Whatever your reason for a gluten free diet, I'm here to tell you that it can be done, done simply and with your joie de vivre fully intact. I'll get to the secret of making a gluten free diet work (and making it healthy) in a moment, but rest assured if we can pull it off, anyone can.
Asking a couple of food fanatics like us to go gluten free was pretty unthinkable. After all, when in New Orleans we would sample the local haunts for a breakfast of beignets and alligator sausage biscuits before full-on brunch at Commander's. Later we snacked on crab cakes and barbecue shrimp at Uglesich's before hailing a cab to Felix's for oysters (even the cabbie asked incredulously, "Didn't y'all just eat?"). These, just precursors before stumbling upon an unexpected vacancy for the kitchen table at Emeril's to feast upon a killer dinner, 6 courses, no less! Yes, we really love food, more specifically, we really enjoy food!
But we're several years down the road on a gluten free diet (since 2009), and all is good. Food is still a high point worthy of revelry and health. We began a gluten free diet primarily to boost our health, reduce inflammatory foods (bye, bye dairy and soy too) and for the fact that today's wheat simply ain't what it used to be -- see side bar for more. And lo and behold, digestive issues resolved (all, not a few, all!), energy and stamina re-emerged and (though not an objective) weight fell off. Renewed energy is reason enough for many. Our bodies work so hard to digest glutinous foods that we begin accepting that sluggish drain that many might relate to after eating a big bowl of pasta. However, according to recent research, we potentially gain much more than energy if we reduce triggers of chronic bodily inflammation, which has been linked to long-term health problems like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Especially if we counter-balance it with anti-inflammatory nutrients from whole foods like vegetables, fish and fruits. **Update** New research shows the significant impact diet has on our neurological health too, specifically relating to our risk for dementia as well as how gluten sensitivity can be a neurological disease - see sidebar for additional information and research sources. So for us it was goodbye gluten, hello better health...
Here's the simplest, healthiest advice I can share for a gluten free diet: stick with naturally gluten free foods. Build your diet around whole foods of (preferably organic and/or local) vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, pulses (beans, lentils, peas), fish, healthy oils and fats, + some meat and dairy products. And limit the gluten-free alternatives to gluten foods like breads, pastas, sauces, gravies, cereals, cakes, cookies, crackers and other baked goods to the occasional treat. That's the real boon of a gluten free diet. It should steer us towards eating and preparing more fresh, whole foods -- that naturally contain no gluten. And steer us away from the bulk of refined and processed foods that have boxed, canned, frozen and packaged their way into our daily diets and leave us decoding the lengthy ingredient lists in search of gluten. See this helpful shopping tip.
This simplified gluten free diet also encourages more made from scratch cooking at home in lieu of too much dining out and grabbing food on the go -- money savers and quality time boosters to boot! It's really not a diet at all, but a better, fuller way of eating whole foods as nature intended and less factory-made, "food-like" products. That's the trick...accentuate the positives of this new lease on eating, cooking and enjoying good food and good health!