I once went for pizza with a lactose-intolerant boyfriend. We thought it would be cute if we tackled a slice of pizza together — I’d eat the cheese and he’d eat the crust. Guess what? It was just sad. We looked ridiculous and people stared.
Being gluten-sensitive isn’t like having other food allergies: Your throat won’t close up if you accidentally ingest it, you won’t break out into hives, and your stomach (for the most part) will be fine. You’re also not restricted from one food group or confined to eating “bunny chow.”
Finding substitutions so you can still eat your favorite dishes without risking damage to your immune system may be the worst part. The silver lining: You get to experiment in the kitchen, be creative when dining out and become a better cook and culinary enthusiast in the process. Here are some easy swap-outs (and ins) that will simplify your quest to a satisfying meal.
Hearty and easy to make, lasagna is a staple on favorite food lists.
Swap out: Noodles.
Swap in: Layers of thinly sliced zucchini, summer squash or eggplant. You’ll get an extra boost of nutrition from the veggies while still enjoying your favorite lasagna filling (do I hear extra ricotta?)
Burritos and Quesadillas
Simple, tasty, ever-so portable and versatile and…made with flour. Think you’re stuck when your friends go out for Mexican? Think again.
Swap out: A tortilla-clad burrito.
Swap in: Nachos. The chips are made from corn tortillas and are gluten-free. Cheese, sour cream, pickled jalapeños, guacamole, meat and veggies all are too. (Just try to keep roaming hands away from your plate.)
Pasta is one of the more notorious foods forbidden to the gluten-free community.
Swap out: All wheat pasta (that includes whole wheat and enriched white).
Swap in: Risotto.
Dining at an Italian restaurant? Order the risotto. Making Italian at home? Make exactly what you were going to make, primavera, puttanesca, broccoli rabe with garlic and chile flakes, shrimp fra diavolo, just be creative! Stir your additions and variations into the pot when the rice is al dente or serve on top.
Looking for a quick lunch, you’re perusing the menu only to see that the sandwich section is significantly larger than the salad offerings.
Swap out: The look the sandwich assembly-person gives you.
Swap in: (As politely as you can) “I’d like the smoked chicken, brie and green apple sandwich…but instead of a baguette, I’d like those toppings on a salad.” You don’t have to explain yourself, just smile and enjoy!
If you’re not ready to broach the topic of alternative flour blends (and the wonky baking techniques that accompany them) and you’re not allergic to sugar or dairy...
Swap out: The 3 C’s: cakes, cookies, and crusts
Swap in: The big S: spoon.
Many desserts you eat with a spoon are gluten-free, but since some call for small amounts of flour depending on the recipe, check the label or ask your waiter to make sure. There are usually hidden gems on the menu just waiting to be eaten with gusto, like ice cream, sorbet, panna cotta, flan, pudding, mousse, crème brûlée, fudge, brittle, soufflés, meringues, mochi, poached or grilled fruit, lemon curd and, of course, flourless chocolate cake.
Now does that sound like deprivation?