Keeping baby gluten free

Having a baby is an amazing experience, as my wife recently wrote about online.  It has its moments of joy and its moments of frustration too.  One of the harder things this first year, has been ensuring that my daughter is gluten free for her first year.  Given that I have a gluten intolerance, it is recommended that for the first year, my daughter also remain gluten free.  So … no wheat, barley, rye, or any other gluten-filled food for her the whole year.

As my daughter approaches her first birthday, I’m letting out a sigh of relief because it hasn’t been so easy finding gluten free foods for her along the way.  We make almost everything at home, and probably would anyway, regardless of GF.  The trouble is that there are very few early pre-packaged foods for infants on the market.  Even teething biscuits have gluten!  And, although in reading the labels on jarred food doesn’t reveal any outright gluten ingredients, one can’t be too careful.  It may be good if the big brands started having their food tested for gluten and labeling it as such.  Maybe it is in the works – who knows.  (Side note: my daughter never ate jarred food – she still rejects it all the time.  She also doesn’t take a bottle either, and hates formula!  I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing though.)

Here are some of the products that we’ve found along the way that are gluten free and have kept us going (in no particular order)…

  • Baby Mum-Mum - these rice biscuits are great for babies who are starting to teeth.  They melt in their mouths and are easy for them to hold and eat.
  • Plum Organics Super Puffs - these aren’t listed as gluten free, but there are no gluten ingredients listed.  We started these later in her first year.  Since she can’t have a lot of the standard Gerber products, these were the next best choice.  We wanted to be able to give her something she could grab and feed herself – a very important task for a little one.
  • Ella’s Kitchen - these are all organic, prepackaged (and the packaging is really cool!) baby foods.  Very good, very simple and just plain great for your baby.  My daughter finally took to these towards the end of her first year.  (It was nothing to do with Ella!, trust me)
  • Healthy Times Rice Cereal - very easy to make, just add some warm water and you are good to go.  My daughter has been enjoying this for dinner since she was about 4 months old. 
  • Mini Prep Food Processor  – ok, so you can’t actually eat the processor!  This is what I use to grind up things like cooked Bob’s Red Mill gluten free oatmeal, fresh blueberries, or pretty much anything else.  It only takes a few minutes to grind up some steamed/cooked veggies, and your baby will love it.

As with anything and everything related to gluten free eating, check with your doctor to do what’s right for you and your family.  Good luck and congratulations to all you new parents out there – it’s definitely a wild ride.



To feed or not to feed?

Those of us who are gluten free know that eating gluten today may not have an immediate impact, but over time, more and more gluten can begin to diminish the usefulness of our digestive symptons.  So, when  you inadvertantly have pasta, or are served GF food that in fact is not GF, it won’t show right away.  Essentially, if you feed it, it will grow.  To me this is very similar to what Carl Yung once said, “What you resist, persists.”  I choose not to resist my intolerance and be gluten free, and choose education as a path to understanding and acceptance.  Remember, it is not who I am.

It’s not who I am.

Part of being gluten free was acknowleding that I needed to be gluten free.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s words of wisdom, I’ve learned not to be afraid to tell people that I am gluten free.  With this in mind though, I don’t let it define who I am.  It’s just part of me.

There are a lot of things about me that better define ‘who I am’.  For instance, I am a father, a husband, a singer, a painter, and a poet.  When I tell people that “I am gluten free,” I am not making a statement about my identity, but rather a request that I am taking into consideration when a meal is planned or a restaurant is chosen. 

In other languages, such as French or Spanish, the direct translation of “I am Jason” is really, “I am called Jason.”  One is not identified by a name, but rather referred to by a name, and thus allowed to be identified by things much deeper, and perhaps of one’s choosing. 

My wife’s cousin, Sarah, has epilepsy.  She is incredibly wise for her age and has taken a similar approach to her life as I strive to in mine.  Her website http://itsnotwhoiam.com/ even states it very, very clearly.  She raises awareness about epiliepsy, involves community organizations in these efforts, and has a book written about her and how she defines herself and her approach to epilepsy.  Although her focus is on awareness of epilepsy, she does not let it define who she is, let it stop her from pursuing things, and certainly doesn’t wear it on her sleeves. 

Her same idea and approach is what led to this website – an idea that living gluten free isn’t about gluten free at all!  It’s about being me – the dad, the husband, the singer, the artist, and, now, one of the GF yodas.

Be honest, be Gluten Free!

Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are gluten free.  As Bill mentioned in his recent post, you have to be honest with yourself and others about your condition.  You don’t have to wear it on your sleeve, but you should be honest with others.  I was on an excursion driving to Amalfi, Italy when the guide asked, “Does anyone have any allergies?”.  I spoke up about being GF.  When I arrived, I had an entire GF meal – pasta and all!  I was amazed and glad I spoke up.  So, don’t be afraid – you never know what may show up on your plate.  People are amazing and never cease to surprise me.

