Tips To Rock A Truly Gluten Free Diet – Guest Interview
The words “gluten free” have become one of the biggest health trends within the last few years. Thankfully, this means that for people who need to truly follow a gluten free diet there are a lot of options. However, it also means that many believe eliminating gluten will make them magically healthy- which isn’t the case. And while I do adore gluten free recipes (like these tasty blueberry tarts!) there is much more to being a celiac than omitting carbs.
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If you’ve ever been good friends with a celiac, you’ll know that it can be really hard to cook for them! Having celiac disease means so much more than avoiding bread and pastas and often this can be really overwhelming for someone newly diagnosed.
The words “gluten free diet” have become quite a health trend in the last few years. Unfortunately, simply avoiding bread doesn’t encompass all that comes along with a true celiac diagnosis.
Confession: Long before gluten free was a household term, I was the person above. My only knowledge of gluten was that it was evil (everyone should avoid gluten, right?! Wrong?) and that as long as you avoided ever terrible carbs (HA!) you were in the clear.
It’s taken a lot of research, expiremeting and my best friend being diagnosed with celiac disease to know the true extent of rocking a gluten free diet.
while there are thankfully so many more options for avoiding gluten now-a-days, becoming diagnosed as a celiac can be pretty overwhelming. Literally, your entire lifestyle needs to change.
Which is why I brought in an expert!
Rebecca is the face behind Strength & Sunshine– a blog I fell in love with! While I do not have celiac disease, I am real food obsessed (I mean really, look at what my daughter eats in a day?!) and try to avoid a lot of processed packaged food. Rebecca comes up with insanely amazing recipes and that’s initially what drew me in!
But she is also a celiac and thus has a ton of knowledge in her.
Since I’ve seen first hand how scary it can be upon diagnoses, I reached out to her to provide some gluten free diet tips to those who need a bit more direction.
As I mentioned, simply avoiding bread doesn’t do the trick for celiacs and just because something is “gluten free” doesn’t actually make it healthy- a fact I wish more people would understand!
So below is the interview I conducted with Rebecca. In it she gave an insane amount of information, tips and advice for anyone looking to get started with a gluten free diet. So go ahead and read below and then head over to her website for some gluten free deliciousness!
You were diagnosed as celiac young, how has the gluten free world changed and evolved?
It will be 10 years this November (2018)! When I was first diagnosed, I was still in middle school, it was before I overhauled my diet (to be dairy, egg, soy (allergy) free) and I was still consuming typical processed food.
I was actually pretty excited the first time I went to the grocery store with my mom, post-diagnosis, and pick out new foods. The gluten-free market had just started to rev up when I entered it, there were some palatable replacements for typical gluten-filled foods, but nothing like there is now. Even though the market has expanded and “awareness” has increased, that doesn’t mean it’s factual and accurate awareness and knowledge about celiac disease and just what gluten is. This point is where the major problem in the “state of the gluten-free world” is.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Even though the market has expanded and “awareness” has increased, that doesn’t mean it’s factual and accurate awareness and knowledge about celiac disease and just what gluten is” quote=”Even though the market has expanded and “awareness” has increased, that doesn’t mean it’s factual and accurate awareness and knowledge about celiac disease and just what gluten is”]
“Gluten Free” has become quite the tagline for people looking to improve their health, should everyone be avoiding gluten?
NO! Gluten-free diets have become just that, a trendy DIET (which it is not). A gluten-free diet (which has to be a strict lifestyle for those with celiac disease, no cross-contamination) is a medically prescribed diet that was born of the need to “treat” celiac disease as its only “treatment”. Avoiding gluten has zero benefit to anyone else. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other cross-contaminated grains.
This protein is NOT a villain in and of itself. People believe that if they avoid gluten-containing foods, they’ll be healthier, feel better, etc. However, when someone cuts out gluten, this usually means they eat healthier overall; no more processed foods, baked goods, refined flours, etc. They might even adapt a paleo diet, even totally grain-free.
Obviously eating a more whole food diet and not the standard American diet will make you healthier. On the flip side, gluten-free replacements for things like cookies, cakes, processed foods you’d buy in a store are NOT healthier, and usually contain much more sugar, calories, carbs, etc.
What are some hidden sources of gluten most people wouldn’t think of?
Gluten can be in anything and everything! Newbie celiacs may find themselves still feeling sick and getting their blood panels back indicating that they are still getting gluten into their system somehow. From things like children’s Play-Doh, anytime you see “natural” or “artificial” flavor listed on a package, medications, even your typical restaurant omelette (restaurants like to put pancake batter in omelets to make them fluffy!)
What is your biggest tip for eating out on a gluten free diet and as a celiac?
No matter what, anytime you eat-out, you are taking a risk. There will never be 100% certainty with the safety of your food unless you yourself are cooking it with ingredients you know are safe.
My post here outlines the steps you can take when you do need to eat-out, but my #1 tip is to CALL AHEAD. You need to actually speak to your server and the chef before they begin making your food. Call ahead to let them know you are coming and if they can even accommodate you; when you get there, speak with them again face-to-face so everyone understands what is expected.
For you, what’s the hardest part of being celiac? Or what do you miss the most?
I honestly don’t even think about “being gluten-free” or “celiac” anymore. I only think about it so much because it pertains to my business, Strength and Sunshine.
