Food Allergies: Gluten (including recipes)

Jill Miles, Assistant to 100 Days of Real Food

Have you noticed lately that everyone seems to be avoiding certain foods for one reason or another?  Maybe it’s a food allergy or intolerance or perhaps just a dietary preference.  Whatever the reason, avoiding certain foods can present challenges for both eating and cooking, but, as I have found, you can overcome them.

My Story

I am Jill (assistant to 100 Days of Real Food) and a little over 2 years ago, my husband started suffering from digestive problems following back surgery.  After countless visits to doctors, including specialists, numerous medical tests and a weight loss of 40 pounds, we still had no answers.  While his most severe symptoms had subsided, he was still not feeling well and was continuing to lose weight.  Frustrated, we decided he should eliminate both gluten (despite him testing negative for celiac disease) and dairy (for which he had tested positive for a slight allergy although the doctors did not recommend avoiding it).  It has been about 9 months now and his weight has stabilized and he is feeling pretty well overall.  Even better news though is that his change in diet, although forced upon him, was really a gift.  His diet of highly processed foods was finally catching up with him, even placing him at risk for elevated cholesterol (combined with a family history of high cholesterol and heart disease).  Having to eliminate so much from his diet forced him to add in more whole foods, including fruits and vegetables.  So, at the end of the day, while the initial change in diet was both difficult and frustrating at times, the long-term health benefits have been immeasurable.

We still do not have a definitive answer as to whether gluten or dairy was the cause of his illness, and the only way to tell for certain would be to add it back to his diet and see what happens.  Right now we are not willing to do that as we are enjoying his improved health for this period of time, but we may eventually consider it just to know for sure.

Where Do I Start?

This was my biggest question and the one that caused me the most angst.  Once I got started though, it became easier and almost second nature to cook within the parameters of these new food omissions.  So, for starters, let’s focus on gluten first.  Over the next few months, I plan to post more on food allergies and intolerances, specifically gluten and dairy, so please stay tuned.

Naturally Gluten Free Foods

So the big question I get from family and friends is “what can he eat?”.    Here is a list of some more common naturally occurring gluten free foods.

  • Fresh fruit – all kinds
  • Fresh vegetables – all kinds
  • Potatoes
  • EggsGluten Free Recipes from 100 Days of Real Food
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Dairy
  • Oils
  • Whole Grains
    • Amaranth
    • Buckwheat
    • Corn
    • Millet
    • Oats (use certified gluten free to avoid cross-contamination)
    • Brown rice
    • Quinoa
    • Sorghum
    • Teff
    • Wild Rice

The bigger issue is with the food preparation.  For example, many marinades, dressings, sauces and other condiments contain wheat.  For this reason, I now make all of my own marinades, dressings and sauces, not to mention that making them myself ensures that they are free of added sugar and preservatives.  Additionally, there is the issue of cross contamination during food preparation with foods containing gluten.

What About the Rest of Your Family?

I am often asked if the rest of my family suffers from gluten sensitivity or intolerance and the answer is no. The obvious next question I usually get is “do you cook separate meals then or do you just have your whole family follow a gluten free diet?”  Again, the answer is no.  I do not (personally) believe that my children or I should avoid gluten without a medical reason to do so.  I believe a diet rich in whole grains is important.  A New York Times FAQ published last year quoted Michael Pollan as saying that “People who eat lots of whole grains are generally healthier and live longer than those who don’t.” In the same article Pollan also addressed gluten-free diets saying, “They are very important if you have celiac disease or can’t tolerate gluten. But it’s hard to believe that the number of people suffering from these conditions has grown as fast as this product category. Gluten has become the bad nutrient of the moment, the evil twin of Omega 3 fatty acids. Could it really be that bread, a staple of Western civilization for 6,000 years, is suddenly making millions of us sick? I’m dubious.”

So, how do I accommodate my husband’s gluten free diet while allowing the rest of my family to eat wheat?  For dinner, I most often cook a meal that is naturally gluten free.  If I make something containing gluten, like whole-wheat biscuits (which my kids love), he just doesn’t eat it.  On the occasion I serve a pasta dish, I make a gluten free sauce and prepare a separate gluten free pasta for him (like brown rice pasta) while the kids and I have whole-wheat pasta (although they are happy to eat the brown rice pasta too).  Breakfast is probably our biggest challenge when it comes to making pancakes and waffles because I do often find myself making a whole grain version as well as a gluten free one.  We all love oats too, so as long as I use certified gluten free oats, everyone can eat them and feel good.  And, finally, lunch…this is my easiest meal since my husband only eats this meal at home on the weekends…PHEW!

