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Wheat Free- More than Just a Fad

Excitement in receiving one of my first gluten-free cookbooks. Greg's excitement, not so much.

Excitement in receiving one of my first gluten-free cookbooks. Greg’s excitement, not so much. In being gluten free, many people will react in these ways.

In the news as of late, cutting wheat out of a diet has been part of a growing trend. I took on the diet for my own personal reasons as a trial, and have actually come out on the other side with a quite a few revelations worth sharing. Not to mention, I’ve found some new ways to fix food and implement healthier creations. However, if you truly have a celiac disorder, it’s a bummer. Of course it’s getting easier find to ways to enjoy this restrictive lifestyle and understand why there’s power in choosing to be wheat free. 

A chocolate and vanilla pound cake made from scratch. Includes brown rice flour, tapioca flour and coconut flour.

A chocolate and vanilla pound cake made from scratch. Includes brown rice flour, tapioca flour and coconut flour.

Last year I started working for a whole food supplement company. One of their training exercises was to read a number of books and watch videos relating to the lifestyle they have created around their whole food feeding programs. Being a ‘foodie’, I was all too eager to jump down this rabbit hole and engulf myself into the materials. I thought I knew a lot about food, but I soon began to realize that I don’t know very much at all, starting with where food comes from and how it’s grown.

Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust mix has proven to be one of my all time favorite mixes in the realm of gluten free.

Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Crust mix has proven to be one of my all time favorite mixes in the realm of gluten free.

The first book on my list was Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Bac… by William Davis, M.D. It opened my eyes in so many ways. While I found some of what Dr. Davis was saying to be very agenda driven, it did beg me to ask more questions about what I was eating and REALLY looking at the labels of food. One major fact that came across was that wheat raises your glycemic index higher than what a tablespoon of white sugar would….surprised? So was I. What Dr. Davis said made sense, look at the amount of diabetes cases in our country alone, the numbers are staggering. Yet, when you look at most processed food labels, there wheat is. Even as a practical application, if you have two pieces of toast for breakfast, aren’t you hungry about an hour or two later? These can’t be mere coincidences.

Soon after reading this, I moved to make my own change. I figured in the least, I’d go on it for a little while and in the process challenge my cooking and baking skills. Because of my own history of having thyroid cancer, I’ve had to go on an extreme diet of no-iodine yearly. In a lot of ways this diet was similar in how restrictive it can be. I knew I couldn’t adopt Dr. Davis’ complete diet as it removed corn, rice, wheat and potato, so I began with just the removal of wheat to start. I wanted find what my body would do with one element of change and go from there. 

My all-time favorite brownie mix, gluten free or otherwise is from Williams-Sonoma. It's the Ad Hoc Brownie mix from Thomas Keller. At $19.95 not including butter and eggs, it's a pricey but delicious way to indulge.

My all-time favorite brownie mix, gluten free or otherwise is from Williams-Sonoma. It’s the Ad Hoc Brownie mix from Thomas Keller. At $19.95 not including butter and eggs, it’s a pricey but delicious way to indulge.

After a few weeks, I soon realized that my constant craving for sugary foods started to diminish. I didn’t need sweets after every meal. This in itself was HUGE. I then started to notice that the constant bloating many women face was starting to become non-existent in my body. In time, I realized the achey-ness in my knees was gone too. All these little things started to add up, painting a picture of what wheat was doing to my body.

A few months into the diet and I found myself in Missouri. Life on a wheat-free diet became a bit more challenging as I didn’t have access to the overabundance of whole and organic foods I had in Massachusetts. I learned to adapt from my Wegmans to Walmart lifestyle and started the trials and errors of gluten free baking. I found some great online grocers willing to ship to our remote location, and found small local health stores that stocked many of my favorite products.

Fast forward to a year later to life in Missouri. I’ve stuck with a mostly gluten-free lifestyle. I’ve added a lot more diversity into my diet including various types of flour, from tapioca, to rice and quinoa. If I do have a craving for wheat goods, I always buy organic and as unprocessed as possible. I just can’t kick my occasional bread and pizza habit, and thankfully I don’t have an allergy. Otherwise, I’m able to enjoy various types of pasta made with quinoa, corn and rice, all adding different textures and taste profiles depending on what I serve it with. My biggest takeaway in the kitchen is learning about different ingredients, how they behave, how they effect and end dish and how nutritionally they’re benefitting my body. 