After almost 10 years, being gluten-free really is a lifestyle, second nature. I don’t have to think about it in the day-to-day and being gluten-free is probably the easiest thing in my life! (However, I’m still miss a lot of real gluten-filled foods. Their gluten-free remakes, substitutes, or homemade counterparts are just that, substitutes, not the real deal 😉 )
Can you briefly explain the difference between celiac, gluten intolerant and simply opting to follow a gluten free diet?
Celiac Disease is an incurable autoimmune disease of the digestive tract. When the protein, gluten, is ingested, it damages the villi in the small intestine, thus interfering with the adsorption of nutrients from food. The body essentially attacks itself when gluten enters the body.
When gluten is continually ingested (before diagnosis) the villi become so damaged, the small intestine so inflamed, that your body begins to breakdown because it is becoming malnourished since nutrients are unable to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Diagnosis is so important because when left untreated, the body can develop more autoimmune diseases, severe nutrient deficiencies, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, thyroid disorders, cancer, and even death. (Note: Gluten is a protein found in wheat (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, Kamut, khorasan wheat, and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale, as well as all other derivatives of these cereal grains. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.) Celiac Disease is NOT an allergy, you can NOT be “allergic” to gluten.
Gluten causes an IgA response in the immune system, not a IgG-mediated antibody response that is seen with allergies. That is why you can have a (very rare, but still a top 8) wheat allergy, which means you can have gluten (i.e. rye and barley are essentially safe, etc.), but you can not have anything with wheat. The signs and symptoms for celiac disease are far, wide, and numerous, or, you may not have any symptoms at all. That is why it is ESSENTIAL you get tested before making any diet changes.
Symptoms that do arise can mimic other diseases or intolerances (like FODMAP problems, which is what most people have, but think they have a “gluten sensitivity”). Celiac disease is “like” a food allergy in the fact that you can NOT have cross-contamination/contact. You can not “take the croutons” off a salad or “lick the frosting” off a cupcake or even use wooden spoons when cooking, as they are porous and hold gluten particles even after cleaning. 20ppm of gluten is the “loose legal” FDA threshold for gluten in products that can be marked gluten-free.
However, that is usually to high for most celiacs and if they are consuming that amount in multiple servings of a food or foods throughout the day, the build up will be way too high and dangerous. (Also note that there is not FDA regulated certification for products being gluten-free, only third-party certifications.) All top-8 allergens must be listed on food products, but gluten, does not get that status.
What are your top (3) food/pantry staples for gluten free cooking?
My top 3 food staples would be:
A great all-purpose gluten-free flour. Bob’s Red Mill never lets you down!
A cast iron skillet! (But that goes for anyone and everyone!) You can cook and bake anything and everything in “the iron”.
REAL FOOD. I, personally, don’t consume much processed food in my real everyday diet.
Having an abundance of fresh produce, starches (I live on yucca & potatoes!), chicken fish, those are essential to an all around healthy diet. It gives you the ability to expand your palate (which is my motto at Strength and Sunshine), try new foods, and easily make yourself forget about any gluten-containing foods you may miss!
Silicone sponges (bonus tip!)! I recently got some and am in love! No need to worry about gluten accidentally getting stuck in your gluten-free sponge when cleaning!
What are your favorite store bought, gluten free snacks?
Like I mentioned above, I don’t eat much processed foods. If it counts my favorite “snack” is an apple and nut/seed butter! Fruit + healthy fats is an easy delicious gluten-free snack!
However, if you’re looking for some safe and delicious easy snack options to pick-up at the store…Pretzel Crisps Gluten-Free Minis, any sweet snack from Enjoy Life Foods, Lesser Evil’s various Popcorns, Mozaic’s Popped Veggie Chips, good old cereal (many Nature’s Path, Envirokidz, Chex, Kix, Love Grown, One Degree Organics, Van’s, Etc….so many!)
If you have the time, I really suggest these homemade allergy-free goldfish!
It can be overwhelming when diagnosed celiac, what are your biggest tips for someone who now must go gluten free?
Don’t panic! If you aren’t expecting it, it may seem like a daunting diagnosis, but all is not lost! There will be a learning curve, but quickly, with time, it will be second nature, like it is for me. The best thing to do is go through your kitchen and if you have a duel household, make designated gluten-free zones (in cabinets, fridge, etc. Get a labeler!).
If you live alone, give the rest of your gluten-containing food away to friends, relatives, the food pantry. From there, go to a grocery and have fun! By this, I mean, spend some time scoring the aisles with your new gluten-detective eye, stock up on fresh real foods first, and pick some fun gluten-free products to make the transition easier.
Don’t be scared to try new things and be ready to do some experimentation when finding your favorite brand of gluten-free pasta, bread, etc.! Last, but not least, get cooking!
Don’t forget to pin these gluten free diet tips!
Living as a celiac can be overwhelming at first but it is manageable (and yes even tasty!). You can see why Rebecca and I get along, we both believe that instead of using branded “gluten free” boxes of food, your emphasis (as a celiac or not!) should be on real, whole and nourishing foods. Food is tasty, but it is also fuel and can help you heal so quality is key. Not everyone needs to rock a gluten free diet but if you do, I hope this guest interview helped provide you with a few new tips and insights!