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Welcome to The Wheat Free Life!

Hello!  Have you recently discovered that you are going to have to eliminate gluten-containing foods from your diet?  Are you wondering what you're going to eat?  Do you stand in the aisle at the grocery store staring at the shelves with that deer-in-the-headlights look wondering where to begin?  Well, I've been where you're at, so I know how panicked you're probably feeling.  About 10 years ago my husband discovered that foods containing gluten were the source of chronic health problems that had plagued him for most of his life.  Some years before that, he had discovered that he was allergic to milk (as were our five children as well, as it turned out), and so I learned to eliminate/substitute all milk products from our diet in response, which was a bit of a challenge, but not as hard as I thought it would be.  But wheat?  Good grief, flour-based products are the backbone of the American diet (think bread, pastries, pizza crusts, desserts).  So what could we eat?  There was no way I was going to fix two different meals every time I cooked -- one for him and one for me -- so I was going to be eating gluten-free too.  Big-time panic set in, along with an overwhelming desire to stick my head in the sand and leave it there until the problem went away.  No way did I want to re-learn how to cook again!  However, it's cook or starve, so I started again.  At that time there was very little information about gluten intolerance, very few gluten-free products on the market (all of which were very expensive and none of which tasted better than cardboard), and only one (one!) cookbook on gluten-free cooking.  It was a steep learning curve, but we both survived, and now I can help you to survive too.

So, let's start with your most pressing question -- what the heck do I eat, starting with my next meal?  Bread and all related foods are out, most soups are out, wheat flour seems to be on every label -- AAACCCKKK!  To start, and to get you through until you can stock your pantry with the new ingredients you're going to need in your wheat free life, just think simple -- fruits and vegetables simply prepared, lean meats without sauces or gravies, and whole grains (except wheat, oats, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and triticale -- they all contain gluten).  Sounds like the latest healthy eating plan from your favorite magazine, doesn't it?  Guess what?  It is! If you're a soup fan, be sure to read the labels -- they're getting better at specifying what thickener has been used, but if it isn't specific and you're not sure, pass it up.  Until you get a bread maker (and you'll want one, because commercial gluten-free bread is still pretty dismal tasting and very expensive), if you want a sandwich, just use romaine lettuce leaves as the bread -- just put your normal fillings between the lettuce leaves and enjoy!  I've discovered that I prefer sandwiches this way now - the filling flavor really stands out when not obscured by all that bread.  This works great for lunch meats and cheeses as well as tuna salad, egg salad, etc.  Plus, it's lower calorie, if you're watching your weight!  Bonus! 

In the next blog, I'll give you a list of things to start buying for your pantry and a couple of easy quick-bread recipes to get you started.

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