Wheat stalks against clear blue sky.

by Jacky Miller

Wary of Wheat

About one in one hundred people suffer from the autoimmune disorder known as Celiac Disease.

Ingesting any kind of gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, and barley, can cause the immune system to attack the small intestine. This leads to an abnormal absorption of nutrients that can cause severe consequences.

Long-term health problems caused by untreated celiac disease can include:

  • Anemia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Seizures
  • Dementia
  • Migraines
  • Neuropathy
  • Pancreatic Insufficiency
  • Gall bladder problems

Diagnosing celiac disease can be hard to do, as there are over two hundred different symptoms that can occur and not all of them in the digestive system. Some people have no symptoms of the disease but will get a positive result from a blood test.

If you have suffered from an illness for more than a few months that is otherwise unexplained, you should consider being tested for the disease.

You will also want to be tested if you have a first-degree relative, such as parent, child, or sibling, who has the disease as this means that you have a one in ten chance of having it yourself.

Foods To Stay Away From

If you suffer from celiac disease, you will want to stay away from wheat, barley, rye, oats, triticale, spelt, durum, einkorn, emmer, groat, brewers yeast, and graham.

Some sufferers of celiac disease can sometimes eat pure oats, but many times in the process of processing, oats can become tainted with gluten and become a big problem.

Some foods are technically considered gluten-free, but are still not good to eat in a gluten-free diet. They include sorghum, millet, teff, corn, and rice.

There is another group of foods that are not grains, but are at high risk for being cross-contaminated with gluten. They are quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth, and should be avoided unless documented proof can be obtained verifying that there is no gluten in them.

In addition to staying away from these foods, you will also want to stay away from anything in which there is an ingredient such as beer, blue cheese, bread flour, cake flour, communion wafers, and so much more.

The list of all foods to avoid when you suffer from celiac disease is incredibly extensive and great care should be taken to learn how to correctly read labels on the food you eat.

Food is not the only thing you have to watch out for, however.

Many medications also contain gluten and can set off the same symptoms that gluten-containing foods cause.

Medication manufacturers use excipients – specific ingredients that are used to bind pills together – in the production of their product and many of them contain gluten.

While the FDA is in charge of labeling foods that are gluten-free, there are no such laws in place for medication. Moreover, inactive ingredients are often changed, without notice, so medications that once contained gluten may not, and vice versa.

It may seem like it takes a great deal of effort to control your diet when you have celiac disease – and it does – but it is certainly worth it. If you find that diet planning becomes a burden, you might consider consulting a registered dietitian or a doctor who specializes in celiac disease.

Wise Food Choices

Celiac disease is incurable and can only be managed by a strict, gluten-free diet. There are no medications or therapies to give any relief.

That is why it is incredibly important to know what not to eat, how to read food labels correctly, and how to structure your diet for the most good.

Many items on today’s grocery shelves have been modified specifically for those who have celiac disease and are sensitive to gluten. Many items that were once off limits can now be consumed, as they are produced to be gluten-free and are labeled as such.

There are even many recipes that have been altered so that celiac disease sufferers can bake their own cakes, cookies, and breads without the worry of an impending flare-up.

What Can Celiac Disease Sufferers Eat?

With all the talk about what foods have to be avoided by those who have celiac disease, it can leave you wondering what you can have.

It seems like all the great snack and comfort foods are loaded with gluten.

It may be that unless you specifically buy snacks that are labeled as being gluten-free, you might have to do without a lot of commercially produced snack foods, or make them yourself.

However, there are plenty of foods that you can have, with no worries at all about gluten, contaminants, or symptoms that might happen.

Beef

Beef is naturally gluten-free, meaning that you can eat it with no worries.

Some have had the concern that when cattle are fed gluten-containing grains, that it can be passed on to anyone who eats the meat of that animal, but this is not so.

The digestive system of a cow works in such a way that glutens and proteins are all broken down so as to become nonexistent by the time they reach the intestines where they might be absorbed back into the body.

While pure and natural cuts of beef are perfectly fine to eat on a gluten free diet, be sure to keep an eye out for beef that might be prepared with extra brining solutions or other ingredients that might contain gluten.

Beef that has extra ingredients added so as to be “ready-to-eat” can also contain gluten in the form of sauces, broths, and even bread crumbs. These are also not appropriate for celiac sufferers.

Chicken

Fresh chicken contains no gluten, but the key is that it contains no extra ingredients. Most all batters, marinades, injections, and breadings contain gluten, so they are off limits.

Frying chicken, a method that many people prefer when cooking it, also renders it useless to be included in a gluten-free meal plan. You must also leave off cooking it in sauces and gravies that may be laden with gluten.

A plain grilled chicken breast, free from broths, can be seasoned with herbs and spices for a delicious, gluten-free lunch or dinner entrée.

