So here's a little announcement for you. A couple months ago I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. While this diagnosis comes as a relief for many who have suffered from unexplained symptoms for years, I have no known symptoms and only had myself screened because my sister was recently diagnosed. So, not a relief. It has been quite an unwelcome adjustment for me in fact.
For years, I have made almost all the bread my family eats (mostly 100% whole wheat honey bread). I also have made pizza with a delicious 50% whole grain crust weekly for years. I love making and eating hot homemade breakfasts. I bake in bulk many healthy kid-friendly snacks containing whole wheat (healthy whole grain "cookies," chocolate chip snack bars, applesauce muffins) for quick, easy, and portable snacks for me and my kids.
I'm about 7 weeks into eating gluten-free, and, no, I do not feel much more fabulous. I actually felt very healthy and energetic before my diagnosis. But I still hold out hope that there will be some benefit to going gluten-free. Perhaps I will get sick less often.
For the first month or so of eating gluten-free I was hungry. All. The. Time. No matter how much I ate. Thankfully, this phase is over. However, I am annoyed that I still need to eat more meat to ever feel full. Before my diagnosis, I was working on eating less meat and dairy, more grains, legumes, and vegetables. This whole Celiac business has really derailed that for the moment. I crave meat. How my vegan sister (diagnosed with Celiac just before me) is dealing with this new diet I have no idea.
Eating on-the-fly is nearly impossible for me now. I can't grab a piece of whole wheat toast in the morning to carry me through until lunch. I can't snack on my kids' snacks at the park if I don't have time to eat a real lunch. It seems like I have to plan and prepare every darn meal I eat. This means that sometimes I don't eat anything but a banana until 2 pm because I just don't have time for anything else. Nonetheless, I am not losing weight, in case you were wondering.
Favorite snacks so far: homemade hummus with apples slices or carrots (I buy these incredibly sweet and delicious small carrots at the farmers market that don't need to be peeled), corn tortilla chips with avocado, bananas, and dried persimmons. I try to have these on hand at all times. I'm already a little sick of corn. Cornbread, corn tortillas chips, corn tortillas, arepas. Of course, I'm also very grateful for corn. But I need to expand my snacking grain horizons, quick.
Breakfast has been hard. I really crave whole grains in the morning. How I loved my whole grain pancakes, German pancakes, pancake whole wheat waffles and french toast. Even my scrambled eggs I always ate with toast. I do plan to find a bread recipe good enough for the very occasional breakfast of french toast. Now it's either scrambled eggs (often inside a corn tortilla with cheese, green onions, and cilantro) or yogurt and homemade granola (made with certified gluten-free oats). And I'm kind of already sick of both. And they both take a lot longer to make than a piece of toast or a leftover waffle.
I was already having trouble with meal planning. Now the whole process is just so much more fraught and tortured. I think our weekly pizza night is over. Homemade pizza has long been the one meal that my entire family eats and enjoys. I will perhaps continue making pizza maybe once or twice a month, but not weekly. This was one of the hardest things for me to accept, as family dinner is a real challenge for me.
Hello, Cross Contamination
Avoiding cross-contamination is SUCH a pain. I can't do anything else while preparing my kids' lunches in the morning lest I inadvertently ingest or somewhere drop a bread crumb. Then there's the whole issue of what should be replaced: wood spoons and cutting boards, strainers, even preseasoned cast iron, all now viewed with extreme suspicion (spoiler alert: I replaced them all).
You would think shopping gluten-free wouldn't be so painful for me since I cook and bake so much from scratch with single ingredients and avoid packaged foods with long lists of ingredients. But it is. Because even ingredients such as baking soda or coconut flakes are now often taboo. If the package says on the bag "may contain wheat" or "processed in a facility that also processes wheat" or even just if it says nothing, it could contain gluten and I'm not supposed to eat it. This happens all the dang time. Tons of foods that are naturally gluten-free: 100% buckwheat noodles, corn puffs (one ingredient: corn), baking powder, sea salt grinder. Seems like every darn thing has to be officially "Gluten-free" or I'm not supposed to eat it.
Forget about buying organic. Not only are certified gluten-free products often even more expensive than organic (hello again, sticker shock!), there often isn't even a gluten-free and organic option available. I'm usually grateful just to even find the gluten-free option, but it makes me sad that I often have no option but to buy conventional after years of gradually switching to purchasing almost every thing organic. Of course I suppose the sticker shock of switching to organic helped prepare me in a way for the sticker shock of eating gluten-free.
I am so happy that my favorite middle eastern restaurant has numerous gluten-free dishes. However, after my conversation with my waiter on my last visit (who seemed not very well-informed about gluten and cross-contamination issues), I am worried about cross-contamination.
Hello, High Maintenance
After years as a non-high-maintenance eater, it is hard for me to accept that I will now be a somewhat annoying dinner guest or visitor in others' homes. I am dreading dealing with Celiac while traveling. I miss the carefree lifestyle of a non-special-diet eater.
I feel a deep empathy for parents with children who need to eat gluten-free (or who have other special diets). I have no trouble with not eating gluten on purpose (trying to avoid inadvertent consumption, of course, is a major inconvenience). But I can't imagine having a child who could not eat gluten. I already wring my hands over my kids being virtually the only children in their classes not participating in the school breakfast or lunch program, or their feelings of deprivation over not getting to buy Hot Cheetohs or junky ice cream treats from the vendors parked outside their school like all their friends. I can't imagine having to tell a young child that she could almost never eat any food offered to her at school and other venues.
I try to focus on what I can eat. Many cultures do not consume wheat as a regular part of their diet. In a way, eating gluten-free opens up a lot of new flavor horizons and ethnic cuisines. I just don't really feel like I have the time for all that exploration, as I was barely getting by before. But now I guess I just have to make the time.
What are your favorite resources for gluten-free eating? Please share!
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photo credit: brown loaves. via photopin (license)