Just the smell of wheat is making me itch!

I was sitting in the food court at a local mall this weekend in front of Sbarro – the italian restaurant.  We sat there because there was a high chair available for my daughter.  I immediately started to itch!  I had no idea why.  Then, it dawned on me – the first day of spring is just a couple days away.  Every year at this time, as the snow melts and the weather gets warmer, more and more allergens enter the air.  These all seem to meet inside my body.  I sometimes feel like I have ants in my pants!

One of my doctors described allergies to me this way, he said, “allergies are like a stopped up sink, the more allergens that fill the sink, the more it will overflow.”  This is where the itching comes in.  It’s not just from one allergen – wheat, it’s from a bastion of other things I am allergic too, and never knew about until developing an intolerance to wheat that flows through my blood stream. 

It’s essentially a kick in the pants to become even more strict than I already am with my gluten free diet.  What works in the dead of winter when no pollen is floating in the air, doesn’t work now.  So, if I am out at a restaurant, I have to say “please grill that chicken away from anything breaded”, or “please mix that caesar salad in a fresh cleanly washed bowl”, or I simply don’t eat out (and I love eating dinner out!).  I do have a small locally owned restaurant called Kelly’s Kitchen that has a gluten free menu and knows the system, so I’m fortunate.  Their gluten free and non-gluten free food is great in a town filled with pizza joints.  I don’t, like Bill, have PF Changs down the street, and I wish I did.

And so begins the season of very, very strict gluten free dieting, so that my ridculously itch body doesn’t itch anymore!

Gluten Free Traveling

Let’s face it, being on a gluten free diet and traveling is really a hassle.  When I first learned I needed to maintain a GF diet, I did what Bill did and pretty much binged on anything labeled GF that I could get my hands on – thankfully, I didn’t have the same results as Bill!  A lot of these things required making something at home, or being near a kitchen, so traveling became a real quandry.  Nowadays, there are a ton of GF options out there, many of which have always been GF (or have recently tweaked their recipe to be), and I didn’t realize it.

So, now, when I travel, I have a system – a list of items I bring along to eat.  No, I don’t make a batch of GF cookies, GF bread, and go skipping off to grandma’s house in my red cape.  I don’t gorge myself on GF stuff before I leave the house thinking that I won’t be able to eat until I return.  I, as many folks do, look for something handy, easy to carry and fits my diet – like a candy bar or power bar.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask for, even though we are GF.

I’m not saying you can’t bake till your hearts content and maybe even bring along a sandwich or two on your favorite GF bread.  For me, these things almost always seem to get crushed.  A PB&J sandwich that is moist and oozing out the side just doesn’t seem appealing to me.  I never liked being that kid in school with crushed cupcake and a soggy sandwich, and I don’ t like it now.

Enough babbling now … let me get to it.  Here’s my list – I get what I can, whereever I can find it, and go with it.

1) Larabars - you’ll find these with other healthy power barr, meal replacement bars, and the like.  They are small, easy to carry and tasts great.  My favorite is the Apple Pie!
2) Bora Bora bars – I just recently learned of these, and they are incredible.  These bars are all natural, organic, and gluten free!
3) Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal – all you need is a cup of hot water and you are golden.  I’ve asked many flight attendants for one and they’ve begun to bring packets of oatmeal themselves!
4) Snickers Bars – I am ok with these, but be sure to read the package in case you may not be.  The bite size ones have gluten, so don’t eat those.  I like snickers because if I am in a pinch, there’s usually a candy shop around!
5) Trail Mix – any brand will do.  There are many out there that are GF and also nut-free if you need.  I need the protein and the good fats, so I stick with the traditional kind with nuts and all.

This is just my short list.  You are going to want to do a bit of research ahead of your travel to find GF places to eat – unless you checked a bag of luggage full of pre-made items (which I wouldn’t recommend seeing as it’s extremely hot in the bowels of the plane!).  Goto GlutenFreeRegistry.com to see what’s out there, and if possible, as folks living in your destination to look around for you.  And – always remember to tell people  you are gluten free!  There’s nothing more heartbraking then arriving at your friend’s hose and they’ve made lasagna – the real deal!

Happy GF traveling!  (And if anyone else out there has some traveling favorites, please add to this list – we are always looking for new things to try!)

