What is gluten exactly? Gluten is a term that is derived from the Latin word for "glue". "Gluten is not one protein but a type of protein. In wheat, the specific term is gliadin. Rye has secalin, and barley, hordein. There are loads of gluten substances and cousins." (95, Dorfman, Kelly. What's Eating Your Child) The book, "What's Eating Your Child" deals with case studies and provides a great resource for troubleshooting the connection between food and childhood ailments. It also gives suggestions for proper dietary supplements and how to work with picky eaters.
The first resource I read was "G-Free Diet" by Elisabeth Hasselbeck. It is a great resource as well, it amazed me how varied the symptoms were for Celiac disease. Much of this book is geared toward Celiac disease and it is not a resource for good recipes, but it is a great introduction, especially to dealing with the social aspects of a restricted diet. Hasselbeck does recommend pre-packaged gluten free foods and you can find many of such items at the local grocery store now. These are convenient, however may not be the best option for health depending on the ingredients they contain.
So what have we eliminated from our diet? All wheat and wheat flour products: bread, baked goods (cake, cookies, muffins), bagels, pizza crust, crackers, pretzels, pasta etc. Also, glutinous products that are not wheat based: barley, rye, kamut, spelt, etc. I have also replaced our baking items as they run out, for example, gluten free baking powder. I have not replaced all of our spices (which often contain gluten as a de-clumping agent).
What can we eat? We can eat rice (I try to eat primarily brown rice now, using white or white Basmati as a "treat"), corn, millet, amaranth, quinoa, kasha (buckwheat), potatoes, legumes, meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. I do not use millet or kasha often, and we have tried popping amaranth which is a fun topping for salads, but I don't use it often!
In reality, eliminating gluten is not easy when it comes to snacking at home and throwing easy snacks for the girls in the diaper bag. I have used a few replacements which work for us in moderation. Experimenting with baking has not been really fun for me, but I have had a couple of recipes that worked. In the summer, I would rather mix up a smoothie than bake muffins, but perhaps in the fall/winter I will start to experiment some more.
Here are some replacements that I have used:
Udi whole grain bread is expensive compared to other gluten free brands, but it is the best bread I have tried at the supermarket. It comes frozen, and I keep it in the freezer and grab it for a quick lunch when I have days that a cashew butter sandwich comes in handy! (We also are keeping peanuts and almonds out of our diet.)
Glutino gluten free crackers are something that I don't always have on hand, but they are good with a guacamole spread! Lila doesn't love them, so they are mainly for me when I feel like I need something crunchy! (They have a warning of "may contain milk" but we rarely eat them, so I find it doesn't bother Lila or me.)
I love Bob's Red Mill products and their pizza crust is a yummy, easy way to have homemade pizza that is gluten free.
The corn bread mix is great to have with soup or stew.
For a treat, their gluten free, dairy free chocolate brownie mix is so yummy! It doesn't taste grainy at all (a lot of baking I have done tastes grainy because of the rice flour I think) and I have made these and packed a one or two pieces for Lila when we have gone to birthday parties so she can have some "cake" too! I also use their all-purpose baking mix, which I get in a large bag from our local health food store. I use that for baking and primarily, for pancakes!
Corn chips are something I grab for snacks sometimes, with a jar of salsa. I like the Que Pasa brand. Not the most healthy, but a nice alternative at times.
Rice cakes with cashew butter are another easy option for snacks and lunches, I really enjoy Lundberg rice cakes.
The best brown rice pasta product by far that I have tried is Tinkyada. It does not turn mushy when cooked (as long as you don't overcook it too much) and it is great for all pasta options. I use it almost exclusively now (instead of cooking a separate whole wheat pasta for Tim and Charlotte).
I don't find that eating gluten free has made a huge difference for me personally health wise (however that may be a different story if I try to introduce it again and notice the effects of eating gluten laden food) but Lila's eczema is pretty much all cleared up. She has one small spot on her arm, and when she does have exposure to gluten or dairy by accident (or I do), she itches her arm in that spot. We have come a long way as she used to scratch herself until she bled, we would constantly be applying cream, including steroid cream when necessary and wrapping her arm with bandages every night before bed so she couldn't scratch all night. When she was much younger she had eczema on her face as well.
I am so surprised that eliminating dairy and gluten made for a healthier and happier little girl! I am not an expert in these matters and it is still a learning and planning process when it comes to making healthy meals and snacks. If you have any dietary suggestions or meal/snack ideas feel free to share in the comments!