Fish and Seafood

Fish and seafood are also naturally gluten-free, but thanks to the most popular cooking methods, many people falsely assume that they cannot eat them.

However, there are many wonderful ways to prepare fish and other seafood that can be tasty, healthy, and completely gluten-free.

Baking salmon and shrimp really brings out a succulent flavor that can be spruced up even more by adding herbs, spices, and roasted vegetables. Other fish can be baked as well, but care should be taken with the lighter varieties, as they can flake apart quickly.

Again, as with the aforementioned meats, sauces and other added ingredients can add gluten, so you must be careful to avoid adding them or read labels to assure they are free of them.

Miscellaneous Meats

Other meats can also be gluten-free but be careful to read labels. These can include ham, hot dogs, bacon, deli meats, and sausage.

Take special care, however, to read the labels on sausage as they can sometimes use breadcrumbs as a filler.

It can sometimes be hard to find these meats with absolutely no gluten, as they can be processed on commercial machinery that can often cross-contaminate. This is often the case when you have deli meat cut right in the store, as they do not clean their slicer after every cut.

By law, if a food is labeled as being gluten-free, then that means there is no chance of that cross-contamination happening.

Milk and Dairy

All dairy foods are naturally free from gluten and are a great way to get vitamin D, protein, and calcium into your diet.

However, modified versions such as milk, ice cream, and cheese with added flavorings, can have gluten included in their recipes. It is always best to read labels and check for packages that specifically say “gluten-free”.

Milk, cheese, and yogurt are great ways to add extra flavor to other gluten-free foods like rice and pasta.

Breads

If you are looking for gluten free breads, cakes, cookies and other snacks, it is likely that you will have to stick to those labeled as gluten-free or bake your own.

Most all breads contain gluten as they are grain based and made with flour, but those that are specifically labeled gluten-free are safe for your diet.

Baking your own can really be a great way to enjoy them, as you can experiment with different kinds of gluten-free baking ingredients to come up with something that suits your personal taste preferences.

This gives you complete control over the types of bread items you make, the ingredients you use, and the overall end result. Knowing that your creations are completely gluten-free can add a completely new dimension of culinary enjoyment to you lifestyle.

Cereals and Pasta

With these foods, the criteria for including them in your diet are the same as with breads. As most of them are made primarily from grains, you have to be careful to read labels and choose only those labeled gluten-free.

The good news is that many major cereal brands are recognizing the need for gluten-free products and have created several recipes that are completely acceptable.

Some of these companies include General Mills, Post, Kellogg’s, and Nature’s Path.

The same is true for many major pasta makers. There are many brands that have come out with products labeled gluten-free for those who suffer from celiac disease.

Having these specially made gluten-free products can really open up the recipe-making possibilities and more variety in the types of foods they can eat.

Prepared Foods

It can sometimes be hard to find them, but there are now some frozen meals that are completely gluten-free.

It is not often that you can simply read a frozen food package and determine whether or not it is gluten-free so it is best not to purchase one unless the package tells you specifically that it is.

There are also now options for gluten-free frozen pizza, “just add water” dishes, and soups.

Baking Mixes

These come in handy when preparing your own from scratch breads and snacks.

These baking mixes can absolutely change the life of someone who suffers from celiac disease, making it easier for them to lead a more normal life as far as food is concerned.

These mixes can include gluten-free flours, bread mixes, muffin mixes, pizza crust mixes, cake mixes, cookie mixes, and more. When you purchase them, just make sure the words “gluten-free” are on the label.

When you have a product that is specifically labeled as gluten-free, you do not have to worry that the product may have been cross-contaminated, which is a very real possibility with many flour products like bread mixes.

Condiments, Sauces, Etc.

This is probably the trickiest of the food product areas in which to find truly gluten-free products. Many manufacturers can label a product, only to have ingredients involved that do contain gluten.

Soy sauce, for instance, actually has quite a bit of wheat in the ingredient list, so it pays to do some extra digging in this category when searching.

The list of condiments that can be gluten-free is actually fairly large. It includes ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, relish, and many more.

Also included in this category are gravies, oils, salad dressings, and other types of food toppings. Again, careful attention must be paid to all the ingredients on the list.

If there are condiments and such that you are particularly concerned about, you can always contact the manufacturer to find out details that are more specific.

Delicious Celiac Disease Diet Recipes

One thing is for sure, if you make your own recipes from scratch, using gluten-free ingredients, then you can be sure you are truly eating gluten-free.

Here are some recipes to help you get started in making your own gluten-free foods:

Gluten-Free Bread

This recipe is touted as “the best ever”, does not crumble away when you try to make a sandwich and makes a great toast. It is a good, sturdy white bread. Unlike most bread recipes that fall under the gluten-free category, this one is not made with a flour that contains brown rice. It should be noted that any substitutions of ingredients could alter the final outcome of this bread and should therefore not be attempted.

