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. Jennifer |

      Great post! Possible breakfast solution: I’ve made Lisa’s waffle recipe with “oat flour” that I make by pulsing rolled oats in the food processor. I’ve done a 1-to-1 replacement of the oat flour for the whole wheat flour and they’ve turned out great :) I found that the waffles are better if the batter can sit for a few minutes (about the time it takes the waffle iron to heat up) and I stir it in between each waffle.

      • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill) |

        Hi Jennifer. Thanks for the tip…I think I will have to give that a try. Jill

    2. Audra |

      My husband is either celiac or gluten intolerant. He tested negative for Celiac disease but his mother had a biopsy that tested her positive for the disease. He had so many intestinal and skin problems and as soon as he eliminated gluten, they all stopped. We have 3 small children who are not gluten free and I prepare our meals as so. I choose to also prepare mostly naturally gluten free foods- fruits, vegetables, and proteins. If I choose to make pasta, I just make him a pot of gluten free pasta or if we want pancakes, we all love the Bisquick gluten free pancake mix. If I need something special, such as a marinade or sauce I find a way to make it or find it in the health food stores. We don’t make a lot of the gluten free desserts as they are very unhealthy with a lot of butter or lard. Instead my husband eats more cereals and fruits and yogurts. I find he now eats much healthier.

    3. Karen |

      Thank you for this post! I love your recipes and dedication to whole foods. I have recently eliminated gluten from my diet, and although I tested negative for celiac, I had many of the classic symptoms and eliminating gluten and most grains as well has made a huge difference in my life. Weird issues that no dr ever figured out went away, along with my anxiety and mild depression, which I have been dealing with for years! I think the other commenter meant to say “Wheat Belly” for recommended reading. It’s fascinating! And while I love Michael Pollan, I have to disagree just a bit. The wheat that we are eating today is nothing like the wheat we used to eat. Most breads and food used to be fermented or sprouted before cooking or eating, which makes grains and wheat much easier to digest. Same with dairy, it was usually extremely fresh or fermented, which added lots of healthy probiotics and helped people have a healthy gut. I would also recommend a book I am reading right now called “Deep Nutrition”. She talks about how important sprouting and fermenting are, among other things.
      Anyway, thanks again for your blog and making real food seem doable and making the information so accessible.

      • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill) |

        Hi Karen. Glad you are feeling better and that eliminating gluten from your diet has made such a huge difference in your health. Thanks for sharing the information on wheat and one theory for the increase in gluten sensitivity/intolerance and celiac disease. Glad you are enjoying the blog as well. Jill

    4. K |

      Two questions: Do you make bread for him? If so, how do you avoid the tapioca, white rice flour, cornstarch, etc? I just eat Ezekiel Bread, as it is sprouted and thus there is no gluten! :)

      Secondly, it is a VERY good thing you and your children are still eating gluten, because when you eliminate it from your diet for more than a month, your body develops an intolerance to it – which is irreversible. So, when/if you and your husband decide to test his sensitivity to the gluten down the road, just know that it is nearly an absolute surety that he will react to it (regardless of whether it was the true cause of his digestive issues in the first place).

      Not in any way trying to be negative. I really enjoyed your post. Thank you for sharing your family’s journey!

      • AK |

        While the sprouting process, due to enzymatic activity, changes gluten to be more digestable, people with Celiac disease should still avoid it. Same with sourdough, etc.

      • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill) |

        Hi K. I don’t make bread for him, he just doesn’t eat it anymore (he could never find any he liked that were healthy as you stated). I saw another reader responded as well, but, my understanding of Ezekial bread is that is is not certified gluten free. Glad you enjoyed the post. Jill

    5. Hally |

      Nice post! One out of my family of five is gluten-sensitive, and it kills me when people ask, “what does he eat????” His favorite foods are bananas and grapes!