A Final Word About a Gluten Free Diet

A gluten free diet can present a challenge in regards to whole grain intake since it eliminates some of the most common sources of whole grain, including wheat, rye and barley.  Fortunately, it can also provide an opportunity to eat a more whole food diet as is evidenced by the list above.  While there are many refined gluten-free grain replacements such as cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca starch and white rice flour, the variety of nutritious gluten free whole grains is plentiful.  So, rather than having the gluten free diet be a challenge, look at is as an opportunity to increase both variety and nutrient content through the incorporation of the above mentioned gluten free foods, including whole grains.

I’d like to leave you with  two gluten free recipes to try that will help incorporate the whole grains listed above.

Two of our Favorite Gluten Free Recipes

Adapted from
  • ⅓ cup millet
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup whole milk or unsweetened almond milk
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • Optional - ½ whole apple, peeled and diced, or 2 tablespoons raisins
  • Optional – walnuts or almonds, about 1 tablespoon

    MilletPorridge Recipe from 100 Days of Real Food
  1. Combine millet, water, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and apples or raisins (optional). Bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer 25 minutes or until liquid is fully absorbed. Stir in maple syrup or honey and nuts (optional).

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 tomatoes (or equivalent amount of cherry tomatoes), chopped with juice
  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Let cool.
  2. Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, orange juice and salt and pepper to make dressing.
  3. Pour over quinoa and mix. Add all chopped vegetables and mix.
  4. Chill for a few hours before eating. Feel free to add whatever other vegetables you like.

    Quinoa Salad from 100 Days of Real Food


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  • Comments

    1. Sara |

      I am really looking forward to hearing more information about the dairy allergies specifically. My daughter has a dairy allergy and I am struggling to find real food substitutes for many things(butter, cheese, etc.)that are not completely fake and filled with chemicals. Many things claiming to be dairy free still have casein (the milk protein) in the particular food! Ugh… Thank you for you post! :)

    2. Cheryl |

      Thank you for the Millet Porridge recipe. My girls and I loved it. Although we don’t avoid wheat or gluten, we do look for ways to add variety into our diet.

    3. Nicole |

      Great Article, but to say that you have difficulty believing that wheat, which has been a staple in the diet for over 6000 years is suddenly making us sick….all you have to do is understand why modern wheat is not the same as our ancestors. The beggining chapters of the book, “Wheat Belly,” by Dr. William Davis will give you all the information that you need to understand this transformation. Wheat has been genetically modified, and is not the same structure including the high gluten contain which is why it is making so many allergic/intolerant to it today. The food supply is not the same,including corn, which allergies to are also skyrocketing. Please read, “Wheat Belly” before your next post, and you will understand why it is not a modern health food.

    4. Tobias |

      I strongly recommend that you do some additional reading on wheat and gluten allergies/intolerance. Bittman and Pollan can speak for themselves and possibly even a segment of the population. However, I’m convinced that wheat and grains in general are not healthy for some people.

      For many years, I suffered from major digestive upset,
      puffiness, flaky skin, etc. Over time, I experimented with elimination diets, becoming semi-vegetarian, eliminating sugars from my diet, etc., all to no avail. Then, after traveling to Europe on business trips and to visit family over a period of 5-10 years, I noticed that my stomach upsets subsided or disappeared entirely on these trips even though my diet was essentially the same. Numerous doctors assured me that my stomach problems were stress related or all in my head. However, after explaining my digestive and other issues to a naturopath at a pharmacy, it was explained to me that modern wheat (the common red semi-dwarf variety hybridized in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970’s that is ubiquitous today)could be the culprit and that there was no relation between old strains of wheat and the new hybrid. I found the most tolerable breads and pastries in Europe were those I ate in France where the new hybrid has limited market penetration. Shockingly the newer hybrid wheat looks like a completely different plant; that’s how much we’ve changed it.

      I must add that I have experimented with all of the refined gluten-free grain replacements you mentioned, including cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca starch and white rice flour. Though these refined products can be helpful in baking everything from gluten-free pancakes to cakes and cookies, they have a very high glycemic index and should not be eaten very often. The whole grains you listed – brown rice, millet, and quinoa are the better option.

