December is almost gone.
An amazing year is about to end.
A lot of lessons learned, ongoing projects, happy moments and tough ones too.
I’m sure all of us have something in common: 2018 has been a year of growth.
In my case, I started this year traveling within Latin America. I welcomed 2018 in San Jose, Costa Rica surrounded by family, and my boyfriend.
Almost 12 months have passed since that January 1st and my life changed.
One day I was living in my hometown Caracas, Venezuela, and then I was traveling to Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Colombia with my boyfriend Matt who is celiac (he cannot eat wheat, rye or barley).
We are now married, living in NY, and working together on a Company we built ourselves.
Be Breader is an idea we had after months living together. It came up after realizing that being celiac is a tough thing to do when the topic awareness is so low.
Traveling together to different cities and countries made us become fully aware of a big problem: there are few safe gluten-free food alternatives for celiacs to eat in the Latin American countries we visited.
Cooking for Matt was complicated since we usually had a hard time looking for safe options for him to eat.
With the few gluten-free options we found, we did our best to create a menu for him.
But something kept happening, he was getting sick although the food products we bought were labeled as “gluten-free”.
Fast forward to December, he now follows a strict gluten-free diet and he barely gets sick. Do you want to know how we made that possible?
If this year has been tough for you because you are celiac and you have gotten sick many times without even knowing the reason, get ready to start a gluten-free 2019 by following the exact actions Matt and I took that made him have a safe eating lifestyle.
If you live with someone or cook your food in a shared kitchen, make sure the other person is aware of how serious living with a celiac is.
The truth is that it’s easier to stick to a safe gluten-free diet when the person you live with helps you do it. Teamwork is very important!
As a quick recap, gluten comes from the Latin word "glue". It is a specific protein that can be found in different types of grains like wheat, rye, barley and triticale. This gluten protein acts as a glue that holds food together, maintaining its shape. It also gives texture to the food, and stabilizes products for a longer shelf life.
Some bodies mistakenly recognize gluten as a foreign substance, and attacks it. Unfortunately, those bodies belong to celiacs.
Treating gluten as an enemy is a “defense mechanism” attitude that celiacs should adopt because unfortunately that’s what gluten represents to a celiac: an enemy. And what do you do with your enemies? You avoid them, you fight them, you cut them off your lives.
So the first thing you need to do to start a safe gluten-free 2019 is to avoid gluten by treating it as your enemy.
Remember that the gluten proteins are commonly found in bread, pasta, malted beverages, canned soups, food coloring, cookies, cakes, cereals and most processed food.
By cutting off gluten from your diet, you’ll be avoiding symptoms like:
- Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract - Gastric distress - Brain fog - Constipation - Bloating - Diarrhea - Gastric reflux - Heartburn - Headache - Irritability - Fatigue - Tiredness - Skin rashes - Depression
So don’t allow gluten in any of its forms, enter your stomach. Enemies are not well received in your kitchen.
You will be surprised to find out where gluten hides.
Not only food contains those harmful proteins that make you sick. Medicines, makeup, shampoos, toothpaste, drinks, hair spray, soaps, facial cleansers, lotions, play-dough, and herbal, vitamin and mineral supplements, are some of the products that can also contain gluten.
Be alert when someone tells you the food you are about to eat is “fried”, “coated”, “breaded”, “crispy”, or “crusted”.
Consider that a warning!
Those are hidden forms of gluten in food because people generally use flour in its preparation.
Something else to consider is that gluten can be also hidden in Asian-style foods because they use soy sauce as one of their primary ingredients for their recipes, especially chinese and japanese food.
In makeup, watch out for the scientific names of gluten proteins:
- Triticum Vulgare (wheat) - Hordeum Vulgare (barley) - Avena Sativa (oatmeal) - Vitamin E (Vitamin E is sometimes derived from a wheat germ)
So to start your gluten-free 2019, begin with changing your hygiene products for the brands that are wheat-free, and stop eating hidden forms of gluten in fried, crispy, breaded or crusted food.
