The hardest thing when we initially decided to switch over to gluten free was not knowing which products contained gluten, what secret words gluten was hidden under, and honestly, not really knowing what exactly gluten was.
After some research on the gluten, I found it is a protein composite that appears in foods processed from wheat and other related species such as barley and rye (not corn or rice). Gluten helps to give elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape. Gluten is also in many products to enhance texture or add protein where none is naturally found such as imitation meats, malt vinegars, flavor cubes, ketchup and even most vitamins. With gluten in so many daily products, at first I though I would never get the hang of shopping for my family.
Then, just when I was almost comfortable choosing products that were gluten free, we got stricter, adding in more things to see if we could improve what responses we had experienced already with the boys. With my list of no-no's almost longer than my shopping list, I was very confused and intimidated when I set out to start shopping. So how did I do it? With a little book from Cecelia's Marketplace (www.ceceliasmarketplace.com).
I initially ordered the Gluten Free book which lists thousands of products that are gluten free. After using my book for a few weeks and deciding to move on to a stricter diet plan, I then ordered the gluten free/casein free/soy free book. These books have truly been a time and sanity saver.
I carry the gfcfsf book in my purse (and keep the other one in my van in case I forget my purse) and pull it out anytime I am the store. The books list alphabetically the item and then manufacturer so that finding what you need is a snap. Need jelly? Look under "J" from jelly/jam, then find the name of the product you are looking for such as Smucker's. It is so simple to use that even my husband can go shopping for me now.
Another product that I am completely in love with is Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread Soy Free. I have so far only found it at my local Walmart stores in the butter aisle in a tub. I have made cookies and brownies, topped waffles and muffins, and sauteed mushrooms and onions in it so far and everything has turned out perfect. My picky boys haven't even noticed that I switched them yet!
As our my research gets more in depth, my list of exclusions continues to grow. We are lucky as we have had some testing done before and we have that list of what our children are sensitive to. In order to allow our boys some guilty pleasures, a few of our rules are allowed to occasionally be broken. For instance, today at church my boys told the youth minister they were not allowed any candy, even though the other children were eating theirs. I wasn't in the youth room; they could have eaten it and I probably wouldn't have ever know, but they didn't. I was so proud of them! I decided to let them have a special treat for being so honest.
Skittles are on the gfcfsf list, but they have food coloring in them (which I normally forbid). I did, however, because of their awesomeness today, allow them to split a small bag of skittles. They were so excited! To me, it's all about priority. Gluten is at the top of our list for no, followed by artificial sugar, casein and soy, then preservatives and food colorings. Our big rules are if it comes in a cellophane package, don't eat it. I always tell my boys for when they are out at a grandparent's house that if it grows on a vine, in the ground, or on a tree it is ok to eat. If you have to take it to a factory to make it, then just say no. It really has helped them feel more confident in deciding what they are and are not allowed to eat.
I was asked today what I typically fix for my children to eat since I don't let them go out to eat and I don't buy anything premade. On a typical day our family meals consist of a high protein breakfast: a piece of gluten free bread (which I make in my bread machine every Sunday) with peanut butter, some scrambled eggs, a couple small pieces of baked chicken (normally left over from the night before) and then two small pancakes (which are made in large batches and then frozen so that I don't have to make that mess every morning). Lunch primarily is a vegetable in the steamer and a chicken breast. Supper is normally either baked fish or lemon pepper chicken, a veggie, a baked potato (either regular or sweet), and a small dessert of some kind finishes off the night.
We also try to include two or three small snacks throughout the day also so that the boys learn healthy eating habits and don't have to eat huge meals. My boys' favorite snacks are apples or bananas with peanut butter, raisins, homemade gfcfsf cookies, or a gfcfsf chocolate piece. When I pack my oldest's lunch for school, I try to include a variety of things so that he can pick and choose what he wants that day. I never want my boys to feel as though it is a burden to eat healthy.
So far, with a little preparation and a lot of luck, I have been able to find substitutes for almost everything their friends have...thank goodness for my book and google!