Gluten-free since: March 2009
Are you completely gluten-free?
"I'm not die-hard gluten-free. I was for nine months (along with being dairy- and egg-free) but realized that I could have gluten in moderation and not experience any negative effects."
What made you decide to go gluten-free?
"I started getting migraines and vertigo symptoms four or five years ago. After seeing what felt like a hundred different doctors, the only solution I was hearing was to go on daily (and pretty intense) medication. I'm a total pill-phobe (taking Advil is a big deal for me), so I decided to go the homeopathic route and see if changing my diet would make a difference."
Take us through a typical day of meals for you on a gluten-free diet.
"For breakfast, I'll have gluten-free cereal (corn flakes or Nature's Path Crunch Vanilla Sunrise) and milk or peanut butter on toasted millet bread (you have to toast it!). Lunch is anything from a homemade gluten-free pasta salad with chicken, beans, and veggies to a frozen meal from Amy's — I go for their brown rice and veggies and their gluten-free mac and cheese is YUM. For dinner, I usually have an omelet with feta cheese and broccoli and sometimes I'll add in a slice of millet bread. In between (I'm a snacker!), I eat a lot of fruit and, depending on the day, I'll munch on almonds, those little Babybel cheeses, carrots and hummus, or hardboiled eggs."
What's the hardest thing about being gluten-free?
"The hardest thing is definitely eating with friends — either at restaurants or at dinner parties — because it's never fun to be that girl who has to ask the waiter fifty-seven questions about each item on the menu, and when someone prepares a meal for you, it feels really rude to ask a ton of questions or have to refuse the meal because it has gluten in it. Whomp."
What do you like about being gluten-free?
"I like that it sort of forces you to eat healthier. Now, I tend to gravitate more towards whole foods like veggies, fruit, beans, meat, etc. and foods with recognizable ingredients because I don't have to worry that gluten is hiding in there somewhere."
Have you noticed a difference in your health or the way you feel since going gluten-free?
"Funnily enough, when I went gluten-free for nine months, it did not help my migraines. It turns out that sugar is my biggest trigger, but because most things with gluten also have sugar, I end up being gluten-free by default. And, like I said earlier, I think it forces me to eat healthier, which is always a good thing."
Do you ever cheat?
"I do in fact cheat, thank you for asking! Honestly, I cheat more with sugar than I do with gluten because I've found so many gluten-free substitutes for the foods I love, but when I do, it's usually with a piece of bread at a restaurant or a tempting dessert."
What gluten food do you miss the most?
"Crusty-on-the-outside, soft-and-chewy-on-the-inside fresh-baked bread. I've found really good gluten-free substitutes for pretty much everything else I love, but no matter how much I enjoy millet bread (and I really do), it's a totally different consistency than the kind of fresh-from-the-oven bread that is just heaven on its own."
What kind of advice would you offer to anyone who is considering gluten-free?
"I would say that it's important to understand what gluten is first, so you have a general idea of foods it would likely be in and those it wouldn't — that makes food shopping oh-so-much easier. Definitely stock up on food since eating out is a bit of a crap shoot. Then, try it for two weeks and see how it goes. If you like how you feel, you'll be motivated to stick to it."
What are some of your favorite gluten-free brands/foods?
"I really like Food For Life Millet Bread — again with the millet bread, I know, but it's really far-and-beyond the best gluten-, dairy-, and egg-free bread I've had. Nature's Path has delish cereals; Glutino pretzels are almost as good as the real thing, and you can always count on Amy's for a good gluten-free frozen meal. Other than that, it's all about the whole foods!"
Where are some of your favorite places to eat gluten-free?
"Tu-Lu's Bakery and Lula's Sweet Apothecary — obviously not great for the whole sugar-free thing, but they're really delicious and both have vegan options as well. Also, Pie makes really tasty gluten-free pizza and Caravan of Dreams has a super creative menu that's also vegetarian. I'd go to all four places even if I wasn't gluten-free!"
Can you offer some advice about eating out at restaurants when you are gluten-free?
"I don't like to be high-maintenance, so trying to order gluten-free at restaurants is not my favorite thing. That said, it's obviously important to know what you're putting in your body, so it's a necessary evil. First, I try to weed out what I already know has gluten in it from the menu — again, this is why it's helpful to know what gluten is and the kinds of things it's in. Then, don't assume that your waiter (or even the chef) knows what gluten is and whether or not it's in a dish. If your waiter clearly doesn't know, just ask how something is prepared or ask if there is any flour, soy, breadcrumbs (more familiar ingredients) involved in the meal. A lot of times, gluten can pop up in salad dressings, seasonings, and other foods you wouldn't necessarily expect, so you can always just ask for oil and vinegar or ask that your meal is simply prepared without seasonings if the waiter is unsure what the ingredients are."
What are some of your tried-and-true gluten-free recipes?
"When I discovered the blog Gluten Free Goddess, I pretty much became an addict, so this recipe comes from her genius mind — both tested and approved by unsuspecting non-GF friends."
"Sweet Potato Turkey Enchiladas
-2 cups of your favorite salsa — spicy or mild
-4 cups of cooked free-range organic turkey or chicken, hand torn or shredded
Juice from 2 fresh limes
Sea salt and ground pepper
2 cups cooked sweet potato
Pinch of cumin
2 4-oz. cans chopped roasted green chiles, drained
Light olive oil, as needed
12 corn tortillas
1 cup diced pineapple — no juice
1-2 cups shredded Jalapeño Jack cheese or vegan cheese for non-dairy
Hot red pepper flakes, to taste"
"Preheat oven to 350ºF. Pour about a half cup of salsa into the bottom a large, lightly-oiled 10x13" baking dish, or use two smaller pans for six enchiladas each. Place the torn turkey pieces into a bowl and squeeze lime juice all over the cooked turkey; stir; season with sea salt and pepper and toss well."
"Season the sweet potato with cumin, to taste. Add in 1 can of the roasted green chiles; mix. Add sea salt and pepper if it needs it. Heat a dash of olive oil in a skillet, and heat one corn tortilla until softened, turning it over once to coat with oil. Place the tortilla into the sauced baking dish. Add a spoonful of sweet potato down the center. Sprinkle with 1/12 of the turkey. Roll up the enchilada, seam side down, and place it at the far end of the dish. Repeat for the remaining tortillas, adding more oil, if needed to soften them. Pour the remaining salsa over the rolled tortillas. Top with the diced pineapple and the second can of roasted green chiles. Sprinkle with cheese and red pepper flakes. Bake in a 350ºF. oven until the enchiladas are bubbling and heated through, about 30 minutes."
There's a lot of controversy around the idea that gluten-free is not a healthy lifestyle. What do you have to say about that?
"I think the important thing to remember in all of this is that everyone's body is different, and we all have different needs. You have to do what works for you. I've never been a proponent of completely cutting out certain foods, but if not eating gluten makes you feel better, then I say go for it. It's the same thing with meat, sugar, carbs, oregano...whatever! Obviously, you want to make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need, but other than that, just listen to your body."
Gluten-free since: March 2009