I had never heard of anyone being gluten free until 2001 when a friend told me she had celiac and could no longer eat any bread products. It was a surprise me to, but I adapted. From that time, I was amazed by the number of people I knew - both adults and children - who had issues with gluten. The number continues to grow, and I constantly hear people talk about the differences going gluten free makes.
Mister Man is also on the autism spectrum, and there are proven gut connections where many benefit from a gluten free or gluten free/dairy free diet. And by benefit, I'm talking significant behavioral changes that help reduce the impact of autism. I've been intrigued by this for Mister Man for a long time, but his autism is relatively mild, and it's a restrictive diet. And we all love our carbs around my house.
While at BlogHer in New York, I met with one of the sponsors, Udi's Gluten Free. I've heard of Udi's before - many times, in face. They are also a wonderful sponsor at AutismOne, a conference I attend annually, and I have friends who frequently enjoy the Udi's products. They are one of the "good" ones who have products that taste good without using the qualifier "for a gluten free item."
They offered me the chance to do a 14 day gluten free challenge, and I jumped on it. While Little Miss has a dairy allergy and we deal well with that, I don't want to put Mister Man on a trial of a far more restrictive diet without knowing that it is something I can do, too - and knowing that gluten issues are frequently genetic, I wanted to see if going gluten free would help me, too.
So on came coupons for me to purchase Udi's products for my gluten free challenge. I first headed to my local grocery store, and I was crushed and surprised to find that Dominick's does not carry Udi's products at all. Fortunately, we have another new grocery store in town, and they have plenty of Udi's products. In fact, it's possible that I stood there in front of the freezer (most Udi's products are kept frozen to prolong their life as the shelf life isn't very long) with my mouth hanging open, trying to figure out how on earth I was going to decide what to choose.
Fortunately, I did eventually make my decisions, and I headed home with a bunch of Udi's products. I was amazed by the variety, but I was happy to make space for them in my freezer.
I had everything covered from my standard breakfast of granola (many oats are tainted with gluten, so I couldn't just use my usual rolled oats and make granola like I normally do) to pizza for when my family wants to do our Monday Night Pizza Night to a special treat of cookies.
And so I started my gluten free journey.
The first day, I had some cinnamon raisin bread toasted. By the time I removed it from the toaster, Little Miss had already eaten half of one slice - after she'd finished her own breakfast. It was good, and I promised to share more with her later. I had chicken salad I made from scratch on some of the whole grain toast, as well. My only complaint with the bread is that the pieces are very small. They are larger than a playing card, but not by much. I know that our serving sizes have increased significantly over the years, but I would love to see a larger piece of bread. I assume the size has to do with baking issues for larger loaves, but ... I would like to see a larger piece regardless.
My only slip the first day was at Costco. I was diligently checking the samples to see if they had any wheat or wheat products and avoided those. When I got to the dark chocolate dipped pretzel crisps, I didn't check because I knew what was in them... and that there was no dairy. It wasn't until I was on my way home that it dawned on me that yes, a pretzel definitely has gluten. Oops.
Eating gluten free wasn't really a challenge for me, however. I'm lucky that I cook from scratch the majority of the time, so I can come up with all sorts of foods I enjoy that just happen to not include gluten. It did amaze me how careful I am with Little Miss - I check every ingredient on every item that she ingests - but it took me a few days to get into that habit for myself. I did get pretty good pretty quickly at googling "Is XXX gluten free" and finding pretty solid advice for the most part. I am happy to report that my nonfat chai latte at Starbucks is gluten free.
And my gluten free challenge went well. The hardest thing for me was when my family did pizza night. They ordered from the usual pizzeria, and the smell of the soft crust and the gooey cheese was really tempting. I baked my own Udi's pizza, and it was good, but it wasn't quite the same as pizzeria pizza. I did miss my gluten that night to some degree. However, I got smart and purchased Udi's pizza crusts so that I could make my own pizza the way I like it. The next time we had pizza night, my pizza was even more special than theirs - I made an awesome roasted garlic, goat cheese, prosciutto, and sun dried tomato pizza for myself. And the Udi's pizza crust is pretty good!
I will admit that the morning after my family had the pizzeria pizza, I pulled out the gluten free cinnamon rolls for myself. While the package doesn't give instructions on how to heat it (and it really should - I shouldn't have to google preparations for it), I figured it out. Simply wrap the cinnamon roll loosely in tin foil and place it in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. While it's cooking, let the icing warm up in a bowl of warm water (still sealed). It worked beautifully, and there was way more than enough topping. In fact, I ended up using some of the topping for cupcakes I made for Mister Man's birthday party for Little Miss since she's dairy free and couldn't have the maple cream cheese frosting. The cinnamon rolls had a gorgeous, soft texture and tasted way better than most commercially prepared cinnamon rolls. Four mornings, I was a very happy gluten free camper.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by all the Udi's options. Because the main restriction is bread and other carb-filled foods, that's where Udi's concentrates with everything from muffins (and muffin tops!) to cookies and granola and breads. I discovered when I was doing the gluten free challenge that I actually tended to eat less of the prepared gluten free food and more foods that happened to be gluten free - like smoked salmon or the "cream" of celery soup I made one night.
Even knowing I had the options of bread products that were gluten free helped lessen my fear that I was being deprived or my craving for them. And that's a good thing. I think that had I eaten every meal with a gluten free replacement, I would have gained weight because even gluten free, they're still carbs! Doing the gluten free challenge caused me to really eat mindfully, however, and think about the foods I was eating. Was I really hungry? Did I really want to eat that, or would I rather have something else? And that's something I can always do more of.
In fact, I am pretty sure I lost weight while doing the two week challenge. I don't have a scale, so I can't tell you for certain, but my jeans felt looser. And I have a stubborn high stomach area that sticks out all the time that was significantly reduced by the end of my two weeks on the gluten free challenge.
In fact, when my two weeks were up, I was afraid to try anything with gluten again. I have friends whose children vomit profusely when given gluten (that's in the minority and is a child with other significant allergies). I have friends who get severe stomach cramps or diarrhea or gas when they eat gluten after going gluten free. But after being reassured by some of my friends that if I hadn't felt significant differences after going gluten free (and I didn't) that any effects I did have would be short lived.
So I had half a bagel. And I was ok. For me, gluten free is not a necessity. And I'm still debating now whether I go this route with Mister Man, as well. That said, I do appreciate the benefits of gluten free alternatives. When I wanted a special treat, I made ginger pear crisp for Little Miss and me to share, using Udi's gluten free granola. And I have noticed that I have less of a craving for gluten filled items, which I think is good for me.
In the end? I'm glad I did the 14 day challenge. I may continue to do week long or two week long challenges from time to time because I think it's helpful to remind me of other, more mindful, ways to eat. And the Udi's products I tried were good - and there are plenty more than I haven't tried. Yet.
So how about you? Have you ever gone gluten free? Would you ever do it knowing that you can with Udi's gluten free options?
In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with free Udi's product to conduct the Udi's 14 Day Gluten Free Challenge. I received no other compensation, and all opinions are my own.