Going Gluten-Free - Winston-Salem Journal: Winstonsalemmonthly

Going Gluten-Free

Where to eat, where to shop, and how to survive a gluten-free world

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Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013 12:57 pm

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It was during a doctor’s appointment in 2008 that I first heard the phrase gluten free. I didn’t know it then, but those two words would soon change my life forever.

I’d gone to the doctor about some stomach issues I was having, expecting it to be a food allergy issue. After numerous tests, however, the doctor confirmed it wasn’t an allergy or intolerance causing my stomach pain—it was an auto-immune disorder called celiac disease. To put it simply, when someone with celiac eats gluten (items derived from wheat, oat, barley, and rye) their body mistakes it as a bad foreign object and attacks the small intestines. This in turn leads to numerous problems such as stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.

According to the doctor, the only way to resolve my stomach issues was to completely remove gluten from my diet, so that’s exactly what I did. No more breads, sandwiches, pizza, or pasta. No more cakes, cookies, doughnuts, or muffins.

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that this was 2008—long before there were multiple gluten-free options in restaurants and grocery stores (and long before people tried it as a fad diet). As a result, this new gluten-free lifestyle completely turned my diet upside down. It really sunk in around my birthday when I realized I couldn’t even have a traditional birthday cake. (Luckily, I’m blessed with an amazing family who used rice flour to bake a gluten-free birthday cake.)

Initially, I stuck to mostly fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy. And after several months of gluten-free living, I finally started feeling completely better. That doesn’t mean things magically got easier, though—at least not at first. My shopping options were basically limited to Whole Foods, and dining out at restaurants was nearly impossible. Worst of all, gluten-free food was extremely expensive back then and tasted pretty awful.

In the years since, though, gluten-free foods have become more affordable and much better tasting—and it’s not just Whole Foods carrying the items. Most grocery stores now offer an array of gluten-free items, including Walmart. Several popular restaurants also cater to the gluten-free crowd; some places even have entire sections of the menu devoted to gluten-free diners.

As a result, those of us dealing with celiac aren’t reduced to living a bland, flavorless life. I finally feel like I can eat “normal” meals again and not miss out on pizza, cakes, pasta, and sandwiches. For those of you new to the gluten-free lifestyle, or for those of you who might be living with a celiac sufferer, here are a few tips that have helped me along the way.

1. Know where to shop. The trick to gluten-free shopping is to know the store’s layout and where to find the items. For instance, many Food Lion stores group all gluten-free items together, but most Harris Teeter stores mix gluten-free items with the regular items.

2. Read the labels. Remember that just because a product says gluten free on the front doesn’t mean it is. Small amounts of gluten can be hidden in many preservatives and ingredients. If you see any direct mention of wheat, rye, or barley on the label, take caution.

3. Try these standbys. A staple in our household is Betty Crocker’s gluten-free baking mix, which can easily make pancakes, waffles, pizza crusts, biscuits, and many other things. More favorites are Betty Crocker and Glutino’s gluten-free dessert mixes for cookies, cakes, and brownies.

4. Speak to your server. When going out to eat, it’s important to tell your server that you need to eat gluten free. This alerts the kitchen staff to avoid cross-contamination, which can happen easily.

5. Experiment and enjoy. If you’re forced to live gluten free, you might as well have some fun with it. A recent trip to Barnes & Noble revealed more than a dozen cookbooks devoted to gluten-free cooking. So sample different foods, experiment with different flavors, and learn to embrace your new lifestyle.

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WHERE TO EAT?

In addition to an increasing number of gluten-free options on the grocery aisle, a number of restaurants in town are now catering to the gluten-free crowd. Here’s a quick look at a few of my favorite spots.

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza. Pizza fans rejoice! For a few extra dollars, you can order gluten-free crusts on a variety of Brixx’s most-popular pizzas: Americo, Barbecue Chicken, Hawaiian, etc. 1295 Creekshire Way.

Chuck-E-Cheese. People with celiac can now enjoy family time with gluten-free pizzas and cupcakes at Chuck-E-Cheese. The only drawback is the pizzas typically take twice as long to cook. 620 Hanes Mall Blvd.

Community Arts Café. This downtown brunch-and-lunch spot is a great option for downtown workers. The menu has several gluten-free options that are clearly marked, including all the salads. 411 W Fourth St.

Domino’s Pizza. Finally, gluten-free foodies can enjoy delivery pizza. Domino’s seems to be the only fast-delivery chain to offer gluten-free pizzas. It’s worth noting that the pizzas only come in a size small, though.

Five Points Restaurant. The gluten-free menu here features salads, including a Mediterranean Ahi Tuna Salad, and a warm Belgian Chocolate Torte for dessert. 109 S. Stratford Rd.

Fratellis Italian Steakhouse. This recently-opened eatery across from Reynolda House offers items such as gluten-free pasta with plenty of protein options to dress it up. 2000 Reynolda Road.

Frogurt. Those looking for a healthy dessert option should check out this self-serve frozen yogurt bar and its extensive list of toppings—many of which are gluten-free and clearly marked. 1263 Creekshire Way.

Jason’s Deli. This popular deli has gluten-free bread that can be used to make any of its sandwiches; just ask to see the “gluten sensitive” menu. 1005 Hanes Mall Blvd.

Mary’s Gourmet Diner. Mary’s purchases gluten-free breads and offers items such as toast, sandwiches, and French toast. Just be sure to call ahead to confirm they aren’t out of the gluten-free bread. 723 Trade St.

Mellow Mushroom. Thanks to Mellow Mushroom, evenings out in downtown Winston are much more enjoyable these days. Not only can you find gluten-free pizza crusts, you can also order gluten-free beers. 314 W. Fourth St.

Noble’s Grille. While this restaurant doesn’t have a gluten-free section of the menu, I can say first-hand that the chefs are very good about customizing meals for celiac customers. 380 Knollwood St.

Olive Garden. To appease Italian cravings, try out the gluten-free menu at Olive Garden, which includes favorites such as salads, penne pasta dishes, and mixed-grill entrees. 170 Hanes Mall Circle.

Outback Steakhouse. This chain steakhouse has a hefty gluten-free menu that includes signature steaks, baby back ribs, sandwiches—even a gluten-free brownie sundae. 505 Highland Oaks Drive.

River Birch Lodge. The gluten-free menu at River Birch includes a variety of appetizers, salads, and entrees. The restaurant also uses gluten-free bread for sandwiches and gluten-free penne pasta. 3324 Robinhood Road.

Screaming Rooster. Just like Mary’s, Screaming Rooster purchases gluten-free breads from Three Sisters Bakery for its meals. (If you haven’t tried brunch here, you’re missing out.) 301 Brookstown Ave.

Village Tavern. Both Village Tavern locations offer gluten-free brunch and dinner menus. Options include pizzas, desserts, and omelets along with a number of tavern specialties. 102 Reynolda Village and 2000 Griffith Road.

 

Know of another great local restaurant with a gluten-free menu? Tell us about it! Send an email to wsmonthly@winstonsalemmonthly.com and we’ll add it to our online listing.

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