I moved to Canada more than 14 years ago. Ever since, I’ve noticed that something in my organism, or the way I digest my food, has changed dramatically.
One of the hardest things to get used to, was gluten. In Canada, gluten is almost a staple. Whether it’s bread, pasta or baked goods, gluten is everywhere, and in so many of the things we eat.
In Colombia, we are heavy starch eaters, but we don’t have a gluten-heavy diet. Potatoes, yucca, plantains, yams – you name it, if it’s a starch, we probably eat it. We’re also consummate corn eaters. In fact, I’m convinced that if you tested me in a lab, you’d find I’m probably about 70% corn.
But gluten was a new thing, and either I didn’t like it or, more likely, it wasn’t crazy about me. So I started looking more carefully into what gluten is, how our bodies react with it, and where it comes from.
I found friends and clients who followed a 100% wheat– and gluten-free diet, either because of an allergy or an intolerance or because they realized that they felt better. Through them, I started applying what I learned to my own diet.
What I’ve found is that when I eat too much gluten, or gluten that’s been too heavily processed, I can suddenly look (and feel) like I’m 6-months pregnant overnight. When I remove gluten (and dairy) almost completely from my day-to-day meals, my tummy gets flatter, my energy goes up like a rocket and I can actually stay awake past 8:30 p.m.
But we all know how time-consuming it can be to check every ingredient on every label at the supermarket. So to help myself – and now you! – I’ve prepared the following gluten– and wheat-free cheat sheet that I take with me whenever I go shopping:
Foods that ARE Gluten Free:
- Amaranth, arrowroot, annatto,
- Baking soda, buckwheat (beware of buckwheat flour that is combined with other flours),
- Butter, (beware of additives),
- Carob flour, cellulose gum (I opt for keeping it out of the list of products I buy) cheeses (beware of blue cheeses such us Roquefort), chickpeas, corn, cream of tartar,
- Flax seeds, fruits (plain)
- Gelatin, guar gum,
- Kasha, roasted buckwheat
- Maltodextrin (unless derived from barley; In the US, this starch is usually corn; in Europe, it is commonly wheat), masa-harina, meat (plain) millet, MSG (I opt for keeping it out of the list of products I buy)
- Nut flours (check if the package mention the facilities where they are processed)
- Pasta (made from rice, corn or quinoa) polenta, potatoes
- Sago, sorghum, sesame seeds, soy, starch,
- Wheat free tamari (remember that wheat free doesn’t mean gluten free), tapioca, teff,
- Vegetables (plain)
- Vinegar (beware of malt vinegar)
- Xanthan gum
Foods that are NOT Gluten Free:
- Barley, bulgar, bran
- Flours (usually from wheat)
- Gardein, Graham flour
- Malt/extract/syrup/vinegar (unless derived from corn — must are derived from barley)
- Oats/bran/syrup (Big discussion about organic oats — your choice)
- Wheat based pasta
- Seitan, semolina, regular soy sauce, spelt
- Teriyaki sauce, triticale
Unusual Foods that MIGHT Contain Wheat or Gluten (Beware!)
- Low fat or fat free spreads
- Some canned vegetables
- Flour thickened sauces, dressings and vinaigrettes
- Soups (can and from an envelope)
- Ice creams
- Food colouring
- Modified starches
- Bouillon cubes
- Cottage cheese
- Some herbal teas
- Instant coffee
Let me know if you have anything I should add to my list!
Here in winter-locked Canada, beautiful beets are now officially in season!
In addition to being a colourful addition to salads and a great natural sweetener, beets have also recently been found to be a possible treatment for high blood pressure!
People who drank a glass or two of beetroot juice a day (store-bought or homemade) found their blood pressure decreased by up to 10 points.
So if you have hypertension, or just want to remind your taste buds that fresh summer salads are just around the corner — think beets!
Farmers Market Day 1
I have a confession to make. I am salad challenged.
In fact, if they ever publish a cookbook called Salads 101 – A Quick and Easy Guide to Salad Freedom, I’ll be the first one in line to buy it. I don’t think it’s a Latin American thing, so maybe it’s a Colombian or regional challenge? Or perhaps, ashamed as I am to admit it, maybe it’s just my family.
All I know for sure is, at home, salads meant just four things: iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and pickled onions or scallions. Oh, and a tomato vinaigrette! Period.
All of which means that I am probably the last person who should have an opinion about salads. But ever since I became a personal chef, I’ve noticed that a lot of other people tend to be salad challenged, too — that’s probably why the infamous Caesar Salad is the #1 seller in all restaurants in North America. And since I can’t prepare salads in advance for my clients (they don’t keep well for more than a few days), I’ve come up with a list of things everyone should always keep at hand that will help them put together a fresh, healthy and delicious salad in no time.
When tossing a salad, it all comes down to having layers of textures, colours and flavours. I prefer not to get too creative, so three or four choices from these ingredients will usually do wonders.
So if you’re salad challenged like me, why not try throwing some of these together tonight, to add a little green to your family’s table? If you aren’t familiar with some of these ingredients, all the better. After all, trying something new and finding out whether or not you like it is when the fun begins. Who knows — it might become your new family favourite.
Let’s start tossing!
Mix ‘n Match:
Leafy vegetables: arugula, dandelion greens, endive, radicchio or watercress, cabbage (red or green), collard greens or kale, lettuce (such as butterhead, leaf or romaine), napa cabbage, purslane, spinach, spring mix (note: buy them, wash and dry very well; store in a Ziploc bag with a paper towel — if you have to buy pre-washed greens, don’t forget to check the best before date)
Herbs: parsley, rosemary, basil, chervil, thyme, marjoram, oregano
“Fruit” vegetables: avocados, olives, sweet peppers (red, orange or yellow), tomatoes, winter squash, zucchini and other summer squash (note: if you cut an avocado, don’t forget to immediately brush it all over with a little lemon juice to stop it from browning)
Fruit fruits: wild berries and apples
Flowering vegetables: broccoli, broccoflower, broccolini, cauliflower
Edible pods and peas: green peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas
Herbs and vegetable flowers: capers, artichokes, squash blossoms, chives, chervil, chamomile
Onions: green onions, red or sweet white onion
Root vegetables, shredded: carrots, beets, celeriac, daikon, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, kohlrabi
Sprouts: alfalfa, broccoli, radish or sunflower, mung bean or lentil, quinoa
Stalk vegetables: asparagus tips, celery, fennel
Tubers: Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, fingerling potatoes
Beans and legumes: any kind of bean, cooked at home if possible or, if pressed by time, Eden Organics BPA-Free Cans will do, soy beans, split peas, lentils, chickpeas
Rice and Grains: rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, millet, couscous, orzo (these last two, not technically grains, but having a personality dysfunction, act like one)
Crunchy Additions: tofu or bread croutons, nuts and seeds: sunflower, pumpkin or sesame, pine nuts, plain, soaked and dried – or roasted, sea greens, pan-fried or toasted
Dressings: Add your favourite dressings. If made with flaxseed or hempseed or their oils, the dressing is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids. If made with avocado, olives, seeds or their oils, the dressing is a rich source of the protective antioxidant vitamin E.
List adapted from Common Ground, Feast your Eyes by Vesanto Melina
Share your tips — what’s your favourite salad?