Tuesday, January 3, 2012

ourGFfamily Q&A on Cooking Gluten-Free

These are questions sent to me by a reader who is working on changing her kitchen to a gluten free/dairy free diet for a family member...

Where do you get all of your recipes and realistically how much time do you spend in the kitchen a day?

The recipes on my blog are often interpretations of regular recipes which I adapt to be gluten free or recipes which I adapt to be healthier. I try to incorporate healthy protein in most of my indulgent recipes so that it functions as a meal. For instance, my EASY gluten free pancake recipe has a whole egg per serving and not as carb heavy as most traditional pancake recipes. I throw a few Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips in them and the kids don't notice that they are slightly healthier than regular pancakes--just that they have chips in them. I also have a gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipe that has garbanzo bean and fava bean flour. With the brown sugar you don't notice the alternative grains. But you can really use any alternative flour (brown rice flour etc.) in the recipe. When I make cupcakes or cookies I make an effort to throw in nuts that are finely ground up like cashews. Of course, these recipes are not health food--they contain sugar--but they are homemade and they have healthy ingredients to balance the sugar.

I believe cooking for your kids is crucial to health. It doesn't have to be complicated though--you can use my friend Peggy's dinner formula--rice, a steamed veggie, a protein. She does this every night and although she feels guilty about it and thinks she doesn't cook enough for her kids, I am impressed that she does better than most at serving a home cooked meal to her kids. Also, I love the simplicity of her meal plan as an option for parents who feel tired or overwhelmed.

Realistically, I spend WAY too much time cooking for my kids (and myself!) Yesterday, my six year old son said to me as I was cooking a salad, black beans, chicken and brown basmati rice for my husband (after having made pizza for the kids) "I think you spend more time cooking food than eating." YES, it is a real drag to spend so much time cooking! Although I love to cook and it gives me a lot of satisfaction, I would love to be able to order a pizza and not cook and I often feel it is all too much. But, I am also grateful for the health of our family. To be able to address health problems through diet is actually a blessing and a gift. There are so many health problems that you have to take medication for. Other health problems are incurable. I meet so many parents who are struggling with developmental challenges like learning and behavior problems. I have a super energetic boy--but, knock on wood, he is focused in school and on track developmentally and learning to read. I hate to even say that in print--afraid I will jinx it! But, I know that for today that is the truth. And I see a huge difference depending on what food he eats--and fish oil and probiotics are also a huge help! Not all developmental and learning problems can be addressed through dietary intervention but when people say "he is so bright" I have to bite my tongue and not say "it's nutrition" because it has made such a difference for us.

What is your recommendation on where to begin with making this process less overwhelming?

In the beginning, focus on things that are naturally gluten free in their less processed form--all fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, eggs and starches such as corn, potatoes and rice are all gluten free. Use processed gluten free/dairy free foods in the beginning to make it easier. There are a lot of ready made gluten free substitutes. Then after everyone has adjusted to the switch away from the typical readymade food you can worry about decreasing the processed food.

What is your opinion and knowledge about the need for dairy and gluten if we do not seem to have any health concern or sensitivities when consuming it?

Wheat and dairy are very inexpensive ways to get nutrients. Also, they are often fortified. But, they can be contributing to a lot of chronic health problems. On any restricted diet (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free), you need to pay attention to make sure that you are getting healthy foods to avoid nutrient deficiencies. I would not recommend a restricted diet for someone that does not have any health concerns--although they might feel better without these highly allergenic foods! But if you have any chronic health problems, learning issues, developmental issues, arthritis, mood issues, skin issues or auto immune issues or constant ear infections I would look into the possibility that diet might be a factor. Often, we don't know that wheat or dairy is a contributing factor to ongoing health issues. There is some testing available but the best test is removing these proteins 100% for a period of time. Also, someone with a first degree relative (a parent, child or sibling) of someone with a serious problem with these foods might benefit from a restricted diet. Another thing to think about is if you do have serious health issues your diet needs to be 100% free of gluten and dairy to see benefits.


Cannon and Kassie said...

Since having the baby I have really simplified my cooking routine and sometimes I feel guilty like your friend. But I have to remind myself that we are eating whole, nutritious organic foods so that helps me to feel better about the simplicity of my meals lately :)

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