So you have decided to go GLUTEN FREE. Are you prepared to never go out to eat for Italian, Chinese, Thai, Hamburgers, Diners, Breakfast, Mexican, Pizza, Sandwiches, Seafood, Steakhouses, Buffets, Delis, Fast food, Hot Dogs, Bakeries, Donuts, and Vegetarian? All these restaurants are suspect unless they state that they have gluten free items. If you live in New York City the number of restaurants available is huge, but most other places have very limited choices if any at all. Think Paris France and no croissants!
Going out to eat at restaurants is a major problem. McDonald's fries are gluten free and you can have a bun-less hamburger. But everything else is suspicious. In addition they do not guarantee that everything is always gluten free. We went to dinner at a national major chain that has a gluten free menu. However, that particular restaurant did not have good procedures in the kitchen and my Celiac husband was sick for three days. So even if the restaurant says it has a gluten free menu, you have to ask a lot of questions of the staff.
Then there is the expense. The cost of gluten free bread is twice the cost of a regular loaf. The gluten free bread is half the size with twice the calories. Many large stores are stocking more gluten free foods but there is not a big choice. You can control for gluten by buying only items marked GLUTEN FREE and preparing all of your meals at home. When you go on vacation you rent houses, apartments or suites with a kitchen and cook all your meals.
My husband is Celiac and my daughter, brother-in-law and sister-in-law are gluten intolerant. All of them have had blood tests to verify the gluten issue. If my husband eats anything with the smallest amount of gluten in it he is violently ill for at least 3 to 4 days. There is no relief from the pain, diarrhea, or cramping until the gluten works its way through his system.
If you are going GLUTEN FREE are you prepared to have separate cooking areas? We have gluten free kitchens even though I do not have a gluten issue, nor does my daughter's husband or my sister-in-law's husband. The contamination issues are just too great and the consequences just too difficult. Simple things such as pie crust or toast crumbs on a counter can cause days of agony. I have separate toasters clearly marked and separate containers of jam and butter for my toast.
Don’t even get me started on going to eat at friend's houses. I hate it when they go to a lot of trouble to make a special dish for my husband and sprinkle Whole Wheat crumbs on the top. They get a little testy when my husband won't eat the dish and only nibbles on the lettuce because the dressing has gluten in it.
Think of the menu for Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas, birthdays, Fourth of July parties, Super Bowl parties and Easter. And no matter what anyone says gluten free birthday cakes or cookies are not the same.
Then there is the health issue. You need fiber in your life and it is hard to get it without the whole grains of whole wheat, barley and rye. The gluten free grains are not high fiber. Most gluten-free baked goods are made with rice flour, not a particularly low calorie or healthy flour.
IF WE DIDN'T HAVE TO BE GLUTEN FREE WE WOULD NOT DO IT. After 5 years of living the gluten free diet we have adjusted. But you cannot imagine the planning it takes to go out to eat, or to find gluten free recipes for baked goods that are edible. My husband can't eat the beans or guacamole at the local Mexican restaurant, he can only have the soft corn tortilla tacos. No enchiladas!!
What I would continue to do is to follow the Spark People recommendations for avoiding processed food that comes in a package, watch what you eat at restaurants and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. You may not be gluten intolerant but have a sensitivity to some of the chemicals in processed foods. I would also recommend getting a blood test BEFORE you go gluten free. Many doctors do not want to do it but it is a very good test.
For more information:
COMMON FOODS THAT CONTAIN GLUTEN:
Pastas, Noodles, ramen, chow Mein, and egg noodles
Breads and Pastries: croissants, pita, naan, bagels, flatbreads, cornbread, potato bread, muffins, donuts, rolls, cakes, cookies, pie crusts, brownies, pancakes, waffles, French toast, crepes, and biscuits, etc.
Crackers: pretzels, goldfish, graham crackers, etc.
Cereal & Granola: corn flakes and rice puffs (malt extract/flavoring), granola
Breading & Coating Mixes: panko breadcrumbs, Croutons, stuffing, dressings
Sauces & Gravies (many use wheat flour as a thickener)
Beer and any malt beverages such as vinegar, ales, lagers, malt beverages and malt vinegars that are made from gluten-containing grains are not distilled and therefore are not gluten-free.
FOODS THAT MAY CONTAIN GLUTEN
energy bars/granola bars (some bars may contain wheat as an ingredient, and most use oats that are not gluten-free)
fries, a lot of places use the same fryer for onion rings coated with flour mixture
potato chips need to check list of ingredients
processed lunch meats
candy and other candy bars
soup (cream-based soups often have flour as a thickener. Some broths contain starch, many soups also contain barley)
multi-grain or “artisan” tortilla chips or tortillas that are not entirely corn-based may contain a wheat-based ingredient
salad dressings and marinades
“starch” unless specified, labels including starch as an ingredient could mean any type of starch, including wheat.
UNEXPECTED SOURCES OF GLUTEN
brown rice syrup
meat substitutes such as vegetarian burgers, tempeh, vegetarian sausage, imitation bacon, imitation seafood etc. (Note: tofu is gluten-free, be cautious of soy sauce marinades and cross-contamination when eating out, especially when the tofu is fried)
self-basting poultry (think Butterball)
cheesecake (some recipes include wheat flour)
eggs served at restaurants (some restaurants put pancake batter in their scrambled eggs and omelets, but on their own, eggs are naturally gluten-free)
baking powder (some commercial brands of baking powder contain starch to prevent clumping that is derived from wheat)
When preparing gluten-free foods, it is important to avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination occurs when foods or ingredients come into contact with gluten, generally through shared utensils or a shared cooking/storage environment. In order for food to be safe for someone with celiac disease, it must not come into contact with food containing gluten.
PLACES WHERE CROSS-CONTAMINATION CAN OCCUR
toasters used for both gluten-free and regular bread
deep fried foods cooked in oil shared with breaded products
shared containers (including improperly washed containers)
condiments (such as butter, peanut butter, jam, mustard, and mayonnaise) may become contaminated when utensils used on gluten-containing food are double-dipped
wheat flour can stay airborne for many hours in a bakery (or at home) and contaminate exposed preparation surfaces and utensils or uncovered gluten-free products.
oats unless designated Gluten-free
pizza (pizzerias that offer gluten-free crusts sometimes do not control for cross-contamination with their wheat-based dough)
non-certified baked goods (e.g. “gluten-free” goods from otherwise gluten-containing bakeries)