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What To Eat On A Gluten Free Diet
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You've just been told that you need to change your entire diet over to gluten free. That wheat, which is supposed to be 'so healthy' is actually making you or a loved one sick! Whether the change in diet is to benefit to yourself or a loved one, the reaction is undoubtedly the same...SHEER PANIC!

A typical reaction for people in that position is, "What? I can't eat bread anymore? What in the world am I going to eat? I'm going to STARVE!" Sound familiar? Gluten is in EVERYTHING, right? Because bread is such an important, and prevalent, staple in most people's diets, it's understandably concerning when the 'go gluten free' bomb is dropped. But, although it can seem extremely daunting, there really isn't a big need to worry.

Luckily, with published gluten free baking pioneers like Bette Hagman and Carol Fenster, along with the thousands of other resources available on the internet, the switch from a regular diet to a gluten free one doesn't have to be as painful as it appears at first glance.

So what happens now? One of your first reactions was probably to hit the internet for answers, right? Your first search probably resulted in thousands of websites to fish through and find something that looked familiar and somewhat edible. But, which are the best? How do you know YOUR family will eat that stuff? What are all those crazy ingredients like Garfava flour and Xanthan Gum? WHO EATS THIS STUFF?

To say, "Don't worry, you'll be fine" is nothing short of a slap in the face sometimes - especially when it's coming from someone who's never been through it. But, really, it's not something you need to be overly worried about. Gluten free foods DO taste different, and it is a bit of an adjustment, but you can handle it! YOU CAN DO IT!

The first thing you need to do is take a deep breath. Then square your shoulders and tell yourself that it's not the end of the world! Next, you need to educate yourself on the different flours available. Because they're all made from different beans, seeds, nuts, and grains, they'll each have their own distinct flavor and cooking properties. One thing they ALL have in common, though, is that they can't be used alone as cup-for-cup replacements of wheat or regular white flour. They HAVE to be mixed with at least one other flour AND cut with a starch of some kind.

You'll also need a 'binding agent' of some sort. In some foods, like pancakes, eggs are a sufficient binder. Otherwise, you'll need Xanthan Gum or Guar Gum (be prepared for a little 'sticker shock', too. Unfortunately, it's not cheap stuff!) Without blending the flours with a starch, you'll end up with a product that, for example, tastes like chickpea flour - gross for a 'bread taste', and will be hard as a rock. If no binder is used to mimmick the 'gluing' properties of gluten, your product will end up as a pile of crumbs. (Speaking from experience here!)

With that being said, though, you DON'T have to have 37 different exotic, expensive flour combinations on hand to survive. For sandwich bread, a blend of white rice flour, millet flour, and tapioca starch is a great blend. For heavier breads, like French bread or English muffins, white rice flour, a bean flour (like garbanzo or pinto bean) and potato starch (potato flour is NOT the same thing!) is a great combination.

The bottom line is - don't let this overwhelm you. There are TONS of awesome resources and easy recipes available to people who are just starting a gluten free diet. You're NOT going to starve, and you CAN do it!


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