To start the year, make a commitment to yourself to stop eating at non-safe places.
If you start analyzing every time you feel sick after eating, you will notice that most of the time that happens when you eat a restaurant.
You should see restaurants as a place where gluten hides.
If it’s not a 100% gluten-free place where they dedicate to cook only food for celiacs, the risk of cross-contamination at those restaurants are too high because they cook wheat-containing food.
Most restaurants sell in their menus gluten-free dishes (and that can be true), but the problem is that they cook those dishes with kitchen utensils that had previous contact with gluten, and then they use them for your food. Here is where cross-contamination happens.
I know sometimes it’s easier to go out and buy fast food, or to go to a restaurant, but when you are considering doing so, think about how sick you feel after you eat somewhere not safe, and how good you feel when you eat safe food.
We all have favorite food and meals. To start a safe gluten-free 2019, elaborate a list of possible meals that you would like to eat during a day, week or month. Combine them to create a delicious meal plan that you will be eating every day. Do it like a wish list, add your favorite dishes, and once you have that list ready, it will be easier for you to design a menu for your days to come. Most celiacs start eating gluten because they don’t know they have plenty of delicious options and they end up going after cheat meals. Stop doing that and start designing your own menu with safe recipes.
Once you have your daily, weekly or monthly meal plan established, start making your grocery list.
Write down all the ingredients that you will be needing to make the recipes for your meal plan.
Stick to the naturally gluten-free ingredients options. Try not to include recipes with high processed ingredients because thay can hurt your stomach.
Here’s a list of naturally gluten-free food that should incorporate to your diet:
- Eggs: All eggs that have no preservatives added.
- Fruits: All fresh and frozen fruits (apple, apricot, bananas, blueberries, peach, raspberries, watermelon), and 100% natural fruit juices.
- Grains: Amaranth, yucca, buckwheat, chia, quinoa, chestnut, millet, corn, polenta, plain rice in all forms (white, brown, wild), cassava, tapioca, beans, and flaxseed.
- Meat: All fresh meats (beef, bison, chicken, duck, ham, lamb, pork, turkey) with no preservatives added, and not processed.
- Nuts and Seeds: Natural and non-flavored nuts and seeds that are not processed like peanut, cashew, almond, hazelnut, macadamia nut, pecan, pistachio, sesame seeds, chestnut, and walnuts.
- Potatoes: All natural potatoes (and sweet potatoes) baked, boiled or mashed.
- Seafood: Fresh and raw fish, and seafood (clam, crab, lobster, octopus, oyster, salmon, sardine, shrimp, snapper, swordfish, tilapia, tuna) with no preservatives or additives added.
- Vegetables and Legumes: All fresh and natural vegetables and legumes (artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprout, cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, celery, cucumber, eggplant, green bean, lettuce, mushroom, onions, parsley, peas, radish, spinach).
There are other food that despite not being naturally gluten-free, after being processed, are still safe for celiacs. Those food are:
- Bread: All bread, breadcrumbs, pizza bases, rolls and scones that were not made with wheat, barley or rye flour. They should be labeled gluten-free, and should be made with buckwheat, millet, lentil, almond, chickpea, amaranth, brown rice, or coconut flours. You can find most gluten-free bread in the freezer section of the supermarket.
- Butter and Oils: Olive oil, avocado oil, margarine, and butter.
- Cereals: Corn and rice-based cereals.
- Cheese: Cheese with no preservatives added, and that don’t contain ingredients that are a source of gluten.
- Chocolate: Pure and unsweetened chocolate.
- Desserts: Italian ices and gluten-free ice creams.
- Flours: Flours that are not made with wheat, but with buckwheat, corn, millet, amaranth, brown rice, almond, coconut, chestnut, chickpea and/or lentil.
- Home Baking: Baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt, yeast, corn starch, potato starch.
