You walk into a restaurant or your college cafeteria. You can smell the spices in the air, feel the heat coming from the kitchen, and you start to think about the glorious deliciousness that awaits. In the midst of all this, you look around and happen to see a sign that says "gluten-free" on it. Now, you either dismiss it, feel disgusted, or you get curious. How many of you actually know what it means to be gluten-free? Maybe, you think you do, but in actuality, you might be a little off base. Being gluten-free comes with many hardships. People hardly realize that is not so much of a diet change as it is a lifestyle change. For you curious ones out there, I am here to shed a little light on the realities and struggles, and to give tips on living a gluten-free life.
The Reality: What does this mean?
I think good questions to ask about being gluten-free are: what and why? Let’s focus on the what aspect first. You may be asking what gluten is? Well, gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, so a person who cannot eat gluten must stay away from these three grains, which can make eating difficult. Imagine not being able to eat cake, pizza, bread, licorice, pasta, cookies, soy sauce, or drink beer, which are basically, the typical American comfort foods. It can also surprisingly be found in shampoo and conditioner, make up, and even play dough. Wheat, barley, and rye are found in all of these not only because they are cheap grains but also cheap thickeners. Gluten is so common in American products — it is found in almost everything.
A common misconception about going without gluten is that: it is the same as being vegan or vegetarian because these three food restrictions are usually listed together. This is not the case. The difference between being vegan or vegetarian and Gluten-Free is: vegans and vegetarians often choose to eat that way, while Gluten-Free sufferers hardly have any choice at all. People who go Gluten-Free usually have health issues that force them to eat this way. There are generally two types of sufferers in this community: people who have Celiac Disease or are Gluten Intolerant. For these sufferers, gluten makes them physically sick. They can develop hives, have fog brain, or lose all their energy for the day. I mention this because eating gluten-free is often not a preference but a priority.
The Struggles: Why is this important?
Well, it is important to me because while I am not Gluten-Free, my mom is. My mom is so sensitive to gluten, that she couldn’t eat wheat even if she desperately wanted to. She was diagnosed with Celiac Disease when I was eight years old, and our whole family has been eating gluten-free ever since. I have been there for all the struggles, and all the cooking experiments in the kitchen. Ten years ago, there were not as many options as there are now, and it was hard for her. There were so many things she couldn’t eat — it was really eye-opening. This is the main reason of this article — to open your eyes a little bit. In order so that you would be aware of the people around you, and to inform you of what is out there for the Gluten-Free Community in the state of California and America.
The Foodie Tips:
If you’re new to the community, been gluten-free for a while, or are just curious of all the wonderful gluten-free options out there, then here is a list that my mom and I have complied over the years. We have been to all of these stores, used all these products, and have eaten at all these restaurants.
These are in order by least to most expensive,
1. The 99 Cents only Store. (Most of the time they have gluten-free products. You just really have to look for them.)
2. Trader Joe's (The best gluten-free brownie mix can be found here!)
3. Local Grocery Store (Stater Bros., Albertson's, Ralph's)
4. Sprouts (gluten-free gallore)
5. Whole Foods (Wholesale gluten-free flours and goodies)
Top Gluten-Free Brands:
1. Pamela's (Pancake Mix, Chocolate Cake Mix)
2. Bob's Red Mill (Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour, Pizza Dough, Safe Gluten Flours)
3. Udi's (Gluten-Free Bread, Muffins, Doughnuts, Bagels, and Cinnamon Rolls)
4. Glutino (Sandwich Cookies, Wafer Cookies, Crackers, Bagel Chips)
Top House-Name Brands:
1. Betty Crocker (Now makes a vanilla and cake chocolate cake mix as well as a chocolate chip cookie mix.)
2. Krusteaz (Gluten-Free Cornbread Mix and a Gluten-Free Pancake Mix)
3. Chex Cereals
4. Rice Krispies
Top Restaurant Chains:
1. Ruby's Diner
2. Red Robin
1. Outback Steakhouse (A Gluten-Free chocolate brownie is on their menu.)
2. Nothing Bundt Cakes