Wheat-Free and Gluten-Free Living—Beyond Recipes and Cookbooks


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“Do you have any wheat-free recipes?” As a kitchen and healthy eating coach, that’s usually the first thing I’m asked by people who have been prescribed a gluten or wheat-free diet.  It’s a completely understandable inquiry. We think “recipes” when someone tells us we need to eat differently, whether it’s to benefit the heart, to ease arthritis or work around food allergies.

Don’t get me wrong, cookbooks and recipes aren’t a bad starting point. But they are only part—and a relatively small part of the solution. What’s more, they’re the easy part.

The fact is, there are TONS of wheat-free recipes. They’re all over the place, including under your nose (and on your cookbook shelf): think of all the stir-fry recipes, chicken recipes, meat dishes, vegetable recipes, bean recipes, fruit salsas, stews and soups and rice dishes, to name just a few. A vast majority contain no wheat or gluten products. I have lived wheat free for 20 years and am far from starving—in fact I’m better fed now than ever.

The problem, of course, is that when we are newly diagnosed with a wheat or gluten allergy, we filter the news from our current eating perspective. Likely as not, that eating perspective revolves around A LOT of wheat products: pizza, pasta, tortillas, pancakes, toast, sandwiches, flour-thickened sauces, muffins, cakes, and so on and so forth. Only when you are given wheat or gluten diagnosis do you realize how wheat-centric our diet is.

To begin with, I certainly viewed our wheat (and dairy) diagnoses as tremendous burdens, but it didn’t take long to see what a hidden blessing they were. Being forced to think creatively about food, we had our eyes, minds and taste buds treated to a Technicolor world of wildly different and delicious new foods. Thank goodness we haven’t been saddled with a myopically monochromatic diet for the last 20 years!

Making the shift from tremendous burden to tantalizing blessing, I discovered, was attributable to a whole range of things. Yes, I found a few new recipes to help, but as important were things like:

–being organized enough to find those recipes when mealtime rolled around

–having the right ingredients in the frig

–being open to new tastes

–learning a few basic cooking skills to make decent meals

–knowing where to find gluten-free products at the grocery store

–being willing to invest time in setting up the kitchen for gluten-free cooking

–being willing to give meal making the attention and consideration it deserves, and

–being willing to exercise the parental vigor necessary to prevent a picky eaters from taking root in our house.

This last point is vitally important when kids are involved. If a child is raised from Day 1 with a broad range of tastes, then you will have no problem feeding him well on a gluten-free diet. But if, as so many children, he is allowed to dictate the food agenda and constrict his tastes to a narrow range, he will be consigned to a life of fighting his food limitations instead of reveling in the joy of all the delicious foods still available.

So that is why I encourage anyone newly diagnosed to inquire beyond recipes and cookbooks and examine the approaches and attitudes you bring to the table, so to speak.

Check out my tips on preventing picky eaters (email for a copy), look at how well your kitchen is organized for gluten-free cooking. My book, Take Control of Your Kitchen, can be a big help here. Notice if you have good mealtime habits, like planning ahead for meals, always having gluten-free snack bags for car trips, a lineup of school lunch options, etc. MOST IMPORTANTLY, develop a firm sense of purpose, i.e., that the time and effort you put into feeding you and/or your child is indeed a valuable and worthwhile use of your time.

For families, remember that taising a gluten-free child will be most successful and cause the least amount of stress if it is a family affair—and mom and dad will gain all the health benefits of the child’s good diet. Many parents worry about getting their child into the right schools, pushing them to excel in reading and math, preventing their brains from being corrupted by X-rated movies, monitoring their friends, and so. Yet we think nothing of racing through a fast food outlet and poisoning our children’s bodies with factory created food will few, if any, of the nutrients a growing body and mind needs. As parents, we must dare to be different and take the time to nourish ourselves and our children—body, brain and spirit—with wholesome food. Do not doubt that this is a valuable use of our time—despite what the fast food ads blare out.

I hope these insights will be of help if you face a wheat or gluten-free diagnosis. If you could benefit from some one-on-one coaching and assistance, I specialize in implementing wheat and diary free diets and we can work over the phone and Internet as well as in-person.

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One Response

  1. Great post. Hope to see even more good posts in the future.

    Like

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