In recent times, more and more people have begun to pay attention to gluten-related problems. As a consequence of this greater awareness, various gluten-free snacks started to pop up in shops and supermarkets, but not all of them are healthy.
Before I dig into the topic of this post, I would like to spend a few words to explain what gluten is, what happens to those who are gluten intolerant when they eat it, and what you can do if you have this problem.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a food complex consisting mainly of proteins. Not all grains contain gluten (see below). Gluten has two main functions: to nourish the seed embryo during the germination phase and to provide the elastic properties necessary during the leavening process. The latter occurs more effectively after the dough comes into contact with water.
There are some ways to reduce the amount of gluten during the leavening phase, but for those who are intolerant, the best thing to do is to use grains that do not contain it to minimize risks.
Which grains contain gluten? Here is a list of foods that naturally contain gluten:
– Oats (although it does not contain gluten, it can be contaminated by it, unless it is certified gluten-free)
These are, instead, foods that do not contain gluten:
– Legumes (beans, lentils, peas)
– Chestnuts and chestnut flour
– Raw ham
– Dried fruit
Be careful never to mix ingredients that contain gluten and those that do not have it. Although this might seem like a pretty obvious piece of advice, cross-contamination between different foods is more common than you might think. As a general rule, all food preparations, including ingredients that contain gluten, should be kept separate from those without gluten. It would be best if you always used separate kitchen utensils for gluten-free foods. Cross-contamination between different ingredients can cause extreme reactions in people intolerant to gluten.
People who are intolerant to gluten have developed an impaired intestinal reaction towards this nutrient, with consequences that are sometimes very similar to those experienced by individuals who are lactose intolerant.
Celiac people must be cautious about what you eat, but they can come into contact in other ways with foods that contain gluten; for instance, they can cook these foods for other people.
At the moment, scientists tell us that those celiac people are genetically predisposed to this disease. This disorder affects people of all ages, although it usually occurs very early in a person’s life.
It is difficult to diagnose this condition based on symptoms alone since many of the latter are the same that occur in case of indigestion or other intestinal diseases. Specific diagnostic tests exist to understand if you are affected by celiac disease.
The following are the most common symptoms of celiac disease; as you can see, they can be typical of other common health conditions:
– Pain and feeling of discomfort in the belly and intestines
– Chronic constipation and the need to take laxative drugs to resolve it
– Chronic diarrhea
– Defective growth (in children)
The above symptoms are very common and unspecific. Still, if they occur frequently, then your doctor can order a series of blood tests, or an intestinal biopsy, to detect if you have celiac disease.
At the moment, there is no way to cure either celiac disease or gluten intolerance, and the only possible therapy is to learn how to live with this problem and exclude diet from your diet. This means paying close attention to your diet by eliminating everything that contains gluten.
It is certainly not easy to live with this condition. Still, the ever-increasing number of people who have discovered that they are intolerant to gluten has led to increased availability of foods that do not contain it. Also, several restaurants and pizzerias offer gluten-free dishes and even gluten-free pizza. Many food shops and all supermarkets sell bread and pasta made with gluten-free flours. Therefore, even if it is difficult to give up some foods, the situation is improving, and it is possible to eat a large number of foods even.
Some pieces of advice for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance
Here are some useful tips for managing gluten intolerance in the best way:
- Read carefully the labels of the products you want to buy. Brands that offer gluten-free products often have special logos to attract the attention of consumers.
- Use specific utensils for cooking gluten-containing foods and other utensils for gluten-free ones.
- Do not recycle the frying oil with which you fried breaded foods.
- Do not recycle the cooking water where you cooked ingredients that contains gluten (e.g., wheat pasta).
- At the restaurant, tell the waiter you are intolerant and ask about how they cook food (e.g., if they flour meat before cooking it).
- When you buy new medications, ask the pharmacist if they contain gluten.
- Never feel uncomfortable about this problem; you have to pay attention to what you eat. You can always eat fruit, meat, fish, chicken, cheese, eggs if you can’t find any gluten-free grains.
- Search Google for sites and communities of people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance to discover which restaurants in your area offer gluten-free dishes.
