Friday, May 29, 2009

DIY Gluten Free Trial

Whoa... This is post #101! And I'm warning you, it's a long one. I've had a few people ask me about doing a gluten free trial. This is an email I have sent to a few friends and I decided to post it here for easy reference.

First off, If you suspect that you or your child have Celiac Disease, it is important to be tested while you are still eating gluten. The blood test used in the first phase of diagnosing Celiac Disease is not effective once you stop eating gluten.

Always remember to check ingredients for yourself because brands change their formulations quite often.

Gluten is in wheat, rye, barley, malt, and some oats. I think the easiest way to do a GF trial without experiencing grocery bloat is to try to eat mostly "normal" food that also happens to be GF. The more you can stick with single ingredient foods, the better.

Some brands say "Gluten Free" right on the label. More and more grocery stores are labeling items on the shelf as gluten free. A few (Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are two) list all their gluten free products on their website. Also, I am not a huge fan of Walmart, but they label their store brand items when they are gluten free.

Random "Okay" foods:
All fruits in their natural state
All veggies in their natural state (be wary of seasoned veggies)
Most cheese and yogurt (Yoplait is labeled gluten free)
Hormel Pepperoni (also labeled gluten free)
"real" meat like chicken breasts, ground chuck, etc. (Be wary of lunchmeat and hotdogs. Unless you can verify with the manufacturer that they are GF, assume they have gluten.)
Corn tortillas
Rice cakes, including most of the flavored ones (check for "contains wheat")
Rice Chex cereal
Corn Chex cereal (newly gluten free. Check the box because some stores are still selling off their old stock.)
All varieties of plain, unseasoned rice

The main things to look out for on labels are: wheat, rye, oats, barley, malt, modified food starch where the starch isn't clearly identified, "spice", and "flavorings." Manufacturers are required to clearly ID the "big 8" food allergens, so wheat is pretty easy to ID.

Here are some meal ideas that use regular food:

Breakfast: Rice chex, yogurt, cheese, fruit, eggs, plain oatmeal with various additions (WG can tolerate the plain oats in a canister but not the flavored packets. Bob's Red Mill makes certified GF oats.), fruit with peanut butter, cottage cheese, dinner leftovers, crustless pumpkin pie, grits, smoothies.

Lunch: quesadillas on corn tortillas, baked beans (check the label carefully), nachos (corn chips, refried beans, whatever veggies I have to throw on, and cheese), peanut butter on rice cakes, peanut butter on fruit, any of the breakfast options, dinner leftovers, lettuce wraps, stir-fried whatever (watch the soy sauce. Use La Choi or wheat free tamari).

Snacks: rice cakes, fruit, cottage cheese, cut up veggies with ranch dressing (check the label), trail mix with rice chex, raisins, nuts and a few chocolate chips, yogurt, deviled eggs, jello, pudding, hummus and veggies or rice crackers.

Junk food: cool ranch doritos, nacho cheese doritos are newly GF (check the label for barley), cheetos, fritos, plain potato chips, some varieties of flavored potato chips, some varieties of microwave popcorn, McDonald's french fries (they generally have a dedicated FF fryer. Other places fry their chicken nuggets with the fries.), McDonalds cheeseburger without the bun, some ice cream, snickers bars, hershey kisses, skittles, 3 musketeers, M&M's.... There's a lot more. It's scary how much junk you can still eat!

Dinner: This is the easiest meal for me because it doesn't traditionally center around wheat. Watch out for "cream of" soups and soy sauce (La Choy is GF). Also, full fat dairy is a safer bet than reduced fat or fat free dairy. Potatoes are a good stand-in for a lot of things. You can make pizza potatoes with baked potatoes, pepperoni, sauce, and cheese. Things that normally go on noodles can usually go on rice, too. Cornbread made from scratch with only cornmeal is also good, and makes a good breakfast / lunch food, too. I use Pamela's Baking Mix for most of my flour needs. It's $$$ but worth it.

Here are a few GF blogs. The first is that crockpot lady I've posted about on the board. Her daughter has celiac, so even though it's not specifically a GF blog all the recipes are GF. The second I just found, but it seems like she is also cooking for someone who cannot eat gluten.  The third is where I go when I want a great baking recipe.  I'm not a huge fan of Better Batter Flour, but I'm slowly warming up to it.

We saw results with WG in about a week. Her behavior started to improve almost immediately. She still tantrumed, but it was more reasonable. On gluten she would melt down several times within the course of an hour and off gluten she was able to hold herself together much easier. Our first clue now that she's been glutened is that she starts going nuts. The physical symptoms come a day or so later.

If you decide to do a GF trial, I'd make a special place in the cabinet / fridge for all the GF food, "regular" or not. Mark it somehow, a big red GF or something, so that you know no one will make a mistake. It's up to you if the whole family goes GF or not. If Tim and I could eat gluten, I think I'd probably make sure our dinners were GF and not worry too much about breakfast and lunch.

If you decide to just take one child off gluten, make sure you have some junk / treats around that are GF. Think of how sad you would be to see all your siblings having a cookie while you ate an apple. Having something better is key to compliance. I think we were so successful transitioning WG to the GF diet because I made sure to buy junk food every time I went to the store for the first few months. Giving up goldfish crackers and cookies is not so bad when you get to have cheetos and snickers mini's! My strategy was to substitute something better and then gradually cut the junk out altogether.

Udi's GF bread is the only GF bread worth buying IMO.  It holds together for a sandwich, smells, looks, and tastes normal.  You can find it at Trader Joe's and also at some regular grocery stores in the frozen section.  You can also make sandwiches on rice cakes.

I hope this is helpful. Going GF is tough, but you get the hang of it. It's not a cure-all for everyone or every ailment, but you don't have anything to lose by trying.

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