We recently had to put my little guy back on a gluten-free diet. Jake had been going wheat-free for a couple of months about a year ago after experiencing headaches that we thought were caused by gluten. Although he tested negative for celiac disease, he tested positive for the gene, which makes him 4 times more likely to get it. Honestly, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, and reintroduced gluten after his headaches went away, but at our recent annual visit, our pediatrician strongly suggested we cut out gluten as it could be impairing his growth while increasing his risk factor with the gene. Yikes!
So, here we are again. Except for the occasional slice of birthday cake at a party, we are switching out his favorite pasta and sourdough bread. These aren’t big changes, and thankfully, it’s not a big deal for me, as much of what I cook is already gluten-free since I try to avoid it myself, but cooking gluten-free and vegan can be challenging. Sticking to vegetables and whole grains like brown rice isn’t too hard for me, but it can be a little more trying for a 7 year-old. Many gluten-free products contain egg because of the density of the rice and wheat-free flours used.
What’s a mama to do? I still want my son to get excited about his foods and not be bummed out. He is very aware of the change to his diet and asks me constantly about his favorite foods, “Is this gluten?” I am so proud of his positive outlook, and for the most part, acceptance of his new diet, but I want to make the transition as seamless as possible.
I am hoping to switch out his favorites with ease. Luckily, there are an abundance of gluten-free products available. I attended Natural Products Expo West earlier this month and discovered some fabulous products like these chickpea breadcrumbs from WATUSEE Foods. There are so many options available.
Below are a few of my tips for cooking and eating gluten-free and vegan, as well as a list of my favorite products to try.
Tip #1: Replace whole wheat grains and pastas with brown rice, millet, amaranth, or quinoa.
With all the options available, it’s not too hard to opt for these vegan and gluten-free grains. For wraps, I use corn tortillas, Rudi’s gluten-free tortillas, and nori seaweed sheets.
For pasta, there are an abundance of gluten-free and vegan options. Trader Joe’s sells a quinoa & brown rice corkscrew that is great.
For snacks, I turn to popcorn, nuts, and rice crackers along with fruits and veggies with hummus. Glutino and Trader Joe’s have gluten-free pretzels too.
Tip #2: Batch cook and freeze baked goods.
If you can’t find a local bakery that specializes in gluten-free with vegan options, then I suggest making a batch of cookies, muffins, etc. and keeping them in the freezer for when you need a sweet treat. I am lucky to have two bakery options close to where I live, but I do like to bake some things every once in a while. Julie’s Original is my go-to gluten-free and vegan baking mix. Enjoy Life Foods offers a great selection of ready-made cookies and bakery products.
Tip #3: Explore and discover, but don’t overwhelm yourself.
There are so many great gluten-free and vegan products available today. Check out your local Whole Foods or natural foods store and you will find lots of choices. It is easy to become overwhelmed by it all, but try to keep it fun and light. Try a new product every time you go to the store. Before you know it, you will have a list of favorites to choose from. Amy’s Foods offers some great frozen pizza choices (one of my son’s favorite food groups!) and they also make a great vegan and gluten-free chili that my family loves.
Tip #4: Check your labels.
Aside from the obvious wheat and grains, it is also important to check your food labels. Gluten is found in many naturally vegan things things. Soy sauce, for example, contains gluten, as does my son’s favorite veggie sausage. Check your labels and shop around for a substitute. I use tamari now, for example, instead of regular soy sauce.
Is gluten a concern in your household? Tell me what is most challenging about eating gluten-free and vegan in the comments section below. Let’s help each other! And if you haven’t received a copy of my Vegan Family Dinners cookbook-let, download it for free here. It includes a gluten-free lasagna recipe!