I did it! I have successfully been wheat-free for 90 days without so much as one slip-up. The good news is, I have never felt better. The bad news is that the osteoarthritis in my hands does not feel any better. When I committed to removing wheat from my diet I knew it might not help my hands, but I am still glad that I tried it and I plan to continue being wheat-free as the other benefits are well worth it.
I can honestly say that for me going wheat-free has been easy. I didn’t expect to say that 90 days ago. I tell people that if I had been a daily sandwich eater it would have been a bigger adjustment – thankfully I was not. Bread is only tempting when it’s a wonderfully crusty Italian bread or French baguette, so for the most part I’m not even tempted.
What do I miss most? Water crackers. Yes, plain old water crackers. Who would have thought that? While there are plenty of good wheat-free/gluten-free crackers out there, most have added flavors like nuts or seeds. I want the cheese to shine, not the cracker. The closest I have found to a plain cracker is Schar’s Table Cracker.
Other good, if not great, substitutes for food that is typically made with wheat:
• Pasta – I prefer corn pasta to brown rice pasta as it’s closer to traditional wheat pasta. Le Veneziane and Schar are my two favorites.
• Couscous or Bulgur Wheat – Substitute quinoa for any recipes that call for these ingredients. Not only will it make it wheat-free/gluten-free but it will also add more protein. I’ve even made a quinoa risotto (arborio rice is wheat-free, I just thought I’d try something different).
• Baking Flour – Cup4Cup flour has been a tremendous find and allowed me to make my favorite cookie in a wheat-free/gluten-free form. Could you make something like this on your own? Yes, but it would take a lot of effort. I figure if it’s good enough for The French Laundry, it’s good enough for me.
Some other observations from being wheat-free for 90 days:
• When dining out it is much, much easier to say I am “gluten-free” instead of “wheat-free” – I achieve the same outcome without adding an extra layer of confusion. Plus occasionally people think I’m saying “meat-free” instead of “wheat-free!”
• Indian, Vietnamese and Thai cuisines are very wheat-free/gluten-free friendly as many of the ingredients are made from rice or legumes (lentils, chickpeas, etc.).
• There are a lot more wheat-free/gluten-free options both at restaurants and on the shelves at the grocery store than ever before. I imagine if I had done this just three years ago it would have been much harder.
Not only am I feeling better overall, going wheat-free has made me more creative in the kitchen. I love the challenge of finding a way to eat something I really like while making sure I remain wheat-free.
A big thank you to my husband, Ed, who has been very supportive, plus my family and friends who have happily adapted to suit my change in eating. Special mention goes to all the wait staff and kitchen staff who have had to answer my ingredient questions.