- Pasta and Noodles: All pasta and noodles made from corn, quinoa, rice or lentil.
- Snacks and Chips: Homemade popcorn and chips that were not made with wheat flour, and that have no preservatives added.
- Sauces and Seasonings: Fresh garlic, ground pepper, salt, natural tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce.
- Spreads and Dips: 100% natural honey, natural and gluten-free labeled peanut, and almond butter.
Many recipes are too long and require many ingredients. And some of those ingredients are not celiac safe.
Just because you need to eat gluten-free doesn’t mean you can’t eat delicious anymore.
If you find a recipe of a tasty meal that you would like to make, but it is not gluten-free, don’t worry, there is a way for you to turn it into a celiac proof recipe!
You just need to substitute the ingredients that are wheat based, for those who are not.
Ju st follow this tips:
1. If you are making bread, cakes, donuts, cookies, or any food that requires wheat flour, just substitute for any other flour (tapioca, coconut, lentil, chickpea, etc).
2. If you are making a dessert with chocolate, substitute the chocolate with additives for pure and unsweetened chocolate.
3. If you are making a smoothie, substitute flavored juices and fruits with additives for natural juices and fruits.
4. If you are making a pizza, substitute the wheat flour for a gluten-free flour dough, and substitute the canned tomato sauce with a fresh homemade sauce.
5. If you are making fried food, substitute the oil for water (cook the meat in the oven, or saute it). If you are making pasta or noodles, substitute the brands that are made from wheat with the ones made from lentil, corn or rice.
6. If you cook with soy sauce, mustard or mayonnaise, substitute those ingredients for natural salt, pepper or gluten-free Worcestershire sauce.
7. If you are eating muesli and wheat based cereals, substitute them for corn and rice based cereals.
8. If you are making tortilla chips, use corn flour instead of wheat flour.
Reading food products labels before buying them is key to having a safe gluten-free lifestyle. When going food shopping, you should always read the labels to see what ingredients the food product has. On their labels, food companies must state the list of ingredients and food allergens that a product has, but unfortunately, they are not obligated to claim if the product is gluten-free. So if you want to start a safe gluten-free 2019, look for the food products less processed and that don’t contain wheat, rye or barley. This way you will be buying the safest options for your health.
For a safe gluten-free living is important for you to be familiar with the brands that are good on your stomach.
If you have your top brands, keep including the ones that don’t bother you and exclude the brands you know are not good for you.
In our daily gluten-free lifestyle we include our favorite brands that have been super safe for Matt. Against the Grain, Bell & Evans, Birch Benders, Aleia’s and Pamela’s are some of them. He never stops eating them, they are simply part of his menu.
Since I stopped buying wheat-based food and keeping it in the kitchen with Matt’s gluten-free food, he started to feel better and slowly stopped getting sick. What was happening? He was eating cross-contaminated food somehow. Keeping gluten in the same kitchen where a celiac cooks and eats is very risky. There are always crumbs jumping from one place to another, and unfortunately, those crumbs can hurt celiacs health. Especially bread crumbs are hard to fully remove from a surface. It was not easy getting to that point where we are at now that our kitchen is 100% gluten-free. But since the first moment we realized that was related to Matt’s health, I happily accepted it and agreed to keep doing it. Now we have zero gluten in our kitchen!
Mariana graduated from Communications & Journalism in Caracas, Venezuela, and has over 10 years of experience as a writer. She has worked on Digital Marketing, and for over 10 prestigious Cable Television Channels aired in Latin America. Matt graduated from Cornell University in New York. He started his own company in 2010, and has been running it by himself since then. Matt is an expert in Marketing, Sales, and creating 6-Figure Funnels for online businesses.
Over the past year we decided to start a company together and created "Vookies", that later expanded and became "Be Breader". We have been helping celiacs around the world to optimize and improve their health by incorporating safe and delicious meals into their daily menus.