No toasting required: A review of UDI’s gluten free bread – Yummy!

udisgflogoMy sister-in-law (who is also gluten free) mentioned a brand called Rudi’s to me – she said that their bread was incredible.  “You don’t even need to toast it!” she said.  That’s a big deal when it comes to gluten free bread.  Most of the brands on the market fall short on that point and don’t really taste good or hold up well unless they come straight from the toaster.  So … I went a-lookin’ for Rudi’s bread, but found Udi’s instead (no relation).  Since I didn’t see Rudi’s, I thought, well, maybe I just heard wrong (yes, it does happen), so I bought the loaf of Udi’s.   Come to find out – Udi’s bread is incredible, and equally holds up to the no-toaster-required test.

Bread is very specific in quality and texture.  You need the right combination of yeast, wheat and a bunch of other things to hold it together, get those nice air pockets that burst in the oven, and to have it rise just the right amount.  This is a big cunundrum on the side of gluten free.  The yeast can be there, but the wheat can’t – and the gluten can’t either (which tends to hold a lot of things together).  So … when I pulled a piece of bread from the package and felt it’s spungy texture and quality, I was amazed.  I don’t know what they did, but I’m sure someone in that bakery spent A LOT of time, effort, and money (because GF ingredients don’t come cheap) to come up with just the right balance to make such a clone of its gluten-filled brother bread.

udisbreadI slathered on some jelly and some peanut butter and went to town.  YUM!  No toasting, just right out of the package.  Like a kid pulling a couple slices of wonderbread for his PB&J, I was in heaven.  It had been a long, long time since I had a non-toasted sandwich that I enjoyed.  I handed it to my wife for a bite and she was impressed too.  That week I finished 2 loaves of bread – PB&J, deli sandwiches, grilled cheese (dunked in tomato soup, of course), the list goes on…

Here’s the thing (and I think this applies to a lot of GF foods), I hadn’t even heard of UDI’s until about a month ago – crazy as it seems – because it wasn’t in my local health food store yet.  I’m always hesitant to try any new breads party because they are expensive and partly because nothing really holds up.  I’m glad UDI’s products are now local to me.  It’s interesting how our gluten free world becomes limited by what’s in our local grocery store or health food market.  I’ve not tried to by GF foods online because I like to read the package, smell it if I can, and look at the product, otherwise, perhaps my GF world would grow.  On the other hand, I really like giving my business to my local health food store – the Health Food Corner whenever possible.

One last thing about UDI’s – I really like their GF philosophy.  They are great artisans who want to make sure that even those of us with gluten intolerance can enjoy the simplest of things in life – a good piece of bread.  (My mouth is watering for some bread and butter now!)

So … now you know why I list UDI’s bread on my GF starter’s list.  It’s the best I have had – and I don’t have to bake it myself!  You can buy UDI’s bread all over the place.  Click here to find out where you can find a loaf near you, or you can buy some online at UDI’s Online Store.

P.S.  I still haven’t had Rudi’s yet … at some point I’m going to try it though.  My sister-in-law has good GF taste – so I trust her when it comes to these things!

Ahh!, Gluten Free! Now What?! – A starter guide to the best gluten free products

Ok, so you just got home from the doctor’s office and are now frantically searching the internet for ‘gluten-free’ and wondering what the heck to do.  You may even have plans next weekend to go out and you’re wondering, ‘what will I be able to eat?’.  Then, it dawns on you … ‘holy crap!  I can’t have bread.  I can’t have beer. I can’t have cookies, cakes, or pasta!’

Calm down!  You can eat plenty!  For instance, potato chips are ok. You can still have a steak.  And, you can probably still have coffee.

It took me a long time and a lot of money to figure out what tasted good, and what I may want to pass over during my next grocery trip.  Gluten-free products have come a long way in the past ten years.  It was rare back then to see anything prepackaged, and mostly I just went without, or tried to make something at home that ended up tasting sandy, lifeless, and fell apart before making it to my mouth.  So, if you’re just starting out gluten-free, print out this list before your next shopping trip – you won’t be disappointed.  (Disclaimer: Read the labels in case there’s other things you can’t have!! )

