By Amanda Hill
Imagine not being able to eat birthday cake at parties or cereal for breakfast. For people allergic to gluten–a condition known as celiac disease– living gluten free is a daily challenge.
One in 133 Americans has celiac disease, according to the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research. Gluten is found in grains like wheat, rye, barley and malt. That means foods like bread, pasta, pastries—even some soups, candies and meat marinades—can make someone with celiac disease very sick. Just an eighth of a teaspoon of flour in a day can cause digestive complications, fatigue and muscle cramps, and long-term symptoms like anemia and weight loss.
Two of my close friends have been diagnosed with celiac disease in the past few years, and through them I’ve seen the vigilance they have to take in everyday tasks like grocery shopping, eating at restaurants or even just visiting a friend’s house for dinner. Each ingredient and food product has to be checked for gluten.
The good news is, restaurants and food manufacturers have started making gluten-free foods more readily available. Stores like H-E-B, Drug Emporium, Central Market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s all have sections of their stores dedicated to gluten-free foods. National products, including some Betty Crocker cake and brownie mixes, Chex cereals, Yoplait yogurt and V8 juice, are labeled gluten free. Special gluten-free flour (Gluten Free Pantry is my favorite brand) and other baking products are available in many stores.
Several foods are naturally gluten free, including corn, sorghum, potatoes and rice. So are fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, beans, nuts and many dairy products. With a little bit of research, I’ve found some really good recipes that taste great and won’t make my friends sick.
If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, chances are you’ve already done a good bit of research, too. Since the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet, it’s important to check food product labels and call restaurants ahead of time to ask about menu options.
Online resources also can be helpful. There are gluten-free food blogs out there that offer recipes, tips and stories of living gluten free. Gluten Free Girl is a fantastic site, written by a New York Times bestselling author who shares gluten-free recipes from her chef husband, as well as her experience with being diagnosed with celiac disease. (I think I’ll be trying her peanut butter pie and roasted vegetable pasta salad recipes soon.) Another great online resource is GlutenFreely.com.
For local support, Gluten Intolerance Group chapters can be found in metro areas like Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio, as well as smaller cities like Lufkin, College Station and Sulphur Springs. These groups provide support and resources for living gluten free.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease or are entertaining for someone living gluten free, there are some great recipes out there. Watch for this week’s Texas Table Top recipe, posted on Friday, for a delicious gluten-free treat that Kelly Bogard cooked up. And, if you have a great gluten-free recipe, send it to us, and we may feature it in an upcoming post.
Are you living gluten free? Leave us a comment with your experience, your favorite gluten-free website or tips to help others who may be starting their journey.