Gluten Free Plus…

Often when you find out that you need to be gluten free, you also find out that you need to avoid other foods. You know, if you’re going to have to go through a major dietary change, you might as well do it all at once =) Today we’re going to talk about the Gluten Free Plus diet (yeah, I just made that term up), which includes diets that eliminate gluten AND something else.

Narrowing the Search

I’m going to assume that everyone starting a Gluten Free Plus diet is at least a little bummed about the change, so let’s start with a strategy that will stretch your mind a little bit.

Have you ever shopped on Amazon.com and limited the search by selecting a particular size or age group? Think of multiple food issues in the same way. Let’s imagine that there is an online store that carries every food and recipe in the world. Before you found out that you needed to be gluten free plus, your grocery search was for “Foods Jane knows she likes”.

Now, your search needs to be limited by some additional parameters, for example “gluten free” and “dairy free”. Obviously, that’s going to reduce the number of foods results that you get by quite a bit =(

Luckily for you, the number of results can be increased! All you have to do is go back to your search and change the search to: “Foods Jane could like”, “gluten free” and “dairy free”. Wow! That’s such a larger list of recipes and foods to choose from. Just that little tweak can make a world of difference in the options that you have.

Note, the search doesn’t include “Foods Jane doesn’t like”, we’re just opening our mental door to foods that we don’t even know about, which may include gluten free, dairy free versions of foods that you already love.

Finding A Map

The next hurdle to eating a Gluten Free Plus diet is finding recipes that do not include the foods that you cannot have. The ease with which you will be able to accomplish this will depend on the particular foods that you have to avoid and the total number of foods that you have to avoid.

Finding recipes that are gluten free and dairy free is relatively easy, while finding recipes that are gluten free, soy free, rice, free, dairy free, egg free, yeast free, corn free, and tomato free might actually be one of the tasks assigned to Hercules.

Your first step should be to search for “gluten free, ______ free recipes” to see if you can find any recipe bloggers that have the same mix of food avoidances that you do. Add as many ” ______ free” blanks as you need to in order to include all of the foods you need to avoid. Perhaps you’ll hit the jackpot and find a blog that has tons of delicious recipes that you do not have to alter at all.

Another way to approach this problems is to do a bit of research and find out whether there are any ethnic diets that do not use your problem foods as staples. For instance, if you are gluten free and corn free, then food and recipes from countries where rice is a staple food may work for you.

Making Your Own Map

If you have to avoid a lot of different foods, you may not find a lot of recipes or products that work for you. At some point you may come to the realization that YOU are going to have to figure out how to cook the foods you want.

It’s very likely that you’ll have to do some experimentation on your own at some point. The easiest way to start is to find a recipe that’s partially what you need and then tweak it so that it works for you.

Let me give you an examples to show you what I mean:

My friend Molly wanted to bake a Coconut Cake and she needed it to be gluten free, dairy free, and egg free. She couldn’t find a good recipe like that online so she took a Coconut Cake recipe from a vegan blog (already dairy free and egg free) and then tried it with gluten free flours. After a few attempts she nailed down the right amount of flour and xanthan gum, and that Coconut Cake was absolutely delicious.

A Few Landmarks

Once you start cooking and baking on a Gluten Free Plus diet, you’ll learn good substitutes for the foods that you can’t have. At some point, you’ll probably even make the substitutions without thinking about it. Your eyes will read milk and your hands will reach for the almond milk in the fridge =)

Several ingredients that are common in gluten free recipes are problematic for many of my readers. Here are some of the substitutions that we’ve worked out together over the past few years. These should give you a headstart as you dive into your Gluten Free Plus diet.

* Corn Free – Cornstarch is frequently used in gluten free flour mixes. Starchy flours are a key component of these mixes for a reason, so use tapioca starch as a substitute. Tapioca starch can also be used to thicken sauces. Potato starch is very bad substitute for cornstarch.

* Dairy/Casein Free – I think a dairy substitutes are some of the easiest substitutes to handle. Non-dairy milks can be used instead of cow milk in 99% of recipes. Butter can be replaced with Vegan Buttery Sticks (try Earth Balance). Coconut oil, shortening, or vegetable oil can also be used instead of butter in certain recipes. There are even non-dairy cheeses.

* Sugar Free – I’m not an expert on sugar-free recipes, but stevia, agave nectar, honey and maple syrup can all be used as a substitute for refined sugar in some recipes. You do have to be more careful with these substitutions, as sometimes the granular nature of the refined sugar is important to the success of the recipe. Reducing your total intake of sweeteners can make a sugar-free diet more palatable. The less you eat sweets, the less you’ll crave them, and the more sensitive your tongue will become to small amounts of sweeteners.

* Yeast Free – Yeast is just one of the ingredients used to leaven baked products. Baking soda and baking powder are two others. So, if you need to be yeast free but still want to make baked goods, then it’s easiest to stick to recipes that normally use baking soda or baking powder rather than yeast. Pancakes, cookies, muffins,and quick breads are a few examples of recipes that do not use yeast.

* Rice Free – Rice is probably the most commonly used gluten free grain. If you’re allergic to it, try using another gluten free grain or bean based flour, as a 1:1 substitute for the rice flour. Sorghum flour is a good option and is one of the easier flours to find in large grocery stores. The gluten free flours that would not be a good substitute include nut flours like almond and coconut, and masa harina (a special kind of corn flour).

* Eggs – If you cannot eat eggs, then there are two good options for substitutes. The first I learned from my vegan friends and it’s called a flax egg. Mix 1 Tbsp. of freshly ground flax seed with 3 Tbsp. of hot water. Let this mixture sit for a few minutes and then use it in baked goods just like you would an egg. You can also buy egg replacement powders made by Orgran or Ener-G Foods.

That’s all for this lesson. Next time I’ll share a few thoughts on what you can expect from a gluten free diet.

– Mary Frances