As they say, when life gives you lemons make lemonade. So, after a brief bout of anger, denial and depression following my gluten intolerance diagnosis, that’s what I did. Rather than brooding over what I couldn’t eat, I resolved to make my new dietary lifestyle a culinary adventure. Once I opened my mind to this, it didn’t take long to realize there was a whole world of gluten-free foods (not overly processed and packaged) just waiting to be discovered.
Here’s what I’ve found:
• There’s more to whole grains than wheat, oats, rye and barley. One taste of quinoa, teff or amaranth and you’ll understand. These exotic grains provide tastes and textures quite different from the grains commonly eaten here in the US. Quinoa’s nutty flavor and high protein content make for tasty and nutrient-rich salads and side dishes. Due to its hearty flavor and creamy consistency, teff has replaced oatmeal as my comforting morning hot cereal and, believe it or not, amaranth makes for a tasty twist on grits.
• Nut and bean flours make delicious (and more nutritious) baked goods. Plain and simple, I love baked goods. I try to avoid the gluten-free alternatives made with low-nutrient food starches and opt instead for those made with protein and fiber-rich nut and bean flours. While certainly different than their gluten-containing counterparts, gluten-free and even grain-free cookies, muffins, cakes, pizza crusts and breads made are pleasantly surprising. Look for packaged goods or recipes in which almond, garbanzo and fava bean flours replace all other grain and starch flours. To boot, these high fiber and protein flours leave you full and satiated after a small portion.
• Corn tortillas are incredibly versatile. Corn tortillas are a fun and nutritious whole grain alternative to sandwich breads and flour tortillas. I use them to make roll-ups, tortilla chips and soft tacos, as well as use them as a breading for fish dishes, as a base for hors d’oeuvres and as a crust for quiches and egg dishes.
• You won’t miss breaded and fried foods as much as you think. I may be a registered dietitian, but I do love indulging in French fries and onion rings as much as the next person. After six months, I no longer craved these foods. Once the cycle is broken, it’s easy to go without them.
• Cooking is more adventurous. Prior to going gluten-free I wasn’t much of a baker, and while I loved cooking my recipe box was lean. I have since become a decent baker and am definitely a more versatile cook. It might be counterintuitive, but I now use a GREATER variety of ingredients than before and my recipe box grows every week.