When Eleanor was born she was fussy. Not (what I’ve heard described as) colicy, but you could tell that she was periodically in pain: she would pull her legs up to her chest and cry. Hard. I always felt like something was wrong but had no “proof” to bring to the doctor. Then, when she was 3 months old, I started seeing blood in her stool. And I felt completely vindicated. (And terrible.)
The problem was a food sensitivity, and the solution easy: I stopped eating dairy, gluten, and soy and her issues completely (and I do mean COMPLETELY) cleared.
So when Oliver was born I made the same dietary changes preemptively. I didn’t see any reason to put him through three possible months of pain and suffering so I could eat pizza. Do I miss the pizza? Yes. But it’s a small price to pay for a healthy, happy baby. (And, as a bonus, I actually feel significantly better when I’m not eating gluten. So it’s win-win.)
I imagine that most people think this must be the most horrendous diet. No cheese or bread? No ice cream or yogurt? No muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, or bagels? NO EDAMAME?
But believe me when I say that you can eat really, really well on this diet. I’m serious. First, there is no shortage of available gluten-free or dairy-free (and even some gluten- AND dairy-free) products in the market these days. Most grocery stores and/or the products themselves (proudly) wear their gluten-free label, and will (depending on the store) include everything from cookies and crackers, to breads and desserts, to soups, salad dressings, and sauces (yes, if you read carefully, most salad dressings do have gluten in them).
Second, there’s no shortage of websites and blogs providing advice on how to live gluten (or dairy, or soy… or all three) free. (I have written about going dairy-free before and love this site for gluten-free inspiration.)
Third, once you know what you can and cannot eat, adapting recipes to suit your needs is relatively simple. For example, when recipe calls for butter I know that I can substitute olive oil (if I’m cooking), canola/sunflower/safflower/coconut oil and/or applesauce (if I’m baking), or use this delightful product if I’m making a bowl of popcorn to eat while watching The West Wing. I know the one brand of pre-made tomato soup that does not contain wheat for nights when Tim’s making his famous hamburger stew, and Enjoy Life makes a soy-nut-gluten-dairy-free chocolate chip (it’s not as bad as it sounds) that I use to make the best pumpkin chocolate chip cookies ever (see recipe below).
My family isn’t always as thrilled about this gluten-dairy-soy-free lifestyle as I am. They prefer their regular fusilli to my rice pasta and will always add cheese to their tacos. I get it.
But last night I scored big. After a long, humid, early summer day Tim suggested we have some light salads for dinner. So I turned to the same source I always do when “light salads” are in order and made a version of three of these: carrots with blueberries candied sunflower seeds, watermelon and mint, and quinoa with cucumber, tomato, orange pepper and cilantro. Eleanor ate all three (and asked for seconds) and Tim, his mouth full, said this was the best dinner he had had in a long time.
Mark Bittman, you are my hero.