In the early 2000’s, the term “gluten-free” began to gain momentum and mindshare just like “organic” and “local” did in the years prior to that. But gluten-free is more than a dietary fad. It’s a way of life.
Today, restaurants have gluten-free options on the menu and grocery stores like the new H-E-B Lakeway have a dedicated aisle to gluten-free products. You can even buy gluten-free Girl Scout cookies. Yep, the Toffee-tastic!
In fact, according to U.S. market research, sales of products with a gluten-free label have doubled in the past four years, rising from $11.5 billion to more than $23 billion.
Most people who live a gluten-free lifestyle don’t necessarily do it out of want but out of need. There are very real illnesses triggered by gluten that can wreak havoc on individuals who suffer from them. Things like celiac disease (an autoimmune disease), gluten intolerance and wheat allergies demand a permanent change in diet.
Goodbye memorized recipes, hello creative dinner hacks.
When Lake Travis resident, Lisa George, managing partner of her own firm, wife and mom of three active kiddos, discovered she had celiac disease and a dairy allergy, it was a game-changer.
This diagnosis occurred after Lisa had been struggling with being sick for 10 years. Every time she ate, she got sick. Until she finally got the correct diagnosis, she just thought she was destined to live “being sick all of the time.”
Thanks to the genetic testing that finally gave her doctors the right diagnosis, Lisa immediately began researching her allergy to casein (milk protein) and celiac disease.
After digesting the information, it was time to digest the answers. Lisa taught herself “how to cook in a totally different way.” Within, two weeks on an entirely new diet, she “finally started to feel human again.”
But for someone with celiac disease, this diet is not a temporary fix, it’s a new life.
What is gluten?
Gluten is an adhesive made of insoluble plant proteins that can be found in cereal grains and wheat products. Think of it as the edible glue that holds dough together.
That being said, gluten is almost everywhere! It is in bread, pasta, pizza and desserts like cakes and cupcakes. It’s also found in more unlikely places like oatmeal, canned soups and salad dressings. If you’re eating processed food, chances are it contains gluten.
Making the change to live gluten-free
If you’ve switched over to a gluten-free lifestyle, you know it’s not always a seamless process. Lisa admits living gluten-free was a huge challenge in the beginning, but now she’s got it down to a science.
“I have always had a passion for cooking and baking, so when I learned I had celiac, I had to rework all my old recipes. I’m happy to report that it can be done!”
In fact, Lisa has helped several families learn how to adapt recipes and shop at a grocery store since gluten is hidden in a lot of processed foods, condiments and family favorites.
Eating gluten-free in Lake Travis
“I do think it is easier to eat gluten-free in Lake Travis, explain Lisa. “The restaurants want you to come in and eat, so I’ve learned if the restaurant doesn’t have a gluten-free menu, you can still pretty much find something close and just ask the chef if he/she can modify it to be gluten free. Most of the time, the answer is yes.”
“The new H-E-B Lakeway does have a gluten free aisle and even pre-made meals from a gluten free company,” says Lisa. But even with this new grocery option, Lisa still has to do the Lake Travis grocery store dance to complete her shopping list.
“I shop at H-E-B, but also have to go to Whole Foods to get items that H-E-B still doesn’t carry. And there are 1-2 items that Randall’s even carries that I can’t get at H-E-B or Whole Foods in their gluten free section.” It’s really a three-store visit, but Lisa says that it’s still an improvement.
Lisa says she applauds Maudie’s restaurants because they actually have separately prepared and bagged gluten-free tortilla chips. This means there won’t be cross-contamination in the kitchen with traces of wheat or flour.
“Thundercloud uses separate cutting mats and knives for the gluten-free preparation, and that is so helpful!”
Tasty Gluten-Free Dining in Lake Travis
“I love Better Bites Bakery and Blackbird Bakery. They are both dedicated gluten free so you don’t need to worry about cross contamination issues. And Blackbird Bakery will adjust some recipes to accommodate my dairy allergy as well.”
Educating yourself = asking questions
Lisa encourages other families facing the same gluten-free journey not to be discouraged. It may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s doable.
“I think the biggest hurdle is just learning what gluten truly is and educating yourself so you know what to look for and stay away from.” If you’re at a restaurant and you’re not sure which foods are truly gluten-free, ask the wait staff or speak to the chef.
“There are restaurants in Lake Travis that have gluten-free menus, but you need to really look it over and ask questions. If you are highly allergic, you can’t typically eat at restaurants that don’t have a dedicated gluten-free zone or kitchen.”
Did you know?
Backdraft Pizzeria has partnered with Blackbird Bakery to offer a gluten-free crust on Wednesdays. They prepare enough gluten-free crust for 25 pizzas, so you need to call ahead to reserve yours at 512-387-1005.