About 1% of Americans suffer from celiac disease, which seriously affects the small intestine and makes it intolerant of gluten, the protein combination that makes bread rise and gives it texture and bulk. In addition, a significant part of the population has chosen to replace natural and processed foods that contain gluten with gluten-free substitutes.
There are many packaged products available at the market that are gluten-free but you can easily make your own at home. With a few ingredient substitutions and minimal recipe alterations, many gluten-free dishes are as tasty as the originals and won’t offend the people you know who have chosen this alternative diet choice.
Gluten-free breakfasts are easy to prepare since fresh meat like pork chops, beef steaks, and freshly ground sausage have no gluten, and eggs and fruit are gluten-free, so the only breakfast food you need to alter is the starch. Bake up a few loaves of gluten-free bread using rice flour or mix up a batch of gluten-free pancakes or waffles with blueberries or roasted nuts in them or topped with your favorite seasonal fruit. If you can’t bear the thought of pancakes or waffles without syrup, opt for golden gluten-free syrup or top the tasty stack with molasses or black treacle. Add a side of cottage cheese and a glass of freshly squeezed juice for a balanced, gluten-free meal. There are even recipes for indulgent cinnamon rolls and satisfying breakfast breads that don’t have a trace of gluten in them.
Pair a tossed garden salad flavored with store-bought dressing or make your own oil and vinegar dressing, both ingredients of which are gluten-free, with a hearty sandwich made with sliced deli meat stacked between two slices of gluten-free bread. You don’t have to forego pizza if you eliminate gluten from your diet, as there are many gluten-free pizza recipes you can top with vegetables, fresh meat, and your choice of natural cheeses. On chilly days, warm yourself up with a steaming bowl of gluten-free soup, stew, or chili.
Gluten-free certainly doesn’t mean taste-free. Gluten-free dinners can be delicious and include favorites like pasta entrees, chicken favorites such as chicken and dumplings or pot pie, or pork and beef dishes such as chile verde or beef stew. Freshly steamed green or yellow vegetables are excellent gluten-free sides, as are mashed potatoes, turnips, and parsnips. Bake some gluten-free homemade rolls from potato flour. Add essential natural oils and extra protein to dinner with entrees of fish and shellfish, all gluten-free when purchased fresh and served without processed sauces.
No need to skip dessert if you’re avoiding gluten. Homemade gluten-free desserts often fool the whole family into thinking they’re made from classic recipes. Try your hand at gluten-free cakes, cookies, pies, candies and cheesecake, all of which have the look, taste, and feel of the original versions. Don’t forget that fresh fruits are gluten-free, as is ice cream, so you can enjoy these after-dinner treats time and again.
It’s easy to avoid foods like regular bread that contain gluten but there is gluten in many other foods. Conversely, you may think some foods contain gluten that do not. Once you understand the basic guidelines, it’s easy to keep your kitchen pantry and refrigerator gluten-free.
In addition to meats, seafood, fish and fresh fruits and vegetables, there are many off-the-shelf naturally gluten-free products.
Grains and grain-based products. Have your fill of corn tortillas, corn taco shells, all types of rice and popular sides such as kasha and quinoa.
Dairy Products. Most dairy products such as milk, butter, natural cheese, ice cream, sour cream, and yogurt are gluten-free. Carefully read labels on processed foods like ice cream and yogurt to avoid gluten-based additives.
Spices and Herbs. All ground or whole spices and herbs are gluten-free as long as the label only lists their name and nothing else.
Alcohol. Distilled liquors, although based in grains, have no gluten because it disappears during distillation. Wines are gluten-free by nature, although in rare cases gluten-based products may be used during the winemaking process.
Hidden Gluten Culprits
It’s easy to avoid wheat bread and products made from wheat such as flour, matzo, and couscous but some items that have gluten in them will surprise you.
Malt vinegar and malted milk balls contain gluten, as do common additives to spice blends and processed foods such as hydrogenized wheat protein and wheat starch.
Soy and teriyaki sauces typically contain gluten, so carefully look at the label, and purchase only those that contain no wheat or wheat products.
Breaded products such as chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and deep-fried vegetables like tempura typically contain wheat in the coatings.
Licorice, beer, and imitation crab meat are all sources of gluten, so avoid them if you choose a gluten-free diet.