For very specific health reasons my boyfriend’s doctor told him to cut gluten and dairy from his diet. So, to be supportive I decided to go gluten and dairy free as well. We have been gluten and dairy free since the beginning of February this year and even survived a trip to Costa Rica without too much issue; granted we did eat a lot of rice, beans and salad. I’m not saying that it was easy; the withdrawal that both of us experienced for the first few weeks was pretty brutal and the new way of planning our meals took some adjustment but we are now quite used to our new way of eating.
I read a gazillion (yes, that’s a scientific term) books on how to go gluten and dairy free, and found a bunch of recipies and ratios as to how to use the variety of gluten free flours on the market. Being gluten free is much more accepted in society and there are many more prepackaged products, such as bread and other baked goods, sandwich meats and candy that are readily available. Having these products be milk free was and continues to be the rub.
Although I love to cook, I hate baking with a passion. Baking and I have become aquaintances, however, because not only is it cheaper it is so much easier just to make the bread yourself than to get a $6 tiny loaf of gluten free vegan bread from the health foods store. The thing that threw me off the most in the beginning was the consistency of the batters. For example, we have found a wonderfully light thin pizza dough which fits all of our dietary requirements, but the thing is that the dough is literally poured onto the pan and spread with a spatula. The consistency reminds me of a conventional Betty Crocker cake mix. Strange, but it puffs up beautifully.
Anyway, the point of all of this is that it wasn’t that hard to make this drastic change because right away we started by finding the satisfying alternatives to what we usually ate. I was always a half hearted ingredient reader when shopping at the grocery store, but now it’s 100% mantatory. Not a big deal, but when a friend offers you a gummy candy or a potato chip I now have to ask, “Sure, but can I please see the ingredients?”
Most restaurants can accommodate a gluten and dairy free meal, but it never hurts to phone ahead. One trendy restaurant I went to didn’t have anything like a house salad I could eat so I literally payed $11 for a tomato with balsamic vinegar drizzled on it. It was a delicious $11 tomato. Lesson learned.
What I’m finding the most surprising with this transition is that when I bake cupcakes or whatever for a party someone will usually come up to me and ask for the recipe because somehow they have figured a gluten and dairy free cupcake makes it healthy. One friend even told me that she was going to eat my coconut milk, double chocolate fudge cupcakes for breakfast instead of her usual Starbucks scone because it would be so much more healthy. Newsflash: A cupcake is still a sugar loaded, fat containing, artery clogging delight whether it is made with brown rice flour or wheat flour.
Unless you have a sensitivity or a lack of the gluten digesting enzyme, going gluten free really won’t make that much of a difference for you health wise. The main thing I noticed was that I just started eating less carbs in general because they were just so much more effort to come by. Not because my carbs were now gluten free. And contrary to popular opinion, the molecular organization of wheat actually hasn’t changed significantly over the past couple of decades.
All of that being said, my boyfriend has noticed a major change in his health condition and has been able to wean down or completely stop some of his prescribed medications since we’ve made “the switch”. For me I just continue to develop my tolerance for baking….and my patience when ordering food at restaurants. But I am used to ordering in a very high maintenance ‘When Harry Met Sally’ kind of way because I already don’t eat animal products. No, I’m not vegan, but that’s another story.