I never thought I would say this: I have been eating an all gluten- and dairy-free diet for about two weeks now.
I saw a naturopathic doctor for stomach pain. I have always had a sensitive stomach. Since I was a teenager I have experienced months-long periods of daily, unexplained stomachaches. Traditional doctors thought it was an acid-reflux-type condition, so I was always taking antacids and avoiding acidic foods. Sometimes this treatment would work and sometimes it wouldn’t. When my mom so generously offered to pay for me to see the naturopathic doctor, I figured I might as well try. I am going back to Paris for another year in September, and I didn’t want to be dealing with this issue there.
More and more people are becoming sensitive to gluten and dairy in recent years. I suppose this is why at my appointment, my doctor recommended that I do a super-healthy gluten- and dairy-free diet. She took it one step further and limited my fruit servings to 1-2 per day and upped vegetables to 6-10! I am also supposed to try to avoid dried fruit, fruit juice, bananas, potatoes, peas, and corn. Because I have previously had problems with coffee, tomatoes, and jalapenos, I have to continue to avoid those as well. The plan is to follow this healthy diet for two weeks in the US and then 1-2 weeks after I arrive in Paris, then gradually start adding foods back in to see what is causing the problem.
In the past, I would notice blogs, recipes, cookbooks, and packaged foods here and there boasting “gluten-free!” and never thought much more than, wow, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that. I don’t know anyone personally who has gluten issues, (although I know several people who have varying levels of sensitivity to dairy) so it just never seemed like a big deal. At least not to me personally.
Well, I get it now! American food culture, while very diverse, is not set up to accommodate either of these dietary restrictions. Even vegetarians still have a hard time staying true to their diet choices, depending on which region they are in. (On a trip to Montana in high school, chicken was offered for the vegetarians with all seriousness!) If you are gluten- or dairy-free, it can be difficult and frustrating to eat out, because menu options are severely limited. But if you are both gluten- and dairy-free like I am right now, you can pretty much forget about eating out.
This has been such a challenge. I thought the hardest part would be saying no to things like pasta, cheese, baked goods and coffee. In fact, aside from the caffeine withdrawal I went through for the first four days, the hardest part has been community eating. It’s only been two weeks, but I already have numerous stories about situations where I couldn’t eat what everyone else was eating. At a traditional English tea with countless cakes and cookies, complete with freshly whipped cream, I ate only grapes. At a fancy restaurant in Napa, I couldn’t order a fancy-sounding ravioli dish or share the goat cheese appetizer; I had a plain salad and some meatballs. A coworker brought donuts specially from Portland for the office…I could continue, but I might start crying. (Just kidding…sort of.)
It’s actually really easy to say no to food when you have doctor’s orders. Previously, if I’ve ever tried to limit foods, all it took was a craving, a friend making cookies, or a commercial for french fries and I was easily breaking my promise to myself. Refusing certain foods isn’t the hard part now. The hardest thing is having to say no to other people. I know that I come off as picky, rude, and snobby when I refuse food people have made for me, or when I ask a waitress how a smoothie is prepared (I just need to know if there is dairy in it!). It’s so frustrating and sad, because I respect food and the people who make it, and I don’t ever want to come off as ungrateful. However, my mom paid a lot for this doctor, and so far I haven’t had any stomach pain, so it’s worth it to me to try. I owe it to myself!
I’m trying to look on the bright side: it’s only one month, this will help me feel better, and it’s been a great way to force me to cook more and eat a variety of foods instead of copping out to convenience food when I’m too tired or lazy. The lack of options makes that impossible.
I have learned a lot about myself during this process. I knew I loved food, but I never realized that a lot of that enjoyment comes from the act of sharing and eating it with friends, family, and strangers. I learned that I have a lot more willpower than I thought I had. And, I learned that I love baked goods soooo much that I figured out how to make a gluten- and dairy-free zucchini bread!
I’ll be honest; if I had no dietary restrictions, I would probably choose a traditional recipe including butter and eggs. But if you really can’t have dairy or gluten, this is a great substitute! I’m eating it tomorrow morning with maple syrup and bacon. Maybe I will survive this diet after all…
Gluten- and Dairy-Free Zucchini Bread
adapted from How Sweet It Is
2 cups gluten-free flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp chia seeds, mixed with 1/4 cup room-temperature water
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup oil of your choice (I used canola, but you could use vegetable or coconut)
1 small zucchini, grated (yielding anywhere from 1-1 1/3 cups
1 small banana, mashed
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Place chia seeds and water in a bowl. Whisk with a fork. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, until chia seeds have swelled and the water is gel-like.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8x8in pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk chia seed mixture and brown sugar.
Whisk in vanilla, oil and milk.
Stir in zucchini and bananas.
Add dry ingredients in two additions, stirring until just combined.
Spread batter into prepared pan. If you desire more sweetness, sprinkle the top with a tablespoon or two of granulated sugar.
Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.