A gluten-free King Cake made to celebrate Mardi Gras also using the Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust mix base.

A gluten-free King Cake made to celebrate Mardi Gras also using the Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Crust mix for the base.

Gluten free cinnamon rolls also made with Bob's Red Mill pizza crust mix. These were divine!

Gluten free cinnamon rolls also made with Bob’s Red Mill pizza crust mix. These were divine!

Made a gluten-free pizza using Bob's Red Mill pizza crust mix. The texture was different, but the taste was all there.

Made a gluten-free pizza using Bob’s Red Mill pizza crust mix. The texture was different, but the taste was all there.

If you take away anything from this article, here are the main points I learned in the past year.

  • Gluten-free diets should be treated as lifestyle not a fad. People who have true celiac intolerances and allergies suffer badly when ingesting wheat that can affect them for months (not days or hours). It’s important to be sympathetic to what they face and appreciate all of the knowledge they can impart. There is wonder and enjoyment in trying new things!
  • When you eat out or go to friends houses to eat, be prepared for the crazy eyes if you’re gluten free. It’s hard for people to wrap their heads around eating gluten free especially if you don’t have a true allergy. 
  • Soy sauce and many other condiments have wheat in it. 
  • Even if the ingredients don’t say ‘wheat’ it can still  be cross-contaminated by wheat. Look for made and/or processed in a gluten-free facility just to be absolutely sure.
  • Regular commercial flours are not even close to what our ancestors ate. They ate more whole wheat which was less modified than the processed versions of what we have today, not to mention they were much more nutritionally dense. If you look on the back of most flour labels, synthetic nutrients are being added back in which probably further solidify the fact of why more people have celiac issues today.
  • Gluten-free will rarely taste like it’s wheat counterpart. If it does, someone spent a tremendous amount of time trailing to get not only the taste correct, but the texture too. Wheat gluten behaves very uniquely and it’s hard to replicate that process.
  • It’s hard to find a true all purpose gluten free flour substitute for every recipe. Pre-mixed baking mixes have done all the hard work for you in getting pretty darn close to their gluten counterparts.
  • Getting gluten-free cookbooks helped take the guesswork out of what flours to use for what recipes in order to achieve the best texture and results.
  • Most gluten-free flours need to be refrigerated or frozen as they will spoil quickly after opening.
A flourless chocolate cake, this recipe was dense, brownie-like and filled with cinnamon.

A flourless chocolate cake, this recipe was dense, brownie-like and filled with cinnamon.

One of my first grain-free, gluten-free recipes was a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake.

One of my first grain-free, gluten-free recipes was a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake.

Lemon chia seed cake, updated no-grain version of lemon poppyseed cake made with almond and quinoa flour.

Lemon chia seed cake, updated no-grain version of lemon poppyseed cake made with almond and quinoa flour.

As many of you have noticed, I try and formulate many of my recipes to be gluten free, or suggest ways to make them as such. It’s been a great year of learning and I look forward to finding new ways to incorporate gluten-free into my life and yours.

To full plates and eating your tarte out.

My recipe for Cape Gooseberry Tart using almond flour in lieu of wheat flour, and coconut sugar instead of granulated sugar.

My recipe for Cape Gooseberry Tart using almond flour in lieu of wheat flour, and coconut sugar instead of granulated sugar.

Many bakeries can easily create high end confections for the gluten-free crowd. This was a flour less chocolate cake made for when I left Massachusetts.

Many bakeries can easily create high end confections for the gluten-free crowd. This was a flour less chocolate cake made for when I left Massachusetts.

Written by Tarte Chic

Author Kat Nielsen (formerly Kat Wojtylak) is a creative type with an immense love for food. She maintains a day job handling marketing and brand support to various companies while enjoying her evenings and weekends writing recipes and blogging all about her culinary experiences.

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