13 May 2010

What CAN Gluten-Free Gina Eat?

Discovering I need to follow a strict gluten-free diet to avoid intestinal distress has obviously been a major change in my life. Especially for a passionate foodie like me, who will eat just about anything, making such drastic adjustments is going to require patience, understanding and willpower.

Like many of you, until recently, I was only vaguely familiar with celiac disease and gluten-free diets. The lifestyle has received a lot of media attention recently - some claim it can aid in autism, others argue humans are not built to digest gluten at all.

Gluten, which means "glue" in Latin, is a protein found primarily in wheat, rye and barely. In Western culture especially, this makes most bread, pastries, pasta and other delicious staples off limits to those who cannot eat gluten. Unfortunately gluten and its tricky counterparts are often found in inconspicuous places, like soup, cheese and meat. Although it may sound like a fate worse than death to some (like the aspiring pastry chef writing this blog), gluten is NOT in lots of other foods with similar applications. These include rice, potatoes, corn, amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, soybeans and more. Oats are also gluten-free, but must be certified gluten-free, as most oats on the market are processed with forms of wheat.

And lucky for me, I am discovering my gluten intolerance at a time when gluten-free foods are abundant in most grocery stores. But the best way to receive adequate nutrition in a diet sans gluten is not simply to go out and buy expensive gluten-free processed replacements. Stick with basic whole foods like meat, seafood, poultry, fruits, vegetables, rice and dairy and prepare them yourself. Not surprisingly, gluten-free substitutes are just that - substitutes for the 'real thing' that just don't live up to expectations.

Last night I enjoyed a wonderful dinner of garlic roasted chicken, fresh sweet corn on the cob and zucchini, mushroom and shallot risotto and I truly didn't feel like I was missing anything. Complete with a chocolate ice cream bar for dessert, I was beyond satisfied (if only the Bruins had won!).

In typical Gina fashion, I have already made several trips to the library, added dozens of blogs to my Google Reader, scoured the aisles of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and brainstormed satiating culinary combinations. Watch for my next entry very soon, which will feature a gluten-free recipe from a charming bakery I visited in Seattle last winter.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Gina,

    I'm loving reading this blog. I am not gluten intolerant, but I had a very good friend who is. I learned a lot about being gluten-free through him, but this compounds on the same subject. For your pastry/goodie loving self here is a recipe I mastered while making Christmas cookies for said friend:

    Peanut Butter Cookies

    1 cup peanut butter
    1 cup sugar
    1 egg

    Drop cookies onto greased or papered cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until desired golden-ness. You can also sub 1/4 cup of the sugar for honey for delicious honey nut cookies. The recipe is a very small yield so expand as you see fit. They are by far the best peanut butter cookies I've ever eaten.

    Can't wait to keep reading!