I’m sorry, say again, you can’t eat cheese???!!!

Gluten free eating was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to change about my diet (…oh, excuse me, that shouldn’t read past tense; I continue to eat gluten free and it continues to be a challenge). When I say ‘Oh, thank you, but no, I can’t eat cheese’ I get the common response “What??!!” followed by a series of loud gasps and hands over mouths, as if appalled. When I say “I’ll have the veggie burger please, I don’t eat red meat” I get a toned down response compared to that of cheese, but still, there’s a response and it’s usually part shock or part confusion.

Just like when I had to stop eating wheat, most people are confused about how to remove wheat, gluten or dairy products out of their diet, and it certainly was an overhaul of what I used to eat.
And to take this one step further, eating gluten free or vegetarian at home is one thing, while eating the way you want to at a restaurant is entirely another. Restaurants in Vancouver like The Foundation and Nuba , as well as Mo:Le and The Joint Pizzeria & Deli in Victoria, offer options that are gluten free (and many that are also vegan or vegetarian as well). Thankfully they’re all pretty darn tasty too.

The next question I usually get after telling people these things that I can’t/don’t eat, is what the heck do I eat?! Here’s a little insight into what I used to eat, and why I stopped, and what I eat now.

Dairy products – I used to eat dairy in almost every meal and snack: milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and all the time. Then I unknowingly ate under cooked chicken from a chain restaurant (the one I was working at, no less, and shall remain unnamed) which destroyed the lactose digesting enzymes in my system. At least one year of sickness after every time I ate dairy, one trip to the doctor and a couple of tests, and dairy was out of my life. That was 13 years ago and I haven’t looked back.

What I eat instead: goat cheese (by the bucket full if I had my way), I switched to soy based products for a while, and then to rice after researching the issues with processed soy products. Up next: I’d like to make my own rice milk.

Red Meat – I consider myself, at this point in my life, half way to vegetarianism. About two months ago I cut red meat out of my diet, and white meat is already in process of getting the cut.

What I eat instead: I’m still trying out different ways to keep iron and B12 in my diet since not eating red meat…but I love chick peas, and I still eat eggs and fish, so I think I’m doing ok.

Wheat – Same as dairy, I grew up eating a lot of wheat: toast, sandwiches, bagels, pasta – wheat, wheat, everywhere. Then when I was mid-way through my University degree and I got 5 sinus infections in 1 year. After the third one, my doctor wanted (again!) to send me home with a prescription for Penicillin and I said forget it, and found myself a Naturopath. In the first ten minutes, she said “Do me a favour – stop eating wheat, and come back and see me in 2 weeks.” Solved that problem!

What I eat instead: honestly I hardly eat bread anymore, but when I do it’s rice and spelt mostly, sometimes kamut.

I’d love to hear if any readers here have food sensitivities, or are trying to find certain food alternatives and how it’s working for you!

Guest post by Jackie Connelly for Bakergirl Creations.