How to Go Gluten-Free

If you follow a special health-related diet, you know what a chore it can be to rethink your entire way of eating. For someone with celiac disease (celiac sprue), the task can be daunting.

People with this genetic disorder cannot tolerate gluten—a mixture of proteins found in some grains. For these folks, eating things like bread, rolls, cookies and cake can even damage their small intestine.

There is no cure for this disease, which affects 1 in 133 Americans. The only treatment is a diet free of gluten. So you may find yourself looking for wheat allergy help or recipes for a celiac diet.

The challenge of a gluten-free diet is twofold:

  • Finding satisfying substitutes for the foods that contain gluten.
  • Knowing which foods contain gluten. Many of them are not that obvious. Imitation seafood, processed meats, spices and some vinegars can all contain gluten.

Health food stores and some mainstream groceries carry gluten-free products such as flour, pasta and cake mixes. Some manufacturers are also adding "gluten-free" labels on packaged foods.


Altering Recipes

Having celiac disease doesn't mean you have to give up all of your favorite foods. It takes some work, but you can convert some of your tried-and-true recipes and make them gluten-free. Here are some handy tips from the Celiac Sprue Association:

  • When substituting gluten-free flour for wheat flour, you'll get better results if you choose a recipe with very little flour.
  • "From-scratch" recipes are the best. Avoid those using convenience foods.
  • Choose recipes with ingredients that retain moisture, such as raisins, pumpkin, cranberries and chopped apples. Banana bread, pumpkin muffins and peanut butter cookies are good choices.
  • If you have access to a gluten-free cookbook, look for a recipe in the book that's similar to the one you want to convert and compare the proportions.

The number of gluten-free products, cookbooks and Web sites is growing. So educate yourself before experimenting in the kitchen…soon you'll be cooking and baking flavorful foods that meet your diet restrictions.


Tips


Baking:

  • There are many kinds of flour that can be substituted for wheat flour when you bake gluten-free items. They include potato, tapioca, soy, rice, quinoa and millet.
  • If you follow a vegetarian diet, remember that some gluten-free flours are low in protein because they have had the gluten (a protein) removed. Look for those with added milk protein.
  • Gluten-free flour absorbs moisture from the air, so make sure to keep the flour sealed in the package. Don't allow the flour to sit uncovered in a mixing bowl for any period of time.
  • If your baked goods seem dry, try adding a little honey in place of a small portion of the sugar.


Shopping:

  • If you're a celiac patient, it's important to read food labels and food ingredient lists to make sure the food does not contain hidden gluten. Hidden sources of gluten include additives, preservatives and stabilizers found in processed foods, medicines and mouthwash.
  • Current labeling laws do not require manufacturers to add "gluten-free" or "contains gluten" to product labels. Most manufacturers, however, will give you this information if you call them.


Finding Support

There are several support groups that provide recipes and help patients adapt to a gluten-free diet.

American Celiac Society
P.O. Box 23455
New Orleans LA 70183-0455
(504) 737-3293

Celiac Sprue Association
P.O. Box 31700
Omaha NE 68131-0700
( 877) CSA-4-CSA
www.csaceliacs.org

Celiac Disease Foundation
13251 Ventura Blvd., Suite 1
Studio City CA 91604-1838
(818) 990-2354
www.celiac.org

Gluten Intolerance Group
15110 10 th Ave. SW, Suite A
Seattle WA 98166-1820
(206) 246-6652
www.gluten.net

The Food Allergy Network
11781 Lee Jackson Hwy., Suite 160
Fairfax VA 22033-3309
(800) 929-4040
www.foodallergy.org


Finding Food Products Online

www.glutenfreemall.com
Gluten-Free Mall offers online shopping for a wide array of gluten-free items, from condiments and crackers to pizza and pancakes.

www.glutenfree.com
The Gluten-Free Pantry sells a variety of food items including snacks, mixes and convenience meals.

www.causeyourespecial.com
‘Cause You’re Special carries mixes for cake, muffins, scones, breads and more.