Be Prepared…

I’ve been talking to so many people this past month who want to start a gluten-free lifestyle, but don’t know where to begin.  My mantra has always been, “It’s about substitution, NOT elimination.”  But, when your hungry and you want to eat a donut, it’s hard to think clearly about what to substitute.  That’s why preparation is so important.

Before you go gluten-free, you need to think 2 steps ahead.  Not only do you have to think about what to have in your own house to snack on and prepare foods, but you need to think about what is available when you are not at home.

Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to go gluten-free…

Home:

Eating at home takes the fear out of cross-contamination.  Whenever you can prepare items yourself, you can take ownership of the process and that takes the anxiety out of eating.   It’s hard to do, but planning a menu is very helpful to make sure you have ingredients on hand.  Most gluten-full recipe ingredients can be substituted with gluten-free ingredients.  Taking the time to read the recipe beforehand, will give you time to see what you need to purchase or can substitute.  There is nothing worse than standing in the pantry when your hungry trying to figure out what to make.

Snacks needs to be quick, easy and healthy.  Portion control is important with snacks, so keep a measuring cup close by for nuts, or read the serving size for each item and stick to it.  When in doubt, go fresh and local and eat whatever is in season.  Here are some things to consider keeping on hand…

SNACKS

  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, sunflower seeds)
  • Gluten-free pretzels & humus
  • Celery with laughing cow cheese or peanut butter
  • Gluten-free corn chips and salsa
  • Yogurt with fruit (add nuts & seeds)
  • Prepackaged gluten-free cookies (Annie’s, Enjoy Life, Trader Joe’s, etc.)
  • Gluten-free Chex mix (make a big batch – it lasts for weeks!)
  • Cut-up veggies and ranch dressing
  • Gluten-free crackers and cheese

FOOD PREPARATION

  • Gluten-Free bread crumbs (Panko Style and Regular)
  • Gluten-Free Bisquick
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Rice Flour & Corn Starch for breading or thickening
  • Quinoa, Wild Rice, Brown Rice, White Rice (Great side dishes)
  • Fresh potatoes and sweet potatoes (Great side dish)
  • Canned beans (Refried, black, garbanzo, etc.)
  • Jarred salsa
  • Gluten-Free Pasta (Rice for White Sauce / Corn for Red Sauce)
  • Gluten-Free broths (Chicken, Beef & Veggie) – Great for cooking rice & quinoa in!

Eating Out:

Eating out takes whole different kind of preparation.  It can be very stressful for people and some people would rather stay home than deal with the inconvenience of their diagnosis.  I like to be prepared so I don’t have to make a “big deal” about what to order.  This is “my” eating problem not everyone at the table.  Therefore, I want everyone to enjoy themselves without being concerned about what I’m going to eat.   I also want to make sure that what I’m eating isn’t going to make me sick, so I usually do the following…

  • Research the restaurants reputation in preparing gluten-free menu items on the internet (Gluten Free Philly is a great Blog locally).
  • Review the menu and choose something before I get there.
  • Contact the chef before dining to see if they are knowledgable – otherwise…let the eater BEWARE!
  • Keep notes and frequent gluten-free friendly establishments.
  • Contact local groups to see if they have a list of restaurants they support (Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG).

FOOD ON THE GO

If you are like me, I’m on the go all the time.  I’m in one door and out the other.  We are a busy family with activities every night and all weekend.  My family is not gluten-free, so I need to balance what I can eat in their world.  My problem is not their problem, so I make sure I have food with me all the time as a back-up.  Here are some things I keep in my backpack or purse, just in case we end up in a facility that cannot accommodate my diet restrictions.

  • Protein bars (Kind bars are my favorite and are like a meal replacement)
  • Raw nuts
  • Peanut butter (snack size)
  • Gluten-free crackers, pretzels or rice cakes in plastic containers so they don’t break.
  • Gluten-free soy sauce (Tamari)
  • Gluten-free salad dressings
  • Sliced gluten-free bread
  • Cheese sticks
  • humus (snack size)

The most important thing I bring when we go on vacation is homemade granola.  It’s simple, lasts a long time and is great for breakfast, snacking or as a dessert.  It takes the stress out of eating for me at hotels and on the road.  I eat it with yogurt or vanilla almond milk in the morning for breakfast.  It’s great on fresh fruit, ice-cream or by itself.  It makes a large amount, so keep it in an airtight container and enjoy it for weeks.

Remember…

“Poor planning on your part, doesn’t make an emergency on mine.”

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It’s ALL about Choices

I’ve read so many articles lately about how gluten-free eating is not healthy and it is a passing fad.  Well, I am here to DEFEND gluten-free eating.  First of all, it’s all about CHOICES!

If you choose to eat a box of cookies (gluten-free or not), you will get fat!  Yes, it’s true that gluten-free products are high in fat and calories and sugar, and the portion sizes are much smaller than gluten-full products.  But, if you are dependent on eating processed foods before going gluten-free, than you have a much bigger problem that gluten-free eating can help.  Portion control is a huge issue for many people, and gluten-free foodies need to be even more aware of it.

When I first went gluten-free I did notice that I lost several pounds very quickly, probably from reduced inflammation.  But, then I put the weight back on, probably from eating high fat things to satiate my need for carbs.  My main food for the first year was homemade granola.  It was perfect to snack on and I would eat it all day long.  Problem was, it was really high in calories and fat and I didn’t measure it out, I just grabbed it by the handful.  Once I  figured out the portion I could eat per day, I dropped the weight and was back to where I wanted to be.

My answer to the “Is eating gluten-free healthy” question, is to eat less and eat fresh and local.  If you can’t do that on a gluten-full diet, than you won’t find the benefits of being gluten-free either.  I was asked by a friend recently what I eat when I’m hungry now!  When in doubt…eggs are a quick and easy thing to eat.  I try to eat egg dishes that contain a little of each food group (proteins, vegetables, dairy, etc.), so Quiche is a great way to get them all in one meal.

Here is an easy recipe for a Crustless Ham and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche.  No kidding, it took 15 minutes to prep and 30 minutes to bake.  It freezes well and is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

 

Roasted Red Pepper Crustless Quiche

Ingredients
8 thin slices bacon, about 6 ounces or ¾ cup of ham cubed (cooked and crumbled)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp. minced flat-leaf parsley (or ½ tsp. dried)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups half-and-half
4 large fresh local eggs
2 large egg yolks
Freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese, about 1 cup
1 roasted red pepper (from jar or made fresh)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cook shallots in olive oil until tender add cooked ham/bacon and parsley. Remove from heat, cool slightly.

Spray a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie pan with butter flavored cooking spray and sprinkle evenly with the grated Parmesan and shallots. Scatter half the Gruyère into the pan and crumble the bacon/ham mixture on top of cheese.

Whisk the half-and-half, eggs and yolks in large glass measuring cup. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Pour the custard over the fillings. Top with remaining slices of red pepper and remaining cheese.

Bake until the Quiche is just set in the center, about 30-35 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving.  Can be made in cupcake pan and cooked for 15-20 minutes or until set.

To roast pepper, remove stem and seeds.  Cover outside skin with vegetable oil.  Sear over open flame of gas stove or grill.  Allow the outside to char, but not catch on fire.  Turn frequently.  Put charred pepper in a brown paper bag and allow to steam.  Remove skin, slice and store in dish with olive oil.