  1. There are a few gluten free product reviews on a site called Qwowi.com, you may recognize the author.  Look for more of these types of reviews here at GFY.
  2. Celiac.com is another very good site for tips on how to keep on a gluten free diet – recipes, links and shopping can all be found there.
  3. Most local grocery stores how have natural food sections – this is where you can find gluten free products.  Here’s a few brands to stick with:
    1. Udi’s – they make the best GF bread out there.  (I’ve been told that Rudi’s is very similar, but I have yet to try it).  This bread doesn’t need to be toasted like other GF brands.  You can just plop your ham and cheese on it and go.  They make a really good cinnamon raisin too!
    2. Glutino – very good brand.  They make the closest thing you’re going to get to an Oreo.  Christine has even tried them and agrees.  As with all GF things, the difference often comes in texture, not taste.  I noticed that over time, I don’t even notice anymore.
    3. Mi-Del makes decent cookies as well – ginger snaps and oreo-like, both are good.
    4. DeBoles and other past brands make decent corn & rice pastas.  The best way to go with pasta is corn.  If you can find corn spaghetti or other pasta, go with it.  It holds up like wheat when boiled and baked.  The rice can be finicky and fall apart.
    5. Amy’s is another brand that has gluten-free options.  They make frozen dinners and such.  They also have a pretty decent pizza crust too.
    6. Foods by George is very good as well.  They make a really good brownie!  Put it out when company is over and no-one will know the difference.  They make really good muffins too.  Be sure to heat the muffins up for better results – again, without the gluten things are either really dry or really moist.
    7. Pamela’s is best for their pancake and baking mix.  The pancakes are great.  I make them every weekend.  The cookies that they sell are a bit dry, so it depends on what you like.  Get the pancake mix though!!
    8. Bob’s Red Mill makes GF oatmeal.  Oatmeal doesn’t contain gluten as wheat and all.  The reason why some celiac and GF folks stay away from oats is because they are processed in the same facilities as wheat and all.  Bob’s isn’t and it’s good.  I eat it and so does my 9 month old daughter (who must remain gluten free her first year).
    9. Cherrybrook Kitchen is another maker of baking goods.  Cake mixes, etc. – they’re all good.
    10. Believe it or not, Betty Crocker has GF stuff now too – right in the same aisle as the other baking goods.  The cake and cookies are great.
    11. EnjoyLife has come very good cookies – snickerdoodles, ginger, oatmeal raisin, etc.  They are all pretty good and they don’t have a lot of other common allergens in them either
    12. Liz Lovely has a GF line of cookies – very, very good.  We get these a lot.  My wife eats these instead of the gluten-filled ones too.  Any of the ones they make are great.  (More on these in future posts!)
    13. Chex cereals are now GF.  They’ve been advertising and all too.
    14. Fruity Pebbles is GF too!  Check the box and you’ll see.
    15. Aleia’s almond horn cookies – really good.
    16. Kinnikinick makes excellent donuts – the cinnamon sugar are great.
    17. Larabars are great on-the-go type bars.  They are gluten free.
  4. Read up on what has gluten and what doesn’t, and be sure to read labels.  Depending on how sensitive (or strict) you want to be, there are many folks who would argue that most store-bought, prepackaged things have some sort of wheat or oat-based product in them, including things like red-dye #9 and all those other fillers.  Wheat is a common filler to a lot of products, even some over the counter medicines and vitamins.  Again, be careful or as cautious as you need to be.
  5. Remember, there are A LOT of things you can still eat – potatoes, rice, corn, buckwheat (actually a seed, not a grain and no relation to wheat at all), nuts, soy etc.  All of these can still be consumed without worry of gluten.  All fruits and vegetables too.  There’s no gluten in meats either.
  6. For breading things for cooking – either crush up corn flakes or potato chips.  They both work well when breading chicken or creating some sort of beer-batter for frying.  In my opinion, they sometimes taste better anyway.
  7. Beer – there are a lot of beers out there now that are gluten free.  Bud makes a beer called Red Bridge.  It’s very good.  It’s made with sorghum instead of barley and wheat.  Sorghum beer has been being brewed for centuries in Germany and other countries, so it’s not anything novel, other than it’s gluten free and you can still have a beer with friends.  As for other alcohol, you just have to do your homework – some vodkas are, as well as some whiskey’s and scotch.

Good luck and stay tuned for more from two guys who live gluten free!

welcome to gluten free yodas!

Here at Gluten Free Yodas (GFY), we want offer a different perspective on living gluten free.  Whether you have lived gluten free since birth or have  just learned that you need to live gluten free, there is an entire world of reviews, testimonials, recipes, and other GF blogs out there.  Our mission is to provide advice and experience from an honest and forthright perspective.  While our focus may take more of a male slant, our sentiments cross gender boundaries.

Living gluten free in today’s world is far less complicated than it was 10 years ago.  Now, most supermarkets have a small corner dedicated to ‘natural foods’ and often label a section of an aisle as ‘gluten free’.  Have you ever noticed the prices on some of the items?  Yikes!  Compared to their gluten-filled cousins, these products can sometimes be double (or more) the cost.  Allow our product reviews and our lists of GF favorites to be your guide, and to help save you a dollar or two.  Living gluten free all these years, we have learned a thing or two about products, on-the-go tricks, and general “What the heck am I going to eat at the game tonight? – I can’t drink beer and I can’t have pizza!” quandaries.

We hope our blog breaks down misconceptions of living gluten free and offers new perspectives from two dudes who live gluten free.  (And still drink beer too!)

coming soon …

A blog about gluten free living, the transition into gluten free, and other musings from two guys who live gluten free

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