      My family does bio-feedback treatment approximately once a month, and at one session our naturapath told us gluten was bad for our 2 year old son. We hadn’t noticed digestive issues with him, but we cut it out – and lo and behold his *behavior* changed. Enough gluten makes him, for lack of a better term, *wild.* We can tell when he’s been to Grandma’s and, oops, had a few cookies. :) My two daughters are also dairy intolerant (no cow milk, though small amounts of cheese are OK – this one is digestive), and one of those daughters also has emotional/behavior issues related to corn and cane sugar. (Those are the hardest, mostly if we eat out.) I also cook the same for everyone. If we have pasta, it’s brown rice pasta. (Which I actually prefer to whole wheat pasta.) Alas, I don’t make my amazing homemade “cream corn” cornbread, but it’s a small price to pay. I guess I feel fortunate that, even in the case of the digestive issues with milk, we don’t have issues that those with celiac and other conditions have with cross-contamination, etc. A small amount of exposure does not seem to cause issues, so for that I’m thankful.

      In looking up information about Kamut, I read an article that posed that the numerous sensitivities to wheat nowadays have to do with the way it has been modified and processed over the years. This article stated that Kamut, being an “ancient” wheat (think: heirloom tomatoes, I guess), it would not affect those with gluten issues the same as “standard” wheat. Wondering if anyone else has heard this or seen any evidence of such.

    6. julia |

      Please do not be swayed by K’s post. Ezekiel bread contains wheat, barley, millet and spelt — all gluten-containing grains. One can even find wheat gluten in the ingredients. Also, the second paragraph most will disagree with. It is simply an opinion with no scientific backup. Read Wheat Belly and come to your own conclusion.

    7. Alyssa |

      Great article. Read the book Wheat Belly for more info on why gluten and wheat are completely unnecessary for our health, and in fact may be a detriment.


    8. Kristen |

      My son went through this a few years ago. Most doctors use the IgE or RAST test to determine food allergies. However, many people have a food intolerance, not an actual allergy. Food intolerances can be diagnosed with an IgG blood test. This test shows how the immune system reacts to food. Any Naturopathic Doctor (ND) can do this test, most regular MD’s do not. I highly recommend using an ND for health care if you are experiencing food intolerance issues. They can also help you desensitize your body to foods that you may actually be allergic to. It was the best thing we ever did for our son!

      And for “K”…. I hope you were not misinformed, but it is not true that if you eliminate gluten for more than a month, your intolerance is irreversible. My son had no gluten for almost two months and we SLOWLY and specifically introduced it back and he now eats a normal diet with no gluten issues. That’s why I recommend getting help from an ND who can guide you through.

      • AK |

        Would love to see some research backing up your second paragraph. Thanks!

        • Kristen |

          AK….I’m sure there is research out there, but I speak from personal experience for my son with gluten, and myself with an oat issue. We followed the guidelines provided by our ND and US Biotek Laboratories that conducted our tests. Please be aware that many MD’s disregard the practice of natural medicine, but we chose to seek it when our doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, but our body was clearly telling us something was! It was the springboard to us switching to a whole foods diet! :)

    9. Stephanie |

      Glad someone mentioned the book Wheat Belly. I read it as well, and I have also read Michael Pollan. As you show with your recipes, there are more grains than just gluten containing ones… I definitely recommend reading the book by Doctor Davis.

    10. Liesel |

      Timely post. I am currently working to figure out my stomach issues. Currently I have begun a Lactose Free diet, and have blood work in for Celiac Disease (so gluten may well be next). The lactose free diet hasn’t really done anything yet, but I’ve got a couple more weeks of this trial. We love our breads (see: gluten containing whole grain) and giving them up will seem very difficult, but we also love our quinoa as a side to almost any protein. (Do a dish with sauteed onion (and or shallot/leeks whatever we have) garlic then “scent” it with cumin and toss with cilantro and or various grilled veggies, lastly top with avocado. It’s such a hit in our house.

      • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill) |

        Hi Liesel. Best of luck with your path to finding out what’s behind your stomach issues. Thanks for the recipe as well. Jill

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