Here in part two of this three-part series, I’m going to talk about foods you can’t POSSIBLY go wrong with. And a few that you can.
Initially, when we hear that we have to go ‘gluten free’ or ‘dairy free’, we immediately think, ‘oh my god, I’m going to be eating salad for the rest of my life. Kill me now’. And while yeah, salad is definitely on the menu, it’s not the only thing we have to eat. We are not cursed to a life of salad and balsamic vinaigrette. It is far better than that!!
For starters, there is NO gluten or milk in meat. None. Not unless you buy breaded things like fish sticks or chicken fingers, in which case, well, just don’t. The first thing that people (who love me and give a shit) ask when I’m coming over for dinner is ‘what can I make you that is gluten and dairy free?’. The short answer I give them: make me a steak and a baked potato, and we’re golden.
Granted, if you happen to be a vegetarian, that’s not an option. Thankfully, there is no gluten or milk in fruit or vegetables, either. All you have to look out for is soy products, which on their own are fine.. but if you happen to love those Boca Chick’n Patties or Morningstar Vegan Sausages, you’re going to have to read the back of the box very carefully. Often, vegetarian and vegan products have wheat in them as a filler, or are bound by milk powder of some sort. So be careful there.
Here’s a short list of things that don’t require a lot of preparation that will hold you over until you can get into some serious GFDF cooking and baking:
Meat (all forms: fish is cool!)
Rice (and rice cakes!)
wine and liquor!
I know that’s a short list, and you might find it funny that I feel the need to mention that meat is GFDF… it’s just that I’ve been asked so many times if steak is gluten free, that I really feel the need to address it here!
Now for the list of things you might THINK are gluten free, but require closer inspection. Make sure you read the back of all containers, in case wheat or milk (or milk powder) has been added for binding/filling purposes:
Candy (don’t trust the gummy bears!!!)
potato chips (wtf, right?)
soy sauce (you have got to be kidding me, right?)
ramen noodles/chinese noodles (sadly, even egg noodles have wheat in them)
pesto (not even joking here)
chocolate (unless it’s dark chocolate, it’s got milk in it)
pasta in general
cereal and müsli 😦
I know, it’s so lame that there could be wheat in your favorite foods. Or beer. But there is most likely something in there, so PLEASE be sure to read the wrappers of everything before you ingest it (or buy it!!). The last thing anyone wants is a bad reaction to something when out with friends. Or, ever.
Additionally, it’s become hip and almost even fashionable for gluten-free and dairy-free (or vegan/vegetarian) foods to be sold in your local supermarkets. This is something that Germany has, too, which I thoroughly appreciate. There is probably already a gluten-free section in your local store, whether or not you’ve found it yet. Go and have a look around! If you can’t find anything, ask the coworkers, who will most likely know whether or not their chain carries GF/DF products.
If your store DOES happen to have a GF section, you’ll be able to notice it because just about everything in that section will have a special GF stamp or logo on it. Now, since I’m out here in Germany and not back in the US, I’m not exactly sure whether there is an official FDA image for GF… but over here in Germany, this symbol to the left is one that we see quite often.
Most times, the GF symbol will have an image of grain with a line through it. Or it will say ‘gluten free’ somewhere on the box, usually on the front and in relatively large, hard to miss lettering. Since GF is now a major selling point, many companies are very happy to let you know ON THE PACKAGING that their product is GF and therefore, you really can’t miss it.
The only exception I’ve ever seen to this rule is with potato chips. For the most part, the mention of chips being GF is always on the back of the bag. I think that has a lot to do with the common-sense idea that potatoes can’t possibly have gluten in them. Or it’s to preserve the pretty package… who knows.
When it comes to things being labeled dairy-free, things get a little interesting… While there isn’t a specific DF symbol, there are others for ‘lactose free’, and my personal favorite, ‘vegan’. When something is labeled and certified as vegan, you can bet your ass there’s no milk involved. It’s come to the point for me that I just go right for the ‘vegan’ butter and milk products. It’s just easier than wondering about lactose vs milk vs etc, etc, etc.
Now, something to keep in mind: while it is VERY illegal over here in Europe to label something as ‘vegan’ or even ‘gluten free’ when it isn’t exactly that, that’s not exactly the case in the US. Although there are false advertising laws in the states, a lot of companies will circumvent these by saying their products are ‘made with organic ingredients‘ or ‘made with vegan ingredients‘… so while the butter powder in your mac ‘n cheese might be certified organic or vegan, that doesn’t mean that you can trust the noodles. I know that sucks and is total bullshit, but that’s capitalism for you.
It’s up to you to find trustworthy brands or items and honestly, just stick to them.
In the beginning, it’s going to be a lot of research and list making. I know it’s going to be hard and take work. But it is worth it! Once you find a GF bread that you like, or DF butter, life becomes a whole lot more like what we’re used to.
A word of advice from me and my own trials and tribulations: I really, really hate GFDF bread that comes out of a freezer in the supermarket. Of all of the brands I’ve tried, none have tasted better than cardboard doused in fruit juice. Maybe things have gotten better since then, I don’t know. I began making my own bread. And I’m happy with that! When I do buy, my favorite bread products come from a company called Schär, who specializes in GF products.
Be prepared to waste a lot of money trying things out. Don’t trust the ads in your magazines. Trust the feedback from your friends and peers. In part three, we’ll discuss some resources and websites you can utilize to help you along the way!