Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Celiac Awareness Month

For May, I thought I'd focus more on eating and dining gluten free, complete with GREAT recipes.  Don't worry - Tea for Tuesday and One Yard Wednesday will be back in June, along with a new feature for Fridays.  As always, all the recipes featured here are gluten free or offer a gluten free alternative.  I'm busy baking today, and will be bringing these super yummy gluten free recipes starting tomorrow.  By the way, you'll want to click to continue reading!

Before I get started, let me just clarify that I'm a mom.  I'm not a doctor.  I'm not a nutritionist.  I don't even play one on TV.  Choices that you make regarding your health care are your responsibility, and should involve consulting your physician.  This is especially true if you suspect or have been diagnosed with celiac disease or other health issues.

May is National Celiac Awareness Month.  If you are newly diagnosed, or suspicious of your health issues, The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is a great website to visit any time of the year.  This month, they have several online events planned as well as a sweepstakes for a gluten free pantry (donation required).

When you first hear the news about having to radically change your diet and lifestyle, it can be overwhelming.  There is so much information to go through - whether that info comes from a doctor, a nutritionist, online, or all of the above.  At the time we were told about Hubby's issues, I literally spent several hours a day for several days going through books, websites, and anything else I could get my hands on.  During all of this, I realized there had to be an easier way to break this down for the average person.

So where do you start when you have to go gluten free?  To make it easy, let's look at the My Plate graphic from the USDA.

Seems simple enough, right?  We'll take it piece by piece...

Fresh and frozen plain fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten free.  And let's face it - we all need to eat more of both of those.  Make these your go-to snacks.  Apples or celery with nut butter are a fantastic choice for after school.

The glass of dairy is pretty self-explanatory.  You can also have a cup of yogurt, or some cheese.  If you also have dairy issues, find a healthy non-dairy alternative, such as soy, almond, rice, etc.  Personally, I do a little of both.  Chocolate Silk(TM) is a favorite of mine for breakfast, and I like cheese on and in things.  The important thing here is finding a good source of calcium.  When you have any digestive issues, your body is not getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy, and calcium is so important for many things - not just your bones and teeth!  Make sure you are getting enough!

Other beverages that are safe:  plain coffee and tea, and fruit and/or vegie juice.  If you're a soda drinker, read the label or find nutritional info on the company's website.  Like those fancy coffee drinks?  Do the same.  Gluten can hide in many places in many forms!

This is where things start to get a bit more complicated.  For protein, think lean meats (beef, pork, chicken).  Avoid processed meats, like lunch meats, etc., because many brands have fillers.  Also, ham and turkey may have gluten in flavoring agents that can be injected.  If you're not absolutely sure, don't buy it.  We buy our meat from a local CSA farm and know for a fact that any sausages, hams, and turkeys are all safe for us.  As for breaded meats, Applegate Farms (brand) makes wicked good chicken nuggets and tenders - our family thinks they taste better than "the real thing"!  They also make really good lunch meat for sandwiches.  The bottom line here:  know what's in your food!  Read labels diligently, follow up on company websites, and don't be afraid to call and ask.

And now for the million dollar question:  what grains are safe?  Amaranth, millet, rice, buckwheat, teff, quinoa, and corn.  Not sure where to begin?  Start with rice.  The first week after Hubby's diagnosis, we ate chicken, broccoli, and rice for dinner.  And we probably ate it 4 out of the 7 nights.  Good thing my kids like broccoli!  Millet and quinoa make great side dishes, and kasha (roasted buckwheat) makes a wonderful hot breakfast cereal.  Teff is wonderful in gluten-free whole grain breads, such as Udi's (brand).

Want a sandwich?  Our new favorite bread is Udi's (brand) Millet-Chia bread.  It makes an awesome grilled cheese sandwich, and will hold its own either toasted with some homemade jelly or stacked with some turkey lunch meat.

You'll notice I did not say oatmeal.  Oats tend to be processed in the same facilities as wheat.  This means that they can easily become cross-contaminated with gluten.  There are many gluten free brands of oatmeal available.  I have found, for me at least, that I can no longer eat oatmeal - gluten free or not.  As much as I love a steaming bowl on a cold morning, I've had to switch to atole, which is made from amaranth.

So when you're making your menu plan for the week, start with a plain protein, like a chicken breast.  Add some vegies, and some rice.  Have some fruit and yogurt for dessert.  Maybe you'd prefer some baked pork chops, apple sauce and a salad sprinkled with some quinoa and almonds.  Steak, baked potatoes and green beans or fresh asparagus - another good combo.

It really isn't as hard as you may have believed.  For many of us, this challenge forces us to eat the healthier way we should be eating all the time.  And this is a good thing.

Remember, all the recipes you find here on this site are gluten free, or offer a gluten free option, and I've got some yummy treats coming up tomorrow!


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