Making a Gluten-Free Diet Work!
Whenever I've thought about Gluten-Free diets in the past, I thought they were impossible. I mean we use wheat flour in everything- cakes and cookies, and desserts, bread and rotis(flatbread). On an average, I used to eat 4-5 food items in a day that had gluten in them. So when I decided to try a Gluten-Free diet to steer away from some food allergies, I thought it was going to be really really hard.
To my surprise, it wasn't that hard at all. Maybe because we are used to making things in India from scratch. Maybe because I have a husband who's a chef (@chef_timothyimmanuel), and other help cooking.. or maybe because in the Indian cuisine, there are so many grains used frequently that are gluten free, and it was easy to lean more on them. So here are some ideas and tips, if you are looking to make a Gluten-Free Diet work for you!
The first big idea is to think through your possibilities for every meal, and then stock your home with the ingredients to make all those meals. That helps make sure that you always have things to eat, or options to cook a gluten-free meal.
Breakfast: With bread out of the picture, I had to get creative.... A big omelette, flatbread made with millet flours (bajra, ragi) and maize flour (makki), Pancakes made with besan (chickpea) flour or ragi flour, Dosas and idlis (rice flour), porridge made with ragi or rice, and fruit!
Lunch: I usually love eating rice for lunch. So just rice, and dal (lentils) of any kind, along with vegetables or salads. A lot of papads (crispies) are also gluten-free. Also most Indian chicken dishes are gluten free too.
Dinner: Tomato rice, Lemon rice, Briyani and other flavored rice options, gluten-free flatbread with vegetables and lentils, salads, hard tacos, nachos, any meat and potatoes, potato or sweet-potato fries. We also made this kung-pao chicken for dinner one day, a chinese chicken dish that worked really well with rice.
Snacks and Desserts: Now this is so so important in any diet because this is where we tend to fail the most. Stock gluten free snacks and desserts that you can have whenever you are a little hungry but don't want a full meal. Nachos and potato chips, popcorn, fruit, chopped veggies with hummus, Indian sweets like besan laddos, or besan halwa, chocolate, a gluten-free trail mix.
My next big suggestion is to explore recipes within a cuisine you love (try Pinterest!!). Sometimes it's harder to replace the exact thing you want to make with a gluten-free alternate (like you want your same chocolate cake but with a gluten-free flour). When we try to do this we always feel disappointed because its never quite the same. (Although gluten-free flour is available in case you want to bake). The better approach is to explore new snacks and dishes that you haven't made before that use different ingredients. I'm excited to explore baking with gluten-free alternates and find some new things that I haven't tried before. Similarly Chinese food, or Italian- I'm going to be looking for great recipes that don't include gluten.
My last suggestion is- take time to plan each week. Keeping up to a special diet is not just about eating right, it's about planning well. Plan your meals, stock your ingredients. Maybe you can make or buy some staples and put them in your freezer or your fridge? A jar of hummus for example is gluten-free and works both for snacks and meals. As you make your meal plans, try not to dwell too much on the things you can't eat but look forward in anticipation to the amazing new recipes you can try!
And the reward in all of this is- I feel so much healthier. Besides the allergy issues, I think most of the unhealthy foods I was eating had gluten in them. Taking gluten out of my diet is helping me eat more fruit and vegetables and other healthier grains that make me feel good overall. So if you're considering it- I'll challenge you to it! It's worth a shot!
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