Have you made your new years resolutions yet? January is definitely the month to set goals for your health and nutrition plays a vital role in this. Once put into the 'alternative' or 'hippie diet' category, more and more people are choosing to remove gluten from their diet because they report feeling fewer digestive issues, less inflammation and better concentration. Making the switch to gluten free is easy to do while working, living, and running a busy life- you just need to the know basics! This starts with substituting grains and flours, learning where gluten might be hiding and having some recipe inspiration!
It is fairly easy to identify foods that are naturally gluten free like fresh produce, meat and unprocessed, natural forms of dairy but it gets more tricky with our favourites like bread, pasta, breakfast items, desserts and snacks. Found in Wheat, Rye, Spelt, Barley, Kamut, Triticale and Oats in Australia, gluten is a naturally occurring rubbery, sticky and elastic protein responsible for the great baking and baking properties of these grains, allowing them to rise and hold their shape once cooked. A good place to start is to familiarise yourself with the main gluten free flours used in baking.
Rice flour: Produced by milling the whole brown or white rice grain into a fine flour. This gluten free flour is used for shortbread and some varieties of oriental noodles. It should be combined with baking powder and xantham gum as it tends to produce crumbly baked goods when used alone.
Coconut flour: In baking, you cannot substitute coconut flour for wheat or other grain-based flours at a 1:1 ratio. Substitute 1/3-1/4 cup coconut flour for 1 cup grain based flour (about 15-25%). Coconut flour is very absorbent so you will need additional liquid or eggs to grain flours, and generally very little coconut flour is needed for recipes.
Buckwheat flour: Buckwheat flour is best for pancake mixes, cakes, biscuits, breakfast cereals and noodles but not suitable for bread making. It is typically coarser and more highly coloured than wheat flour.
Millet flour: Millet flour is great for making flat bread, tortillas and corn chips! It has a subtle sweetness and commonly used in combination with other flours in baked goods.
Almond meal: Great for baking moist and dense gluten free cakes, biscuits, crumble or add to your smoothies for extra protein! It is available in a few varieties- Organic Almond Meal Natural where the whole raw almond has been ground into a meal (husk, skin and all) and Almond Meal Blanched which is a white creamy colour due to the removal of the husk prior to the almonds being ground.
Hazelnut meal: Like almond meal, hazelnut meal is great for baking moist and dense gluten free cakes and biscuits with a slightly sweeter taste than almond meal. The hazelnuts are simply ground whole into a meal. A good trick is to incorporate beaten egg whites (soft peaks) which will aerate the batter and give you a lighter consistency & texture.
Tips for substituting and using gluten free grains
Breakfast- do you miss oats for breakfast? Why not try rice flakes or quinoa flakes instead? They cook faster than oats and are delicious as porridge with fresh or dried fruit, cinnamon and maple syrup or honey! Try our Organic Quinoa Porridge recipe! And what about cereals you ask? There are so many options! Why not try popped quinoa, buckwheat, millet, brown rice or amaranth with some fresh fruit, coconut flakes and natural yoghurt. For something more decadent try these Buckwheat Pancakes with Baked Pears.
Savoury- although it's easier to create a savoury gluten free meal with fresh produce and meat, what about if you want more grains? Grains like quinoa, rice, millet and polenta are not only good substitutes, they can showcase a dish! Try using organic quinoa cooked in chicken or vegetable broth or brown rice instead of cous cous in salads like this Coriander, Parsley, Lemon & Quinoa Salad or use millet grain similarly to rice like this Millet and Spiced Vegetable Pilaf.
Snacks- nuts, seeds and trail mixes are generally all gluten free and provide a low GI snack that will keep you fuller for longer. If you're looking for something sweeter, why not use chia seeds and cashews to make a chia seed pudding? They're full of goodness!
A little note on sauces.
A lot of sauces have gluten in them so be sure to check the label to see if it’s hidden in there! Soy sauce, for example, has gluten in it whereas Tamari sauce does not and this substitution is perfect, the flavour is great!