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Celiac Disease and Gluten-Free Living: Today There are More Options than Limits

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Guest column by long-time Scramble supporter Robin Thieme

A Diagnosis of Celiac Disease

In March 2011, our daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Although the diagnosis came with its obvious negatives, we were glad for the clear diagnosis because it answered so many questions left unanswered for years. But, with the diagnosis came the reality that her diet had to change not by choice, but in order to avoid the symptoms brought on by Celiac including severe nausea and a higher likelihood of cancer later in life.

Ashley, a teenager whose regular diet had included pizza, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and bagels, was beset with a challenge that she decided to take head on. She was determined to make sure her meals were gluten-free, but didn’t want them to make her stand out in the crowd, nor did she want to consume poor tasting food.  

I was determined to be fully supportive of her challenge, including acknowledging that there were many gluten-free products on the market that were either just plain bad or devoid of flavor.

Being diagnosed with Celiac in 2011 provides so many more options than there were for those having to adapt 20 or even 10 years ago. We have found the amount of gluten-free products and gluten-free friendly restaurants has exploded in the last two years. While I know, at times, it is hard for Ashley, she navigates through the limitation in a mature and healthy way and I am very proud of her.

Now, after a few years under her belt of avoiding foods containing gluten, Ashley and I are glad to share with others how she navigates her meal planning, in the hopes it can be helpful and encouraging to other kids. 

Note: some individuals are more sensitive to gluten then others. While we make every effort to avoid cross contamination, she does not suffer symptoms when minute amounts of gluten fall through the cracks. Others may be more sensitive and then not all the advice would be appropriate for them.

Orange Cumin Black BeansEating a Gluten-Free Diet

There are so many meals that, by design, don’t contain gluten. Before, we all enjoyed a snack of pita and hummus. Now we enjoy the hummus with carrots, zucchini, or cucumber.

Of course, all fruits and vegetables are gluten-free, so those snacks hold more appeal now.

Hamburgers and hot dogs are enjoyed with a little ketchup, a slice of tomato, and buns offered as an option to those that request it.

Crispy Quinoa CakesGluten-Free Products

In terms of the products that have been adapted to exclude gluten, it has taken a bit of trial and error. Anyone who knows me knows I do not like to waste food. But, when Ashley was diagnosed, I made a promise to her that I was not going to force her to eat something that was unpalatable, even if it meant throwing something away. (I have to try everything, too.)  

We went through a lot of food, but we have found many foods that are not just palatable, but even preferable to the products with gluten.

Below is a sampling of some of the products we buy regularly and some of the little changes I have made to both accommodate Ashley and limit becoming a short order cook for the family by making one meal for everyone:

Annie’s Mac and Cheese (affiliate)

Snyders Gluten-Free Pretzels (affiliate)

DeBoles makes many corn based pasta products that our entire family prefers to the flour based pasta

Glutino Bagel Chips (some Glutino products are more flavorful than others)

Bisquick (affiliate) – our family prefers the gluten-free product to the original and Ashley loves it when I make waffles for her, which was one of her favorites pre-diagnosis.

Bell and Evans chicken nuggets (affiliate) are not only superior to any nugget from a fast food establishment, but, made with hormone and antibiotic-free, vegetarian fed chickens.

One thing Ashley has really missed is Goldfish, but we recently found that Van’s Say Cheese (affiliate) fills that void.

While the majority of these products are available by ordering through a website, I prefer to ask my local grocery store to carry them. We now have multiple choices among the grocery stores in the area and the more of us that band together to support those local grocers that provide these types of products, the better for the consumer and grocer alike.

Stuffed Zucchini GondolasCooking for a Gluten-Free Diet

When cooking, we are able to adapt almost all of The Scramble recipes. Some of the staples we now have in the house to use as substitutes, include:

Breading or stuffing: Rice Chex, Glutino Gluten-Free Panko, or I make my own bread crumbs with Against the Grain Gluten-Free Bread.

Flour: Bob’s Red Mill products including Almond or Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour

Soy Sauce: San-J Gluten Free

So, while we might have to look at ingredient labels much more carefully than a family with no dietary restrictions, in today’s marketplace, we have found that there are usually more options available than limits.

If you have any gluten-free products that you or your family enjoys, I’d love to hear about them below or on The Scramble Facebook page.

