to make you feel less bad about forgetting.

5.       They may feel embarrassed talking about their dietary restrictions if there are other guests.

Have any of you experienced an amount of sympathy over your GF diet that you're uncomfortable with? Please leave comments below.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to Host a Gluten Free Guest for the Holidays

For the Celiac or Gluten-Sensitive Individual

Going to a relative’s house can be nerve-racking when you must adhere to a gluten free diet. One thing I have learned over the last decade is it’s critical to communicate your dietary needs ahead of time. It’s common to feel embarrassed or worry about hurting people’s feelings, but the situation will be worse if you wait until the meal is being prepared to check and read labels. Don’t show up at a person’s house and then tell them, especially if you’re an overnight guest. Be clear about your level of sensitivity (Ex: Is cross contamination an issue?) and give them some example meals or let them know what you will do to help when you arrive to make things easier.

For the Host/Hostess

For those of you fixing a meal for an individual following a gluten free diet, I recommend checking for easy substitutes for your planned dishes. You can buy gluten free bread for stuffing, GF flour for gravy, and rice flour and xanthum gum as a substitute for regular flour in pies.

It’s easier than you may think to cook and bake gluten free foods, however it does require extra research and planning. I suggest keeping it simple. If you’re preparing a typical holiday meal with a Turkey you’ll need:
  • A basic GF flour mix for the gravy (Bob’s Red Mill GF All Purpose Flour works well and has complex carbohydrates.)
  • A GF bread mix or prepared GF bread for the stuffing and for the table
  • A GF dessert
If you live out in the country where there is a limited gluten free section in the supermarket, you can order flours and mixes online. Vitacost is a great, discount company that I use regularly ( It’s easy to navigate and simple to find a variety of products.

Keep in mind that it’s okay to have regular, gluten-based dishes. It will be cheaper and will most likely be preferred by those not on a GF diet. Your GF guest will understand, although she will feel hurt if there is dessert, stuffing, or gravy for everyone else, but not them (depending on dietary or culinary preferences). If time is not on your side in your preparations, ask the GF person to bring a few dishes of their own that you can’t get to or to help with the preparations in another way.

Hosting an Overnight GF Guest

One thing to remember is that although many GF people still can eat all the foods that are naturally gluten free, they still DO need complex carbohydrates. Just leaving out the bread and flour means that person is missing out on almost an entire food group! Make sure each meal has one of the whole grains listed in my post “Whole Grains and The Gluten Free Diet.”

You can order a GF starter kit at Bob’s Red Mill here to keep on hand in case you realize last minute you don’t have as much GF food as you’d thought:

A Sample Menu for an Overnight GF Guest:

Breakfast: Bob Red Mill’s Might Tasty GF Hot Cereal and Milk or Milk Substitute and Fruit
Lunch:  Spaghetti with a brown rice pasta (Tinkyada brand) or quinoa pasta (Ancient Harvest brand)
Dinner:  A Main Dish, Vegetables, and Brown Rice or GF Whole Grain Bread

Things to Be Aware Of

If someone is bothering to adhere to a GF diet, small amounts of flour in the mixes and sauces that you normally use is most likely an issue. Ask the GF person to be sure. Also, don’t add potential gluten containing items to a dish, such as croutons to a salad, and please don’t advise the GF guest just to eat around them. Most GF people cannot do that without consequences, or, at the very least, it will make them nervous.
Unless you check and it’s okay, don’t use a cutting board for bread and then chop up something for the GF person. Also, don’t share toasters, cookie trays, pots, or pans without cleaning them out thoroughly if that’s possible. Many GF breads aren’t as good without a toasting, but the oven can be used for that. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Do You Travel For Work?

Starving at an All You Can Eat Buffet

I wrote the exerpt below last summer, during my final trip for a job I loved but decided to leave to be home with my daughter:

Not many people in this country know what it's like to surrounded by food but STARVING. Maybe a missed meal here or there. Well, living gluten and dairy free, and needing to travel for work, has meant I'm forced to go for periods of time underfed, all while being offered pounds and pounds of free pastries, bagels, muffins, cookies, you name it. I usually lose 5 pounds every time I travel overnight for work. This may sound great, but not when I don't want to lose weight, like right now. I'm still nursing my hungry toddler so my calorie demands are high. I'm at a 6 day long conference, it's only day 2 and I'm already starving. The only whole grain I had yesterday was a bowl of cereal in the morning - sorghum and flax. I had a salad for lunch, and chicken and corn for dinner. Is corn a whole grain?

