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How to keep Celiac Disease from ruining your food budget 15 June 2009

Posted by The Inimitable M in One-offs.
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As I was getting ready for work this morning, listening to NPR’s Morning Edition, I heard a report on how one family is dealing with their child’s diagnosis of Celiac Disease.

The report was essentially spot-on, except for a rather large omission.  It’s true that processed foods, most of which have gluten-based elements, are off the list  for anyone diagnosed with Celiac.  I know because I have it, too.

What they’re not saying is how quickly the food industry is picking up on this issue and slapping a special price tag on it.   As an example, gluten-free flours (essentially potato flour and corn flour) are twice the cost of regular wheat flours.  To pick up a loaf of gluten-free bread in the store – simple potato bread – is 4 times the price of a loaf of wheat or white.   Yes, standard soy sauce has gluten in it, but you can pick up a bottle of gluten-free, if you want to pay more for it. 

What shocked me in the NPR report was the inference that, while the child was eating quinoa, all other grains for breakfast are out.  This isn’t at all true, and quinoa is really expensive, by comparison to grits or rice.

Another slip in the story was a reference to salad dressings.  The statement was made that salad dressings were not gluten-free. 

This is true and not true at the same time. 

Miracle Whip, Spin Blend and other mayonnaise style “salad dressings” are NOT gluten-free.  Hellman’s  real mayonnaise, and any other jar that says “mayonnaise” IS gluten free.  Let me say that again:  If it is called mayonnaise on the jar, it’s gluten-free.  If it says “salad dressing” on the jar, it’s not.

Salad dressings such as you would put on any form of lettuce salad or variants thereof ARE gluten-free.  The standards, such as French, Thousand Island, Ranch, Italian, are gluten-free.  Even most of the unique dressings, such as Caesar, Western, Greek (whatever style), Thunderbird are gluten-free.  They’ve never had gluten in them.

Celiac doesn’t have to be a rich man’s disease, treatable only by doubling your food budget.

There’s nothing that says you have to eat these more expensive items, or find gluten-free substitutes for everything.  As far as I’m concerned, anyone who does that is just pandering to modern bad food habits and the food industry that promotes them.

Since I found out I had Celiac, I haven’t eaten a sandwich or pasta.  I don’t stop for fast food, I don’t eat Chinese.

In fact, the first time I went to the shops, I cut my grocery bill in half.  I didn’t throw in the usual mac and cheese, pasta, pre-packaged garbage, soups or processed cereals.  I bought fresh vegetables that were in season, frozen that were not packaged in sauces or pre-seasoned, my favourite fudge bars, good old Breyer’s ice cream, fresh meats and fish, cheese, rice, milk, sugar, potatoes, butter, olive oil, some fabulous spices, and wine.

Any American consumer who thinks you have to shop at a health food store or are required to pay more for substitutes  just because of a Celiac Disease diagnosis is well off the mark.  Your local store is just as gluten-free, even if not gluten-aware.

As for eating out, we’ve already heard that fast food places are bad for you for a million reasons.  I had actually stopped going to any of them probably a year before I found out I had Celiac.  The same with Chinese.  I started going to Indian restaurants instead, because they don’t use gluten-based products.  They never have.  And noodles?  Thai noodles are made of rice.  Most other restaurants are easy enough.  Skip the sauce-based, pasta-based dishes.  Skip the thickened soups and chowders.  Salads are good – hold the croutons.  Have a small steak, baked/grilled chicken, lamb, any sort of fresh grilled or panfried fish. 

The most important change is in your way of thinking, and quite frankly, the only expense there is your negative attitude if you don’t get over it.

You know, I was a heavy woman, sicker than a dog most of the time, had high blood pressure and scary heart problems, taking 9 different medications each day.  I was told this would be lifelong, and the potential for other illnesses was just around the corner because of my “family history”.

It’s been nine months.

I lost 80 pounds in the first three, and I’ve held that weight now for six. 

I haven’t been sick with any sort of stomach issues since changing my diet.  In fact, instead of being sick all winter this time, I was sick a couple of days with a cold, and that’s it.    

My blood pressure dropped to normal range.  My heart issues have diminished considerably.  The only medication I now take is a prenatal vitamin, which has a fantastic and appropriate B complex and other essential minerals and amino acids you won’t find in standard vitamins…but that’s another blog entirely. 

I have had a wonderful increase in energy levels, been going to the gym,  and I look and feel much healthier.

To be honest, I think American society as a whole needs to change its way of thinking.  In return, their eating habits would change, and their overall health would improve.

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Comments»

1. Cara - 15 June 2009

An older friend of mine was just diagnosed with Celiac disease. Would you wind if I printed out your blog to give him?

2. Deb aka St Colette - 16 June 2009

I follow the Celiac diet as much as possible not because of Celiac, because I have Ulcerated Crohn’s disease. I try to stay away from processed foods and was doing much better before I started caring for my dad.

My mom was a tiny bird and would eat just about anything I put in front of her. She loved salads so we were all good there. Huge salad with sliced chicken on top, followed with fruit or I’d take her for an ice cream soda. My dad must have excessive calories to keep him from wasting away….and he hates salads and fish. My dad doesn’t think a meal is worth eating if it doesn’t have red meat, potatoes, a couple slices of gooey white bread with lots o butter, and a desert of muffins, cake, cookies…sometimes all three. Follow that by a banana split or large size candy bar in the evening. If I leave the candy bars in the kitchen, he takes them and eats them all!!! Like a toddler he’s become.

I always thought I’d write only about mom and her Alzheimer’s, but after caring for dad I think I need to combine the two.

The one thing I buy that is frozen is fish from Whole
Foods. I can throw it in the toaster oven, make a salad and have a decent and quick meal after cooking dad’s fat filled feast. There’s Haddock, Halibut, or Cod, and they are now gluten free. The battered fish tastes no different than a deep fried type batter and is quite delish when there isn’t time to prepare something else, or when I’m tempted to eat what I just made dad. Trouble is the price. Two kinds are 9.99 for a box with 10 pcs (I think), and the other one is 10.99 or 12.99 a box!!! That’s a lot of money. But I make the salad big and just have a few pcs of fish and I’m all good.

I’m really glad you have the Celiac under control.


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