Tips and Advice for Gluten Free Beginners

By Rachel Sircy           

There are so many reasons for going gluten free. Of course, I mostly mention celiac disease because that is the reason that I have to be gluten free. However, there is a whole spectrum of gluten sensitivity that individuals can fall on. I also know of people who have a medical need to reduce inflammation in their bodies and for this reason they need to go gluten free.

Because there is a spectrum, there are all kinds of levels of gluten free living. I am at the extreme end of that spectrum and need to be completely gluten free all of the time. I cannot have food that has touched food with gluten in it, but there are many others who don’t need to be as careful. My advice will, of course, tend to be toward the extreme end of gluten free living, but I think it will still be helpful no matter where you are on the spectrum, or even if you are just trying to cut back on gluten. You can always include some gluten free ideas in your regular repertoire.

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I was referred to a registered dietician to work out a plan to start a gluten free diet. What she told me is that when trying something new, it’s best not to totally re-invent the wheel. This was excellent advice because just walking into the natural foods store with the intention of overhauling your whole eating routine at once can be completely overwhelming. So, the best thing you can do is to focus for a while on some naturally gluten free recipes. The great thing is that with a few modifications, either by leaving something out or my adding some ingredients that you may already have on hand, you can make almost any recipe gluten free.

Here are two examples, one is naturally gluten free and one is something that you can modify to make gluten free:

Mediterranean Tuna Salad (Naturally gluten free)

Ingredients:

2   6.5oz cans of water-packed tuna, drained

1   15oz can of white beans, rinsed and drained (cannellini beans work best)

¼ cup finely chopped green onion

1 ½ cups diced cucumber

4 cups chopped baby spinach leaves

3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 TBS Dijon Mustard (check the label, but most mustard should be gluten free. Grainy or smooth Dijon work equally well)

3 TBS Freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 TBS Capers (Optional)

Avocado chunks (Optional)

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir in olive oil, mustard and lemon juice. Season with pepper and add capers and avocado chunks, if desired.

 

Potato Soup (Modified to be gluten free)

Ingredients

5 cups unpeeled red potato chunks, large dice

1 cup green onions, thinly sliced

½ tsp black pepper

1 TBS salt

1 generous TBS of butter

½ cup milk

Combine potatoes chunks, onions, salt and pepper and just barely cover with water. Boil until potatoes are tender. Add the butter and cook 5 more minutes. Add milk and cook 2-3 minutes more

**This recipe for potato soup is one that I modified from a traditional potato soup recipe that used flour to thicken the broth. At first, I tried things like rice flour and cornstarch to thicken the broth, but I disliked both of those. Finally, I decided to completely leave out the thickener. The result is that you have a potato soup with large chunks of potato and a thin, flavorful broth. My husband – who doesn’t even have to be gluten free – ended up liking the thin broth version so much that I’ve never tried to use another thickener. If you have a recipe that you would like to try, but it has one or two troubling ingredients, you can always experiment with leaving that ingredient out. You may find that you actually like the recipe better without it. And, I’ve modified many recipes that call for farrow, barley or couscous with either rice or quinoa and they’ve turned out just fine.

 

So, when in doubt, try a recipe that uses naturally gluten free ingredients, like the tuna salad, or if you’re feeling adventurous, try to substitute simple ingredients or leave them out!

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