Despite what people might think, eating a gluten-free diet is not at all limiting. In fact, you can get more variety from a gluten-free diet than most people do eating their average diet. Ironically, when people have no limitations they tend to eat the same things day in and day out. However, when they are restricted to a specific diet for health reasons — such as allergies, intolerances, sensitivities or digestive problems — they are forced to become more creative and add more variety to everyday eating.
By incorporating gluten-free foods into your own diet you can have more variety, colour and balance than you ever would have dreamed. The options are endless, whether you are making desserts, putting together a main dish or side dish, or baking a pizza crust. It may take a few attempts and some trial and error, but don’t give up.
If this is a lifestyle that you need to live by, then you must take the initiative to learn some new recipes. If, on the other hand, you are just open-minded and want to include more gluten-free grains in your diet, then you are paving a path to easier digestion and allergy-free living.
Gluten-free grains have other health benefits because they are also extremely high in protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals. Best of all, they don’t make you feel bloated! You don’t have to be gluten intolerant to have this variety in your diet.
You also won’t have any difficulty finding the items you need to live gluten-free (GF). There are many products, restaurants, and generic and specialty shops accommodating the growing number of people adopting this diet. So take some time and explore your local aisles and farmers’ markets to see what gluten-free options are available to you.
What is celiac disease?
Gluten is a protein in wheat, which some people have difficulty digesting. If someone is gluten intolerant, they may have celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder of the small intestine where the body has an inflammatory reaction to gluten. This can be an extremely severe situation for some people because everyday digestion is compromised, which can over time lead to nutritional deficiencies because of poor absorption and intestinal damage.
People who suffer from celiac disease need to stick to a gluten-free diet indefinitely. If someone is simply sensitive to foods containing gluten, then it is important to stick to gluten-free foods as often as possible to keep your digestive tract nourished and soothed.
Examples of gluten-free grains
Grains, legumes and seeds: Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn (cornmeal, corn grits), fava, flaxseed, garbanzo bean (chickpea, besan, gram or channa), hominy, hominy grits, kasha (toasted buckwheat), millet, pure uncontaminated oats, quinoa, rice, sago, teff and tapioca.
Flours: Bean flours from Best Cooking Pulses (split pea, chickpea), fava, pure buckwheat flour, buckwheat bran, cornstarch, cornmeal, corn bran, garfava flour (garbanzo-and-fava-bean flours), mesquite flour, quinoa flour, montina flour (made from Indian rice grass), nut flours and nut meals, potato flour, potato starch, rice flour (white and brown), sorghum flour, soy (soya) flour and teff flour.
Breads and baked goods: Look for these made with gluten-free grains, and free of other gluten-containing ingredients. To get started, try gluten-free goodies from Sweets from the Earth.
Pasta: There are options made from brown rice (try Tinkyada), beans, corn, potato, quinoa, wild rice and other GF grains.
Cold cereals: Puffed corn, amaranth, buckwheat, millet or rice, rice flakes and chia cereal from Ruth’s Hemp Foods all work as cereal.
Hot cereals: Cream of Rice, puffed amaranth, rice flakes, quinoa flakes, whole cooked quinoa, brown rice, millet or buckwheat.
Rice: Brown, white, basmati, jasmine or wild rice (which is actually a grain from grass).
Corn or rice tortillas should also be gluten free — look for organic and non-GMO to be safe.
Brown rice pesto pasta
1 bunch or 2 cups of fresh basil (or other green)
¼ cup olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp white rice miso paste (optional, but makes it really “cheesy”)
1 tbsp honey
¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package of brown rice pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of spinach or swiss chard, lightly steamed or sautéed
1 can of white beans (try Eden Brand) or 1 cup cooked navy beans (optional)
1.Grind the nuts in a food processor; add the remaining pesto ingredients — everything in the list above the rice pasta — and process for a few minutes until well combined.
2. Boil a pot of water, add sea salt and cook rice pasta until tender or al dente (about 7-10 minutes). Strain the remaining water.
3. In a large pot, combine the pesto with the cooked pasta over medium or low heat, then add in the beans and chard or spinach.
4. Stir a few minutes until well combined.
Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.