Strategies for Gluten Free Living

There are 2 main approaches when making transition to gluten free cooking and gluten free living in general. The first, more obvious one, is to take one step at a time and replace wheat, or any other food components which include wheat derivatives, with gluten free alternatives.

It is not too difficult to do it now, when food industry and society at large becoming more and more aware of the market demand for quality gluten free alternative products. It is easier to accomplish transition for gluten free living in the households, used to prepare their own food from fresh produce, and thus avoiding all the difficulties navigating processed food space. In this approach expectations sometimes might not be fulfilled to achieve the identical taste and texture of the final dishes you used to have. Adjustments can be difficult to experience, particularly for the members of the household who do not have to be on gluten free diet.

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The second approach is to completely rethink and reassess the whole process of food preparation and start with the final product – meals, the family eats on regular basis and on special occasions. Start from the finish approach. The decision has to be made what the person or family want, and only then the question how to achieve the result, using available ingredients (taking into consideration specific dietary restrictions, market availability, budget restrains and convenience) can be answered. This approach is less traumatic psychologically, because wheat, as particular ingredient simply disappears, but many more new, exciting and healthy options appear. Considering instant relief of sometimes severe general health and specific digestive problems, switch to gluten free living provides positive assurance and sense of achievement. I am not trying to say that this transition is easy, particularly for families with young children, young people with busy and hectic lives, socially very active people, but with motivation, planning and family support it is all doable.

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For me personally to go gluten free was very easy. I was so sick during final 6 months before coeliac diagnosis, that any certainty about what was wrong with me and the ability to keep any food down, was such a huge relief, that I never thought about food deprivations at all. I was genuinely surprised when one of my students told me about difficult emotional problems and depression, her sister-in-law was facing when forced to change her diet. For me it was relief and joy. Little did I know, that several more crises  lie ahead, with more autoimmune diagnoses to come. It took full 7 years for the healing of my digestive system. I cooked two, sometimes three dinner versions and did not think much of it. My family enjoyed gluten free baking and slowly, without any particular decisions, we moved to gluten free household. It was simple and natural progression. The only product we have now in our house which is not gluten free, is oat bran which my husband uses to make his favourite morning gallette/pancake.

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It takes time and effort to get all the information about hidden sources of gluten, coming from wheat and its derivatives in groceries. There is a lot of that information available now. Reading labels when shopping has to be the habit for life. You have to be particularly vigilant and check ingredients in the product you buy on regular basis. Companies change product ingredients and new formula might not be suitable any more. This happened to the bread I had for 8 years, when the company introduced soy flour as a new component. I was lucky that it coincided with new packaging, and I noticed it instantly. I learned to live without bread completely and later discovered the whole world of boxed bread mixes. I still occasionally buy them, but bake my own bread now.

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Current society attitudes to the importance of nutrition in general, and specific nutritional needs in particular, also help. Now, practically everyone, knows how important gluten free options are for afflicted people. So, we became nearly trendy mainstream. It helps not to feel isolated and excluded on social occasions. The explosion of gluten free blogs makes not only the selection of gluten free cooking achievable, but also allows to choose type and style of cooking. Bloggers of all ages and experiences offer an abundance of interesting, exciting and inspiring ideas. With time and experience regular meals and even gluten free baking become a routine.

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I can only make assumptions based on my own experiences, but I have learned so much, since I decided to share my knowledge and publish my own recipes. This knowledge and inspiration gave me an opportunity to develop new recipes for the dishes I never thought were possible in gluten free version. I am truly grateful to gluten free bloggers community for the progress I made.

From the simple snacks, to regular meals, to elaborate cakes thinking outside the box is very rewarding.

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Separate post dedicated to wheat replacement in gluten free baking, discussing strategies to use different commercial and individual flour mixes, as well as wheat substitution with other types of dry ingredients can be found here.

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