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups gluten-free all purpose flour without brown rice added

1 cup of warm milk (choose nut milk, coconut milk, or raw goat’s milk)

¼ cup of organic cane sugar

2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp sea salt

¼ cup melted butter or ghee

2 eggs (large)

Directions:

  • Combine milk, sugar and yeast in a bowl. Stir until yeast is dissolved, then let it sit for about ten minutes, giving the yeast time to work.
  • In a large stand-up mixer bowl, mix gluten free flour and salt. Turn the mixer on and mix for about thirty seconds. Next add the yeast mix and blend on low for another thirty seconds.
  • Next, add the butter and eggs, blending on low for an additional thirty to sixty seconds, until a smooth batter is formed. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  • Change the mixer’s speed to high and blend at that speed for three minutes. The batter should be very smooth.
  • When finished mixing, cover the bowl with a clean towel and let sit in a warm spot for at least one hour.
  • Using coconut oil or butter, grease a 9X5 bread loaf pan. After stirring the dough for one final time, gently add it to the greased pan. Cover this with a greased piece of plastic wrap and allow to rise again for about twenty to thirty minutes. Bread should now be at the top of or just above the edge of the bread pan.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and bake bread for about 40 minutes, at which time the top of the bread should be golden brown and very crisp. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

 

Avocado Tuna Salad and Crackers

This salad contains healthy fats that are great for the brain and putting the salad on gluten-free crackers means there will be no soggy sandwich if not eaten right away.

Ingredients:

2 cans of solid white albacore tuna

½ cup of diced cucumber

2 tablespoons of finely chopped red onion

1 sliced green onion

1 stalk of celery, chopped fine

½ tsp of garlic salt

⅓ cup fresh chopped cilantro, packed well

Juice of half a lime

Salt and Pepper to taste

Gluten-Free Multi Seed Crackers

Directions:

  • Drain the tuna and, with a fork, flake into a medium bowl. Add the avocado and mash with a fork until there are no large chunks left.
  • Next add the cucumber, celery, onions, garlic salt, and cilantro. Mix well, add the lime juice, and mix again. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • This recipe will last for about three days in the refrigerator if you do not eat it all.

 

Garlic Spinach Dip

This is a great dip to present at get togethers where gluten intolerant people are expected ... they will most certainly appreciate the effort.

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups shredded mozzarella cheese (about five ounces)

½ cup grated Asiago cheese (about two ounces)

½ cup sour cream

1 Tablespoon fresh minced garlic

1 can of hearts of palm, 14 ounces, drained and chopped

1 package frozen chopped spinach, 10 ounces, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry

1 block of cream cheese, eight ounces, softened to room temperature

1 tub of garlic and herb cheese spread, 6.5 ounces, (such as Alouette)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  • Combine ¼ cup Asiago cheese with all the rest of the ingredients and mix, blending well. Spoon into a 1 ½ quart baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray or greased with coconut oil or butter. Sprinkle with remaining Asiago cheese.
  • Bake until bubbling and slightly golden brown. Best served warm with your favorite gluten free chips or crackers.

 

Pasta with Beets, Ricotta, and Pistachios

Making use of some nice, healthy ingredients, this tasty dish is great for a light lunch or dinner.

Ingredients:

⅓ cup raw pistachios

1 teaspoon plus 5 Tablespoons olive oil

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 pounds small golden beets, scrubbed clean

1 large chopped shallot

3 Tablespoons champagne vinegar

12 ounces gluten-free pasta shells or other short gluten-free pasta

1 Tablespoon fresh chives, chopped fine

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Toast pistachios until golden brown, about eight to ten minutes. After allowing them to cool, chop them and toss them in a bowl with one teaspoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a bowl, whisk together ricotta cheese and one Tablespoon olive oil until smooth, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a large pot of salted water, boil beets until just tender, about fifteen minutes, and then allow them to cool on a towel. After cooling, rub off the skins with a paper towel and slice them ¼ inch thick. Toss together in a large bowl with shallots, vinegar, four Tablespoons oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Use the beet cooking liquid to cook the pasta in, cooking until al dente. Drain, but reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
  • In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, cook beets and dressing until golden brown in spots, about eight to ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta and cook until pasta is coated, added pasta liquid as needed.
  • Serve pasta over a spread of ricotta cheese and topped with the toasted pistachios, chives, and drizzled with olive oil.

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About The Author

Jacky Miller's picture

Jacky Miller is a Registered Dietician based in New Zealand. She specializes in chronic conditions and through diet and lifestyle changes helps her patients improve their health, and lead richer, more fulfilling lives. She writes regularly on health related topics for blogs including MindBodyGreen, Jen Reviews, and The Huffington Post. 

Follow Jacky on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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