I realized yesterday I didn't pack enough food. There's always a balance. I want just the right amount so I don't have to bring any home. But since I don't have enough, I'm trying, struggling to ration my cereal, almond and soy milk, and protein bars. I almost started to cry today, waiting for lunch. I was so hungry, and then, when it came, I knew it wouldn't fill me up at all. It was just GF noodles and tomato sauce. Going without dairy is the hardest thing. I'm about to throw in the towel, but it's a lose-lose situation. Either I follow my diet and I'm hungry, or I cheat and eat dairy and feel better for a few hours, only to suffer a crippling stomach ache later. My only consolation is that I probably could afford to lose the few pounds I'd gained while pregnant. I'm wearing black, but for some reason they make me look huge. Yet, I'd prefer not to lose weight because I'm trying to increase my muscle mass instead.

Before I cut out gluten and dairy, it wasn't easy for me to maintain my weight, but I could do it by eating a lot of salads. Now, it's almost too easy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Millet Article

How to Cook Brown Rice

A rice cooker is essential to the gluten free diet. It's quick and easy to put some rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth or other grain in the cooker, add the appropriate amount of water, some salt, and oil and walk away until you're ready to eat. It automatically turns to "warm" and I've never burned anything in one before. You don't have to stir the grain during the cooking process and it's faster than cooking on the stove.

My favorite way to eat rice is a mix of basmati, long grain, short grain, and wild rice. You can often buy it in bulk at Costco. I cook it just like brown rice with 2 - 2.5 times the amount of water. Then I add about a teaspoon of oil per cup of rice and half a teaspoon of salt.
It goes great in omelets, stir fry, or just plain with some soy sauce or extra salt.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Healthy Gluten Free Breakfast Cereal!

Crunchy Flax by Enjoy Life is the healthiest cereal I've found yet. It's tasty especially if you add nuts, berries or dried fruit. It's sure to keep your energy up until at least lunchtime.

Whole Grains and The Gluten Free Diet

For people who eat gluten, eating a lot of white flour products is considered unhealthy, right? Choosing whole grains is recommended by every nutritionist across the county.

Well, guess what. One cup (455 calories) of white wheat flour has 13 grams of protein and 32% of your daily iron requirement. Approximately the same amount (440 calories) of a highly rated GF white flour mix, Jules Gluten Free, has just 4 grams of protein and 8% of your daily iron requirement. This may be fine for the occasional dessert, but to become gluten free and continue to eat in the same types of foods as before by swapping out the type of flour used, this present a serious health concern.

Many, commonly used flours in GF recipes and products sold in stores are nutritionally poor compared to conventional, wheat products, even though many of those wheat products are considered "junk food" to begin with. Then what are the GF versions? EXTRA JUNKY JUNK FOOD? For diabetics and hypoglycemic this is especially vexing. Even for the average GF individual, this can present quite a problem.

But fear not. There is hope for us on the gluten free diet. There is a way to be healthy and have lasting energy throughout the day. The key is to limit refined grains as much as possible and instead eat whole grains, beans, and nuts. Many can be turned into great baked goods.

Here are a few that I recommend:
- Brown Rice
- Wild Rice
- Buckwheat
- Whole Sorghum
- Quinoa
- Amaranth
- Coconut Flour
- Beans
- Seeds/Nuts

Beware of the following grains and use only in moderation:
- Tapioca Starch
- Potato Starch
- Corn Starch
- White Rice

Also, be aware that some whole grains ARE better than others. Protein and fiber content are good indicators. It's better to eat a whole grain than replace them with a piece of fruit, for example. Also, celery and carrot sticks and peanut butter cannot replace a PB&J on wheat bread. Meat cannot replace bread in a healthy way - it's too fatty and lacks enough fiber to eat more than a serving or two. It also doesn't have complex carbohydrates and the body stores and uses it differently.

You might be thinking, "DUH!" But I know from experience that the tendency for some GF people (ahem - ME) is to just do without grains for much of the time, and therefore missing out on complex carbs for meals or days at a time. The end result is sluggishness, exhaustion, hunger, dizziness, and weight loss. This must be avoided!

Please send me your comments. I'd love to hear from you!

The Gluten Free Diet

Many of you may have noticed that most of the gluten free products available on the market are high in simple carbohydrates and low in protein and fiber. This has been a concern for me for many years since I often don't have the time to cook healthy, whole grain meals at home. Even if I can eat a healthy breakfast and dinner, I find I need a whole grain lunch as well to keep my energy up until bedtime.

While on the go, I've tried many GF snack bars, but find they lead to weight gain, hunger, and exhaustion. Some people have suggested to "just eat meat, fruit and vegetables rather than whole grains," but I find this both makes me lose weight - fast - and leads to fatigue. Others have said, "you need more fat" or "you need more protein." Although I do find extra protein helps, it doesn't help as much as complex carbs. I think with fad diets and public perception, complex carbs have been underemphasized over the last few years. I have come to see that they are extremely important for energy level and health, which means anyone who is gluten free must pay careful attention to what food groups they are eating at each meal.

Stay tuned for product reviews and recipes