Yes, going gluten free was a huge and radical improvement for our daughter, but also a huge and radical under-taking for our house, the meals we eat, the time we spend at a table, the finances involved in grocery shopping and so on and so forth.
It kind of takes over. And it more than pays off, but about 19 days into no more drive through quick fixes to the never ending question of “what’s for dinner?!!” my body started aching a little bit from the level of commitment involved.
The implications of an allergy like this bleed into all aspects of life. Social, educational, after school priorities, free time. Yadda, yadda. I knew that there would be issues with school lunches as Jessica has been a lover of the hot lunch menu since we started allowing her to get one. The choices! The sugar drinks! The high of self-monitoring and decision making. It’s all very exciting. And so much cheaper.
Gone are her days on the hot lunch line. Now she takes a lunch from home every single day. Some times her lunch smells weird because we let her take things like mozzarella and balsamic vinegar. Or deviled eggs. The days when treats are brought into her class room, I get an email from the teacher and either deliver an alternative to her myself or agree on an alternative I’ve already supplied her classroom. When there’s a pizza party? I independently order a gluten free pizza and deliver it to her myself.
The most convinient food we can pick up if I’ve poorly planned our day is a rotisserie chicken from our grocery store – but even that’s a gamble. Fries with seasoning from your drive through – can’t have em. Buns the burgers come with? No. Dressings for salads, depends. No croutons, no multicolored tortilla chips. No thick soups, not even Wendy’s chili.
But gluten free doesn’t mean sugar free. In fact most of the gluten free store-bought alternatives to her favorites are pumped with sugar and salt to make up for the taste or to “mask” the taste. And the flours that are gluten free? Potato, for instance, is higher on the glycemic index.
Gluten free doesn’t automatically mean healthier. Often times, it’s allergen free – but much worse on a nutritional scale.
This is the research I’ve done, for the kinds of foods we like to eat.
So – I make almost everything from my own kitchen. Potato chips? At least I know the kind of oil I fry them in and the farm where the potato’s came from.
We eat the same amount of meat and fish, less pasta. Unless it’s gluten free (Costco has a brand we like) … but pasta isn’t a staple. Mac n Cheese is a treat.
Going out to eat is getting easier – most places have a menu for allergies or freely offer their GF options on a regular menu. Cross contamination is huge though in these kitchens. You have to decide where you’ll draw the line for your own family. For your sanity, convenience. The need to actually have a life.
Which is why I do it. Until we have a handle on this and until we know her limits better, this is how it works for us. It’s easier and more controllable when I know what’s touching her lips.
Some nights at the dinner table every one is happy. We eat rice, quinoa, millet, caulirice … some nights the “carb” on our plate is a starch – or there’s just protein. We’re figuring it out. (Some nights at the table end in tears from Oliver over the choices on his plate or a fit from Jessica because it doesn’t taste the same as it used to.)
I mentioned before that she’s advocating for herself. She’s also an 8 year old kid who loves gold fish crackers and pizza and wants to mindlessly snack with her friends on the playground. She’s forgotten and come home with a stomach ache because when someone offered her a snack, she accepted. We make mistakes and this isn’t fool proof.
I think my top 3 tips to be prepared would be:
Have a cubbie in the fridge and/or one dedicated drawer in our kitchen for snacks that are safe. Snack-size ziplocs of grapes, strawberries, dried fruits, GF pretzels, GF fruit snacks, nuts, seeds, GF baked goods; string cheese, fruits and veggies, pepperoni, their favorite lunch meats … etc.
Identify your staples and keep them on hand. For us they are; corn chips (or fritos), almonds, dried cherries, fruit leather, eggs, pepperoni, peanut butter, salsa, one rotating baked good, frozen fish, popcorn kernels. I could go on, but these are the things I make the most or we snack on the most.
Plan ahead, grocery shop with a list, give yourself time. These could also be on the top of the list titled “SHIT THAT NEVER HAPPENS”. So I know. I get it. This is where commitment kicks in. It’s not easier but it does GET easier.
I know some of you are in the throws of making changes in your own kitchens – what’s been the most impacting change so far?? And how do you do it when you absolutely can’t stand to look at another recipe or dirty dish? (I’m asking for a friend ….)