    5. Meghan |

      What is the best flour to substitute for whole wheat flour in recipes? Gluten free all purpose flour is fairly expensive, can I use white rice or oat flour I make at home?

      • |


        The best flour for substituting whole wheat flour is typically a BLEND. Due to the lack of gluten, which gives it the light fluffy, airy appearance when cooked or baked – using a blend of flours with different properties helps.

        My favorite thing to do (being a non-recipe follower) is to use a formula (1 part protein flour) (1 part whole grain flour) (1 part starch). For example:
        1 part garbanzo flour
        1 part brown rice flour
        1 part tapioca or arrowroot flour/starch

        You can mix and match as you have things on hand, and eventually will find the mixtures you like best. My favorite flours to use are brown rice, millet, sorghum, amaranth, and buckwheat. Tapioca and arrowroot are my go-to starches, but potato ends up in there once in a blue moon. Almond, coconut, garbanzo, or fava bean flours are pretty decent, too, depending on the taste you like.

        We avoid corn here, due to the GMO factors and irritability of the stomach or indigestion when we eat it – but that is personal preference.

        Good luck!

        • Lee |

          When blending flours, which of each type (protein, whole grain, & starch) are the least processed? I’ve been using a lot of sweet rice sorghum and a lot of the starches but after reading some posts I’m thinking they are too processed. If you had to rank each of the types of flour for being least processed, what would be the best protein flour, whole grain flour, and starch.

          Thanks so much!

      • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill) |

        Hi Meghan. I often times substitute oats that I grind in my blender for other flours in recipes. I haven’t done it for baking though, just in breakfast type recipes like pancakes and waffles. Other than that, I try and use almond flour and coconut flour, but, they are not a 1:1 substitution. You will need to look for specific recipes using those flours. Hope that helps. Jill

    6. Yvette Apruzzese |

      Gluten gives elasticity to dough helping it to rise and to keep its shape. It is found in many staple foods in the Western diet. It is a protein composite found in wheat and other grains, including barley and rye and processed foods thereof. Gluten is composed of a gliadin fraction (alcohol soluble) and a glutenin fraction (only soluble in dilute acids or alkali)…

      Please do look over our new webpage

    7. Karla |

      I was diagnosed with celiac disease yesterday and came here today hoping to find some info on it on the 100 Days site. Yay! I just wanted to share since the story mentions testing negative for celiac. My mom was diagnosed in 2008. I was tested then and the blood test was negative. In 2010 I had an endoscopy and that was negative as well. Yet here I am, testing positive in 2013–and I’ve had the same symptoms since 2007 (growing more persistent in the last six months or so). My gastroenterologist says it’s possible the test back then wasn’t as good, or my condition wasn’t bad enough to test positive then. I never looked into the genetic test but that’s an option for people who have tested negative but wonder. I would love to see more about GF diets on this page as I embark on this adventure/journey!

    8. Jennifer |

      We have just started our gluten free journey. Where can you find gluten free oats? We love Lisa’s granola cereal and want to keep making it.

    9. Yvonne |

      Hello Jill,
      Thanks for your informative post on food allergies!
      With me allergies for gluten, dairy and some other foodstuffs have been discovered some 6 years ago by an elaborate blood test, which had an other outcome than the simple test in hospital. Anyway, since then I’m on a diet and take Chinese herbs to support the indigestion and give physical relief. And since then, I must say I feel more energetic and have a brighter mind!
      I recognize completely what you tell about changing the diet for a much better one. Apart from the possibilities you mention, I also use flour from soya and chickpeas. There is so much you can eat.

      Now at some point you mention your husband started having allergic reactions after having had surgery. Here in Holland (Europe) where I live, discussions are going on about possible effects of anesthesia, inoculation, radiation and a bad environment. I had some dental surgeries in my twenties, after which the problems started. Our wheat comes from Ukrain, where the Chernobyl disaster took place in the eighties. That place is still abandoned, like a ghosttown. Moreover, after the accident radiated clouds poored out rain, after having been blown from Ukrain to Western Europe. Another thing is, that wheat has been entirely ‘through-developed’ so to speak: it is so useful a grain for bread baking, it’s not the ancient wheat that our ancestors ate anymore. None of these things have proved to cause allergies, but there are doubts and scientist do not agree on this. All the best!

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