When you or your child is first diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you may feel like you've been sentenced to never having a hassle-free meal again. Yes, it's great to finally have an explanation for the symptoms and a plan of treatment. But now you have to put extra thought into every single meal. Two weeks ago, you only had a vague idea what gluten was. And now you have to become an expert.
It's only natural to worry that you can't run to the corner store to grab a quick snack anymore, or that you'll have to change your entire shopping list. But you're not doomed to noshing on nothing but carrot sticks.
Salsa is naturally gluten-free and there are many popular brands of chips that are made without wheat, rye, barley or oats. That includes NAKED Infusions Organic White Corn Chips and salsas. You may not even have to give up your favorite potato chips, pork rinds or cheese puffs. Check the manufacturer's website and the package itself to be sure. And be careful not to grab a bag of wheat tortilla chips by mistake.
Popcorn is another great option. Even movie theater and sports stadium popcorn should be safe. Pre-packaged popcorn from the supermarket or corner deli may also be fine. If you prefer your popcorn au naturel but don't want the hassle of making it on the stovetop or lugging out an air popper, Food Network personality Alton Brown has a recipe for microwaving popcorn in a paper bag held closed with staples. (Try it at home first if you don't quite believe his assurances that the staples won't make the office microwave explode.)
You don't have to bid adieu to crackers, either. Rice crackers are naturally gluten-free and there are several companies that make gluten-free crackers that mimic classic saltines and other snack staples. Eat them on their own or treat 'em like little plates. Cheese, peanut butter and many brands of jam are still your friends.
Going gluten-free doesn't mean that you'll never have another piece of cake or a brownie again. Even if you don't have a celiac-friendly bakery nearby. King Arthur Flour has gluten-free flour and baking mixes that you can whip up at home. You or your child may not be able to eat someone else's birthday cake, but you can bring your own cupcake to the party so you're not completely left out.
You may be surprised at the variety of packaged cookies available in your supermarket's gluten-free aisle, just a few aisles away from where the gluten-tastic cookies are kept. And some of your regular sweet treats are naturally made without gluten. You don't have to turn your back on pudding, rice pudding, or flan, which all come in single serving snack packs. Meringue cookies and flourless chocolate cake are made without flour, and so are macaroons (usually).
Once you've gotten the hang of gluten-free snacking, you'll see that you don't have to make as many adjustments as you initially feared. Your life will be as full of delicious treats as it was before.