February 14, 2012
Trying to make gluten-free versions of meals that normally contain wheat flour, or another source of gluten, is time-consuming. Personally, it’s not the sort of thing that I generally want to tackle during the week. I want something that can best be described as a quick meal or easy meal. For that reason (and a few others) my family eats naturally gluten free meals during the week.
So as a first look at eating a naturally gluten free diet, let’s talk about the naturally gluten foods that are available to us, starting with meats and beans.
Regardless of whether you are a meat-eater or not, protein-rich foods are an essential part of a healthy diet. Thankfully, all meats and beans are naturally gluten free. That doesn’t mean that man hasn’t added gluten to some meat and some beans as the food traveled from field to plate. But, in their natural form, meat and beans (legumes) are naturally gluten free.
I know (oh, how I do know!) that it’s easy to get in the rut of eating chicken or ground beef or tofu for nearly every meal. To counteract this tendency, I’m going to give you a list of a lot of gluten free meats and gluten free beans to get your creative juices flowing. If you haven’t cooked with some of these foods in a while (or ever), think about branching out and trying something new.
Okay, so perhaps I went overboard with that list. I just wanted to show you that there’s a huge variety of naturally gluten free meats that you can pick from. Regardless of your budget or your other food allergies, there are surely a variety of choices that will work for your diet.
I’ll admit though – there are lot of meats on that list that I have not tried and am not ready to try! Maybe one day….
What’s Not On the List
I do want you to note the meats that are not on the list – mainly sausages and processed sandwich meats. While these meats started out gluten free, wheat and other gluten-containing ingredients are often added during processing. If you find sausages and sandwich meats with a gluten free label, feel free to eat them. Otherwise stay away, or contact the manufacturer for more information about how the food was made.
Also, be sure to avoid breaded meats. Breading, such as breadcrumbs, crackers, and Panko, are all made from wheat flour. The only exception to this would be if the product is labeled gluten-free because the manufacturer has used gluten-free breading and tested the product to make sure that it still qualifies as gluten free (Thanks to reader Karen for reminding me to add this!)
I know beans have a bad rap, but they are a great food and inexpensive. And contrary to what some of you may believe, beans can taste good. You just have to know how to cook them! That being said, you don’t have to eat beans as a dish unto itself. I often incorporate them into recipes that also contain grains (gluten-free), veggies, and sometimes meat.
If you want to use canned beans for convenience, just be sure to read the label carefully and contact the food manufacturer if you need more information about whether a food is gluten free.
Shopping – What To Watch For
Okay, so now that you’ve got some ideas of the proteins that you can work with, the next step is to find these foods and buy them.
I cannot warn you enough times – even though all of the foods listed above are naturally gluten free, that doesn’t mean that they are still gluten free by the time that you buy them in the store. Always read the labels to see if gluten containing ingredients have been added.
The butcher departments in some grocery stores will have signs posted saying that ingredients containing gluten are used in that area of the grocery store. This is generally because they’re prepping dishes like crab cakes, and bread-crumb crusted chicken cutlets for sale. If your grocery store does then, then you need to make time to talk with the head of the butcher department (and perhaps the store manager as well) and determine if they have procedures in place to make sure that wheat (and other allergenic foods) do not come in contact with all of the meat packaged in that department.
Always rinse dried beans thoroughly before soaking and cooking. They’re often dusty and you’ve no idea what sort of dust it is. It could be wheat dust. It could be chicken manure dust. It could be just plain old dirt dust. Since you don’t know, it’s just best to rinse thoroughly.
Reader Tip: You forgot to mention rinsing canned beans as well – till all the gas bubbles are gone then YOU won’t have gas! I promise it really is true, I’ve been doing it for years and no one ever has gas! ~Tina
Grab a cookbook – one of the comprehensive ones that has lot’s of basic and traditional recipes for all the major food categories (something like the Joy of Cooking, or How To Cook Everything, or the Fannie Farmer Cookbook) and page through the meat and beans sections and mark all of the recipes that do not use flour or ingredients that usually contain wheat*. Pick three that you’d like to make and post the recipe name and cookbook name in the comments.
I think that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many of the recipes are
naturally gluten free. If you don’t have one of these cookbooks, check with friends or your library (even inter-library loan).
Why should you do this? The point of this exercise is to open your mind to the possibilities that exist. You may never cook tripe (and I may never cook tripe) but there’s no harm in knowing what foods and recipes are gluten free. If you’re in a funk about being gluten free, or just in a cooking rut, then getting new food ideas into your head can be extremely therapeutic.
I’m sitting at the dinette table now and flipping through my copy of Joy of Cooking and I’m getting excited about cooking. There are so many foods and recipes and techniques that I’ve never tried. There’s always so much to learn (and that makes me happy). There are still food adventures left for you to have, even (and maybe especially) on a gluten free diet.
*I’m thinking of foods like soy sauce. Gluten-free soy sauce (or tamari) can be hard to find. And while I always keep a bottle or two on hand, I try not to forget that many of you may not.