Gluten-free: the good, the bad, the lack of rolled-crust pizza

Altering a diet to accommodate for a gluten allergy has its ups and downs

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Sarah Myers, JagWire editor-in-chief

When I think back to the kinds of food I ate a year ago, I think in grains. I ate pizza with rolled crust, hamburgers with buns and, most importantly, Oreos. (Of course there were vegetables and fruits in the mix also, but who really cares about those?) Flash forward to August, after I’ve been tested for about a million different medical conditions, and I’m waving goodbye to my precious Oreo cookies and cautiously waving hello to overpriced loaves of gluten-free bread. Sometime within the last few years, I had developed a serious allergy to gluten, a substance found in wheat, barley and rye grains that gives dough its structure and elasticity.

Being gluten-free isn’t easy. I talk about it a lot, but only because it’s a big part of my life. Some people will make jokes about how people who are gluten-free won’t stop talking about how they’re gluten-free. But, here’s the deal: if you had to transition from eating gluten to eating gluten-free, you would be talking about it too. It’s a lifestyle change. It’s a mountain that you’re forced to climb when you want nothing more than to stay on the safe and cozy ground, because you know at the top you will only find significantly less satisfying pizza. And good-tasting pizza is your everything. But not anymore, because you’re gluten-free.

Good-tasting pizza is your everything. But not anymore, because you’re gluten-free.”

— Sarah Myers

As with everything else, the gluten-free life has its good and bad days. Easily, the most depressing part of being gluten-free is seeing people eat foods that are full of gluten. Do I miss eating rolled-crust pizza? Obviously yes, because I’ve mentioned it about 50 times already. Do I miss cinnamon rolls? Lord in heaven above, yes. Do I miss going out to eat and being able to eat a burger with a bun (and not having to worry about whether the restaurant fries its french fries separate from gluten products)? Of course.

I don’t like to be negative, though. While I miss all these foods deeply, there are alternatives. Instead of being made with gluten-based (wheat) flours, gluten-free options are made with flours from rice, tapioca, potato and millet, to name a few. The biggest difference I’ve noticed in these is shelf life. I have to freeze my bread to keep it from drying out after a week, and pasta doesn’t last long after it’s been cooked. Most of the time, gluten-free products are less flexible and less “fluffy,” if you will. They can also be more dry, depending on the brand.

I will admit, it can be fun to find new gluten-free products that you didn’t know about before. Imagine going six months thinking you would never eat another donut (this was actually devastating), until your mom comes home from the store on your birthday with a box of six beautiful, chocolate-covered, gluten-free donuts. (Thanks, mom.) Yes, I had to freeze them to preserve them longer than a week and a half. Yes, they were delicious.

So, eating gluten-free can be kind of fun sometimes. Besides that, there’s always the “health” factor. Gluten-free foods are much easier on your digestive system and can limit the amount of carbs you eat, but only if you aren’t replacing your old food with too many gluten-free alternatives, which have the same amount of carbs and can actually be higher in calories than the same gluten-full food.

At the end of the day, we gluten-free kids have to stick together. I feel like we have a little secret society going, in which we all understand each other’s deepest feelings and emotions — or at least those pertaining to bread. And, if you can eat gluten, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Guard your rolled-crust pizza with your life and take a little more time between each bite to appreciate all you have.

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