TIPS FOR LEARNING HOW TO COOK AND LIVE GLUTEN FREE
Hello again! For this next guest blog post, I wanted to share some tips that helped me in learning how to adjust to cooking for a gluten free lifestyle. Though I’d heard about celiac disease before I met my husband, I didn’t really fully understand the implications of what that meant, or what kind of cooking it required until I met him.
When I first realized that I might have to start cooking gluten free for the rest of my life I was pretty intimidated, and I’m sure that I haven’t been the only one who has felt that. Sure enough, gluten free cooking has become a big part of my life. So here are a few tips I’ve applied in my own life that made this task less daunting.
1. Look at what favorite recipes you already have in your collection before you throw up your hands in distress. You might be surprised at what you will discover. I found that as I cooked when my husband and I were dating, I was more aware of what ingredients I was using. I then realized that many of my recipes were actually already naturally gluten free, and that there were others that could be easily adapted. I became excited about finding ways to alter a recipe in order to make it gluten free.
2. Seek advice and support from others. I would have been lost if I hadn’t turned to gluten free blogs, those around me, and my mother-in law’s cookbook for help. There are more and more people who can’t have gluten, so find a GF friend to lean on, and be there for others when they need help.
3. Don’t over think it. You do have to be careful about reading labels and avoiding cross contamination especially if you are particularly sensitive, but a lot of cooking is actually simpler than one would think. There are a lot of ingredients and products that are already naturally gluten free and can be combined to make delicious food. This leads me to my next point.
4. Know (and begin to learn) your stuff. A lot of basic foods are gluten free, which is just the beginning of learning how to cook in this lifestyle. It is important to learn how different flours and binders work—rice flour is great as a thickening agent, for example, but because of its more coarse nature it may not bring the desired texture in certain types of baking recipes.
5. Explore recipes in other cuisines. I find it fun trying new recipes, and have found that cuisines from other countries often have a lot of gluten free recipes. For example, there are a lot of Asian recipes that call for rice noodles instead of noodles with some form of gluten.
6. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Some of my husband’s favorite meals stemmed from what I had to creatively use around the house.
7. Keep an eye out for new products. As more people are aware of and diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, more food companies have begun to offer gluten free products than even just a few years ago.
8. Budgeting is important. Gluten free cooking can be more expensive, so learning how to balance your grocery bill with the items you need/want is important. For example, instead of buying a bunch of different gluten free flours at once, accumulate them over time. Also, buy in bulk when possible.
9. Keep gluten free snacks on hand. When my husband is weakest in his gluten free diet, it is often when there is no gluten free food around he can readily eat. Chips and hummus, fruit, string cheese, and yogurt are some great suggestions for ready to go snacks.
10. Avoid as much processed food as you can. I’m not super great at following this rule, just because some of those foods make life so easy, but it is important because I’ve heard it from multiple sources. It is also especially difficult because many gluten free foods have more sugar and more processed ingredients. So to avoid it as much as possible, make as much of your own food as you can, and stay closer to “whole” foods. The more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains you get in your diet, the better (mostly because a lot of pre-made gluten free foods don’t have as many nutrients as desirable).
11. Govern self-discipline. This can be very hard for many people. Much gluten free food just doesn’t seem the same as the gluten version—textures and flavors vary. But as you learn to say no when that coworker offers you a doughnut (or when it’s and you’re the only one awake with the munchies) your body will thank you for it, and it will become easier to adjust to the lifestyle. And don’t be afraid to tell people why you’re declining—most people don’t realize or remember that you have an allergy.
12. Treat yourself. Eating a gluten free diet requires a lot of sacrifice and self-control, so I suggest “rewarding yourself” every now and again with gluten free treats, or a trip somewhere, or by buying something you’ve wanted.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read through all of these tips! I hope that you were able to find some that are useful. I know how daunting all of this can feel, and sometimes that makes it hard to know where to start; hopefully this post can be a springboard for you to the next steps in living gluten free.