OK, I’m Gluten Free…But What Can I Eat?

Fresh Food
Image by Phillie Casablanca via Flickr

Oh, we can eat lots of things!  If you’ve recently purged your pantry of gluten  and are feeling overwhelmed with this new lifestyle, I encourage you to start with simple meals.  Focus on the most simplistic (that doesn’ mean boring, either:-)) meals at first – baked/roasted/grilled meats, fresh & lightly cooked veggies, fruits and gluten free grains.  Yes, you’ll eventually get to the gravies, sauces, breads,etc., but don’t get bogged down trying to recreate gluten containing foods…not yet, anyway.  :-)

If you’re away from home a lot, plan to do the bulk of the meal prep on off days, like weekends, etc.  You can wash veggies & fruits, precook meats & veggies & don’t forget the crockpot for all the soups & stews that are naturally gluten free.  Yes, eating healthy & gluten free takes more work on our part, but it’s worth it.  That sounds trite, I suppose, but it’s so true.  While the amount of ready-made & processed gluten free food is multiplying at exponential rates, that isn’t the answer to healing our guts & staying healthy long term.  Eating whole, unprocessed foods opens our mind & body to what eating should be.  Rejuvenating, Delicious, Life-giving, Strengthening & Pleasurable.  When our palate isn’t dulled by bland, tasteless “food” all gussied up (& I know where it should go…) with corn syrup, “flavor enhancers”, artificial colors & flavors, hydrogenated oils, tons of refined salt & such, we’re free to be not only healthy & well-nourished, but we’re then equipped to receive food for what is was designed to be…nourishing for our whole body, our families, and I believe ultimately our society.  Our ancestors knew how important healthy food was and I’m encouraged to see more & more people now question what they’re eating & where their food comes from.  Yea!!  I’m passionate about healthy food – cooking it, eating it & sharing it!!  I’ll step down from the box now…

Some of my family’s favorite basic meals are roasted chicken with veggies & rice, or maybe a thick beef stew filled with lots of tons of veggies.  We like fish, so baked or sauteed fish or salmon patties (made from the canned stuff) with green beans & salad is quick & easy.  Being native Texans, Mexican food has always been a staple of our house & going gluten free didn’t change that a bit.  So, easy tacos & tostadas are a regular part of our menu too.    Are ya’ll interested in some sample menus & recipes?  If so, I’ll post some for ya…just let me know.  Ok, I’m making myself hungry thinking about all the possibilities.  So, here’s a simple start for a newbie:

Fresh, unprocessed meats  -  Buy from your local producer, if at all possible

The meats found in our local grocery stores are not what our ancestors ate, even just a generation ago.  While we’re now 3-4 generations deep in processed food, the meat industries stayed relatively the same until after WWII.  Go in with some friends & family & buy in bulk.  Fill your freezer with yummy, healthy meats.  When you buy direct & in bulk, you will find prices to be very affordable, esp. if your food budget is tight.

  • Beef & veal
  • Poultry – chicken, turkey, duck, etc. – but watch out for additives in fresh poultry at the grocery – it is rarely without them, so make sure these flavorings are gluten free
  • Lamb & Mutton
  • Pork
  • Chevon, cabrito (goat)
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Wild game

Fresh fruits & veggies – Buy fresh & preferably local

You know, I grew up eating green leaf salads & liked them, but I didn’t love them.  (And my mom made excellent fresh salads!)  About 12 years ago, my salad experience dramatically changed.  I bought some lettuce from a local, organic farmer (one of the 1st certified organic farmers in TX, by the way) that she had picked that morning & I fixed a yummy salad that night.  Oh goodness, gracious!  I realized I had never known a “real” salad until that very moment.  (Thank you, Joan, for changing my salad life!!)

Your best bet, in terms of nutrition & freshness, is to buy from your neighbor.  While for many people this will not supply all your veggie needs, it’s the best option…well, unless you grow your own!  Yes, I do buy produce at the grocery store, but much prefer to purchase from local growers whenever possible.  My $ stays in the community & goes directly to hardworking people’s pocket, not s’tram-law.  (mmmm…reverse that…)

If you’re smack dab in the city or just not sure where to start finding local growers, try www.localharvest.org  Also, you can contact your state’s organic certification office & ask for a list of growers.  Farmer’s markets are a great resource also.  Just beware, not all vendors are what they seem.  Most reputable farmer’s markets have minimum requirements for vendors, such as selling products they personally produced, etc.  Ask about their farm/ranch, their methods…maybe arrange a tour.  Many producers welcome visitors & enjoy showing them how their food is grown.

Some other helpful sites are www.foodroutes.org & the USDA’s Farmer’s Market search engine.

Here’s a list of fruits & vegetables by season in the US.  Has anyone compiled a list for other parts of the world?  If so, I’d like to link to it.  :-)

Want to eat some grain?  At first stick with gluten free grains you know & like.

While the list of gluten free grains is quite extensive, don’t worry about that right now.  Here is an abbreviated list of gluten free grains that are  familiar to most people:

  • Rice  -  All kinds, including wild rice (which is not a rice, actually)
  • Corn  -  Be sure it hasn’t been processed with wheat – Sadly, most cornmeal seems to be packaged in shared facilities with wheat.
  • Millet  -  Health food store usually has this grain  -  again double check how it was processed
  • Sorghum  -  Ditto

Dairy

Many gluten intolerant people are also lactose intolerant.  For many, that improves once your gut heals.  However, many lactose intolerant can have cultured dairy, such as yogurt, kefir (more info here & here) & raw cheeses.  Also, many can tolerate fresh cow or goat milk.  (Meaning it is not pasteurized or homogenized.)  You can find some sources here.

Fats are a vital part of your diet, however that isn’t a well-known fact.  We’ve been taught over the last 50-60 years that fats are not good, especially the saturated ones.  If you’re interested in learning more, you can read the monumental work of Mary Enig, or this article also written by her or this intro to fats by Sally Fallon.  If that’s not enough info, here’s Mary in a video:-)   Animal saturated fats (specifically from animals raised on pasture without starch/grain inputs, not confinement operations) contain vital vitamins we all need, esp. those with autoimmune issues, such as celiac disease.  These are vitamins A, D & “Activator X”, now believed to be vitamin K2.  Whatever you do, please don’t leave healthy fats out of your gluten free diet.

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  • Marla

    Thank you for this article. I just found out I’m gluten intolerant. It happened from one day to the other, I’m 32, female and need to adjust my diet.