by Mary Collette Rogers
“Do you have any wheat-free recipes?” As a kitchen and healthy eating coach, that’s usually the first thing I’m asked by people who have been prescribed a gluten or wheat-free diet. It’s a completely understandable inquiry. We think “recipes” when someone tells us we need to eat differently, whether it’s to benefit the heart, to ease arthritis or work around food allergies.
Don’t get me wrong, cookbooks and recipes aren’t a bad starting point. But they are only part—and a relatively small part of the solution. What’s more, they’re the easy part. The fact is, there are TONS of wheat-free recipes. They’re all over the place, including under your nose (and on your cookbook shelf): think of all the stir-fry recipes, chicken recipes, meat dishes, vegetable recipes, bean recipes, fruit salsas, stews and soups and rice dishes, to name just a few.
A vast majority contain no wheat or gluten products. I have lived wheat free for 20 years and am far from starving—in fact I’m better fed now than ever. The problem, of course, is that when we are newly diagnosed with a wheat or gluten allergy, we filter the news from our current eating perspective.
Likely as not, that eating perspective revolves around A LOT of wheat products: pizza, pasta, tortillas, pancakes, toast, sandwiches, flour-thickened sauces, muffins, cakes, and so on and so forth. Only when you are given wheat or gluten diagnosis do you realize how wheat-centric our diet is.
Being forced to think creatively about food, we had our eyes, minds and taste buds treated to a Technicolor world of wildly different and delicious new foods. Thank goodness we haven’t been saddled with a myopically monochromatic diet for the last 20 years! Making the shift from tremendous burden to tantalizing blessing, I discovered, was attributable to a whole range of things.
Yes, I found a few new recipes to help, but as important were things like: –being organized enough to find those recipes when mealtime rolled around –having the right ingredients in the frig –being open to new tastes –learning a few basic cooking skills to make decent meals –knowing where to find gluten-free products at the grocery store –being willing to invest time in setting up the kitchen for gluten-free cooking –being willing to give meal making the attention and consideration it deserves, and –being willing to exercise the parental vigor necessary to prevent a picky eaters from taking root in our house.
This last point is vitally important when kids are involved. If a child is raised from Day 1 with a broad range of tastes, then you will have no problem feeding him well on a gluten-free diet. But if, as so many children, he is allowed to dictate the food agenda and constrict his tastes to a narrow range, he will be consigned to a life of fighting his food limitations instead of reveling in the joy of all the delicious foods still available. So that is why I encourage anyone newly diagnosed to inquire beyond recipes and cookbooks and examine the approaches and attitudes you bring to the table, so to speak.
Look at how well your kitchen is organized for gluten-free cooking. My book, “Take Control of Your Kitchen,” can be a big help here. Notice if you have good mealtime habits, like planning ahead for meals, always having gluten-free snack bags for car trips, a lineup of school lunch options, etc.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, develop a firm sense of purpose, i.e., that the time and effort you put into feeding you and/or your child is indeed a valuable and worthwhile use of your time. For families, remember that raising a gluten-free child will be most successful and cause the least amount of stress if it is a family affair—and mom and dad will gain all the health benefits of the child’s good diet.
Author of “Take Control of Your Kitchen”, Mary Collette Rogers is a recovered commercial attorney who has found her true calling inspiring and empowering women to create good everyday meals. Her creative kitchen coaching makes it easy to prepare meals that nurture moms, connect families, build community and ultimately, create a healthy planet. Read more about creating a new kitchen culture at her blog: everydaygoodeating.wordpress.com and at her website: EverydayGoodEating.com.