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Living wheat free poses dietary challenges

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By Joan Martin

Almost 40 years ago I became aware that some people who have to live wheat free.
What’s good for most of us can be harmful for a few. Proper diagnosis should be done by a qualified medical provider as gluten intolerance or celiac disease is often confused with wheat allergy. This column isn’t about medical advice. My goal is to increase awareness of the challenges of living wheat free and offer some guidelines.
Wheat flour can be found in so many products that you would not suspect. Ice cream, ketchup, hot dogs and even food supplements can contain wheat.
You need to read the labels and look for these common items: Bulgar, bran, bread crumbs, cereal extract, cracker meal, farina, durum, gluten, semolina, spelt, wheat germ and whole wheat or enriched flour. There are too many to list all of them here.
Pay attention to the items at the end of the ingredient list: gelatinized starch, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, modified food starch, soy sauce, vegetable gum and others.
The following is a list of some foods that you may be cautious about eating: instant chocolate drink mixes, beer, root beer, prepared hamburgers, sausage, bologna, canned meat, fish sticks, cornbread unless made without wheat flour, scalloped potatoes, noodles, cakes, packaged pudding, cream soup, salad dressing thickened with wheat flour, MSG, Worcestershire sauce and some mayonnaise.
So, the obvious question is what do people eat who can’t tolerate wheat? Whole foods are best. They have nothing added.
People who need to live wheat free generally tolerate coffee, tea, soft drinks (other than root beer), milk, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, cheese, meat or poultry that does not have any additives, eggs, potatoes, rice, all vegetables without sauces, custard, butter or margarine, salt, chili powder, herbs, nuts, pickles, popcorn, or peanut butter.
More gluten free foods are available now but you may choose to make some of your own at home. Barley, buckwheat, rice, rye, oat, and potato starch can be a satisfactory substitute for wheat. You may have to mix several together to get a mix that gives you the results you want.
The texture of baked goods will not be as good because they will be drier, coarser and heavier. Mixing flours will help. Adding fruits, nuts or vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin or zucchini will also help.
If you want to thicken gravy or soup, you can try 1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot starch or 2 teaspoons tapioca flour. Both of these substitutes equal one tablespoon of wheat flour.
These guidelines will help you plan meals for this special diet. Two publications are available from the Extension Service on living wheat-free.
Now, to change the subject, a lot of people have registered for the preservation workshops. I decided to add a second session.
Workshops will now be offered at 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. There won’t be a class at 5:30 p.m. People who have already registered have been given the opportunity to choose another session. There’s still room for a few more. The dates are April 25, May 23, June 6 and June 20. Registration is open now only for those who want to take all four classes.  
After April 17 you can register for individual classes if there are any openings. The classes are FREE this year because there is money in the budget.
Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin. University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Kentucky Counties, Cooperating. Disabilities accommodated with prior notification.

Joan Martin is a family and consumer science agent at the Anderson County Extension.