You might enjoy this gluten-free recipe: 

Raw Zucchini Pasta with Pesto

Raw Zucchini Noodles with Pesto, White Beans, and Tomatoes

Jessica Braider
Scramble recipe tester Kathryn Howell Dalton said that her 4-year-old son “is a pretty good veggie eater but the man just does not care for zucchini. Knowing this, I didn't load his plate tonight. Two seconds into dinner, though, it was gone! I asked for his feedback and he just mumbled, 'So good. I need some more.'"
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 - 3 cups zucchini (6 total)
  • 15 oz. canned white beans drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes quartered (about 1/2 pint)
  • 2 Tbsp. pine nuts toasted, if desired

Instructions
 

  • Using a spiral vegetable slicer, a food processor, a mandolin or the longest hole on the side of a box grater, shred the zucchini lengthwise into long thin strips. If using a spiral vegetable slicer, run a knife a couple of times across the long strips of zucchini so they are easier to eat. (If you did not use a spiral vegetable slicer and the zucchini seems a little moist, transfer it to a colander, sprinkle it with ¼-1/2 tsp. salt, and let the zucchini drain for 15 – 20 minutes, gently pressing the liquid out occasionally.)
  • Transfer the zucchini noodles to a serving bowl, add the beans and pesto, and toss it thoroughly.
  • Sprinkle the olives, tomatoes and pine nuts on top, and serve it immediately.

Notes

Do Ahead or Delegate: Shred the zucchini and drain it if necessary, chop the olives, quarter the tomatoes, toast the pine nuts if desired, or fully prepare and refrigerate the dish.
Scramble Flavor Booster: Top the zucchini noodles with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
To make your own pesto, combine 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves (or use combination of basil, parsley and mint), 2 chopped garlic cloves, 2 Tbsp. pine nuts, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and the juice of 1/2 lemon in a food processor or blender and blend until coarsely chopped or smooth, depending on your preference.
Nutritional Information Per Serving (% based upon daily values): Calories 252, Total Fat: 18g, 27%; Saturated Fat: 2g, 9.5%; Cholesterol: 2mg, 0.5%; Sodium: 530mg, 22%; Total Carbohydrate: 20g, 6.5%; Dietary Fiber: 5g, 19%; Sugar: 5g; Protein: 8g
Like this recipe? Check out The Scramble's family-friendly meal plans to see just how simple getting dinner on the table can be!
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Paula

Sunday 29th of September 2013

Great post, Robin. Thank you. I got diagnosed with Celiac about seven years ago and agree the options have exploded. I highly recommend LivWell GF pita bread (freezer section of my local WF in Bethesda and Friendship Heights). They are really indistinguishable from white wheat pitas. I toast them from frozen in my GF toaster (half sticks out so I flip it upside down and toast the other side). Ready for sandwiches or dipping or to be made into pita pizzas. I also like LivWell English Muffins. Less thrilled with their bagels. We like Glutino pretzels more than Snyder's, but Snyder's are considerably cheaper. My favorite pasta is BioNaturae. Trader Joe's makes fabulous GF chocolate chip cookies (very similar to Tate's GF chocolate chip cookies). I also discovered TJ's Joe Joe's oreo-like cookie. Much better and less sweet than Glutino or Kinnickkinnick (sp?). Happy eating!

Jane

Thursday 26th of September 2013

At the recommendation of my doctor, our family is in the process of going Gluten Free because of multiple health problems. After the first couple of days, I haven't found it difficult at all to cook delicious, healthful meals for our family. I have to admit that the 16-year-old sometimes turns up her nose, but there are always stuff baked potatoes for her. My husband is happy to try some different tastes and textures and we both feel like we are doing something positive for our health. Thanks Aviva for featuring this topic!

sibbald.k@gmail.com

Wednesday 25th of September 2013

My go-to for bread has been Odough's. They are the fluffiest and least crumbly, I have found. They also make excellent buns for burgers and the bread can be folded in half for a hot dog. The best way to keep gluten free bread from being crumbly is to put it in the toaster or oven (or toaster oven) for a couple of minutes. That helps moisturize the bread and bond it together. The best type of pasta, I've found is corn pasta, for both flavour and texture.

Sarah.dorey@genmills.com

Wednesday 25th of September 2013

You have to try Pillsbury's new Gluten Free products, found in the refrigerated dough area (an area typically filled with gluten!). There is a pizza crust, pie crust and cookie dough in a small tub, they are all great. It is now my favorite gluten free pizza crust (and I've tried a lot) and my 2nd favorite pie crust. The gluten free pie crust sold by Williams Sonoma is TOP NOTCH. You will NOT be able to taste the difference from a regular crust but it is also incredibly expensive. If you are just making a quiche or a pot pie, the Pillsbury crust is a close second in taste and definitely #1 in terms of ease. You have no mixing at all, it's already made, you roll it out and start baking. Give it a try!

Aviva

Wednesday 25th of September 2013

thanks for that wonderful suggestion, Sarah!

abailey4@mindspring.com

Wednesday 25th of September 2013

A delicious alternative to pasta with meat sauce, etc., is finely shredded cabbage microwaved to slightly crunchy in 3 Ts. of oil. Muir Glen tomato sauce from Whole Foods and elsewhere is low sodium and tastes good. Add browned Italian sausage or hamburger. Alternatively, mix a little curry seasoning into the oil, add the shredded cabbage, toss and microwave. Very good hot or cold as a side dish. Get the benefits of a vegetable with many fewer calories than pasta.

Aviva

Wednesday 25th of September 2013

What a creative idea, thank you for sharing it!

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