- Remember that several alcoholic beverages contain gluten, such as beer made from malt, vodka, and whiskey. You can drink white and red wine, port and liqueurs.
- Clean your kitchen carefully before cooking gluten-free food. I don’t want to sound paranoid, but a tiny gluten trace is enough to trigger a reaction in a sensitive subject.
- Some sauces may contain gluten, always read the labels, and think about using alternatives, such as spices.
Many recipes can be prepared with gluten-free foods as well as several reinterpretations of classic recipes but in a gluten-free version. Below you will find a list of ideas for energetic and nutritious snacks, all gluten-free. You can prepare them in a short time using what you have in the pantry.
Here are my 30 ideas for gluten-free snacks
Below, you will find 30 ideas for preparing gluten-free foods. I’m sure you will find something that you will enjoy and even get inspired to try something new!
- A piece of fruit: A real panacea for everyone’s health.
- Tortillas or corn chips with guacamole.
- A cup of milk (sugar-free almond or soy milk are a valid alternative) with gluten-free cereals.
- Pretzels made with gluten-free flours.
- Chickpea Hummus: You can use it as a dip for vegetables, such as radishes, celery, or carrot sticks. Legumes do not contain gluten, and chickpeas are very nutritious.
- Roasted chickpeas: Take three cups of dried chickpeas (or the same weight as canned chickpeas) and let them soak overnight in water covered with a cloth. If you use canned chickpeas, it is not necessary to do so. After soaking them, boil the chickpeas in salted water with a tablespoon of salt for an hour. Drain the chickpeas and marinate them in a bowl with extra virgin olive oil, salt, chili, and curry. Mix everything and then put the chickpeas in the oven on a baking sheet for an hour, making sure they don’t burn. It is a dish with a long preparation but perfect for both a snack and dinner.
- Oatmeal porridge.
- Homemade popcorn: I love them with a bit of cheese and pepper. Pop the corn in the pan, add a little bit of grated cheese and pepper, mix and let the cheese melt for 1-2 minutes.
- Raw carrot sticks.
- Beetroot chips, prepared by slicing a raw beet and baking it in the oven.
- A fruit salad.
- Wholemeal rice crackers with peanut butter.
- A fruit juice.
- A freshly-squeezed orange juice.
- A hard-boiled egg.
- Cookies, prepared with gluten-free flour, brown sugar, and dark chocolate.
- A slice of rice cake prepared with gluten-free flour.
- Sugar-free cookies.
- A sliced banana sprinkled with melted dark chocolate.
- A smoothie with banana and strawberry yogurt.
- Frozen yogurt.
- A white natural yogurt with berries.
- A fruit and vegetable smoothie.
- A sugar-free fruit sorbet (I recently wrote a guide with thirty ideas for making nutritious and dietary fruit sorbets).
- Parmesan flakes.
- Dried apple chips.
- A mixed salad with vegetables, seeds, and nuts.
- Greek yogurt.
- Express pizzas made with gluten-free flour, cheese, butter, tomato, and oregano. Mix 250 grams of spreadable cheese, 50 grams of butter, and 250 grams of gluten-free flour until the mixture is homogeneous. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin and then make small pizzas by cutting the dough with a glass. Season them with the tomato and the oregano and put them in the oven for 10 minutes at 180°C. Take them out of the oven, put a piece of mozzarella on each pizza, and then put them back in the oven at 180°C for 5 minutes.
- “Panisse”: A famous Italian dish from Liguria (but common in south France as well), also perfect as an aperitif. You need 300 grams of chickpea flour, 5 grams of salt, 1 liter of water, black pepper, and oil for frying.
Put the water, salt, pepper, and chickpea flour in a bowl and mix everything until you get a homogeneous mixture. Don’t mix by hand; use an electric whisk or a food processor; it’s easier. Put the mixture in a saucepan and cook over low heat until the mixture becomes solid, continually stirring. When the mixture comes off the sides of the pan, put the mixture in a baking dish (3-4 cm thick) and wait until it has cooled completely. When the chickpea mixture has cooled, cut it into slices with a knife, and then fry in olive oil until the slice is golden. Eat them hot sprinkled with black pepper.
These are some of my ideas for healthy gluten-free snacks. Do you have any other ideas? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll post the best ones!