Gluten-Free: It’s a Wrap!

Today’s Featured Ingredient: Rice Wraps!

Gluten-free is like the “new” fad diet, a marketing tool with which I do not agree.  Elisabeth Hasselbeck even wrote a book about how to lose weight with it.  Although I support the positive health effects of a gluten-free diet, especially for those who have a gluten intolerance or Celiac’s disease (two very different conditions), I don’t agree with Hasselbeck marketing it as a weight loss solution.  Like Kathy Griffin said to Elisabeth Hasselbeck on The View: “Be a gentleman!”  Treating gluten intolerance and Celiac’s disease is not something to twist into a gimmick.  These disorders wreak havoc on one’s digestive system and can lead to death.  Simply, Celiac’s disease is a more severe version of gluten intolerance.  Those with Celiac’s disease suffer from the autoimmune disease which triggers (via the presence of the gluten protein complex) the destruction of their absorptive villi in their small intestines.  Without these villi, people cannot absorb nutrients into our blood/body to use!  Gluten intolerance is less severe, triggers immediate symptoms, and is NOT an autoimmune disease like Celiac’s.  However, the symptoms are triggered by the presence of the Gluten Protein Complex.  Also, those who suffer from Celiac’s disease also become Lactose intolerant because the top part of our villi provides the enzyme Lactase to break down Lactose in milk/dairy.  No villi = No milk for you.  It’s a double whammy situation!

So, what is Gluten?  It’s important to note that Gluten isn’t just one protein: it’s a complex of different proteins primarily Gliadin and Glutenin proteins.  There is slightly more Glutenin so that’s what it’s called the Gluten Protein Complex, or Gluten for short.  Gliadin is the portion of the GPC that triggers the autoimmune reaction to Gluten.  Gluten is in almost EVERYTHING, and it makes sense because gluten is found in wheat grains which we use in sauces, breads, cookies, pastas, etc!  I have a friend who is allergic to Gluten and told me that she hasn’t had a sandwich in 10 years!  I was speechless.  So you can see how eating a gluten-free diet can be challenging for someone who’s just found out about their intolerance or allergy to gluten.

However there are tons of alternative.  They’re not better or worse.  They’re just different and take some time getting used to.  I will direct you to the almighty and trusty website of the Mayo Clinic ( which provides a list of foods that are okay to eat!

Here are a couple precautionary tips too!

(1) You can generally eat any grain except for anything made with Wheat, Rye, Oat, or Barley.

(2) “Not made with Gluten” is not the same as being “Gluten-Free” because those items could be processed in a factory that touches wheat.  Cross contamination is absolutely possible and potentially dangerous because those with Celiac’s disease can have absolutely ZERO gluten.  ZERO ZERO ZERO ZERO ZERO.  By not eating any, they can let their villi grow to help with nutrient absorption in the future.

(3) Be cautious of sauces/gravies!  Even they have wheat flours added to thicken them.

(4) Don’t self-diagnose: consult a doctor to verify your status and work with a Dietitian to get you all the right facts!  You may even need to supplement your diet with certain vitamins and minerals that may be excluded from your gluten-free diet.  Your Dietitian will let you know for sure.

(5) Don’t get discouraged. Eating gluten-free is a life-long lifestyle change.  It’s intimidating at first but it’s a VERY manageable lifestyle diet

Here is my contribution to your recipe book, even if you are not suffering from Gluten intolerance or Celiac’s disease.  It’s an American twist on Vietnamese spring rolls.  Growing up, having fresh gỏi cuốn was a special treat.  My mom prepared them in many ways such as with catfish, pork and shrimp, or beef.  One thing that was consistent was that they were all loaded with wonderful vegetables and herbs including mint, basil, and cilantro.  Of course there are MANY variations due to our individual tastes.  We rolled our own at dinner and that was part of the fun 🙂

As a part of my eating budget, I occasionally incorporate spring rolls as a great way of eating vegetables in a creative way.  You can get these great white rice wraps at any asian super market (I like the “Three Ladies” brand which is about $1.50 for approximately 30 sheets…that’s cheaper than a vegan donut which is not any healthier than a regular donut but that’s a different story.  Back to the spring rolls!)  Julienne your vegetables so they are nice long strips to fit in the spring rolls.

Gỏi Cuốn Recipe:

Rice Sheet
Red Bell Pepper
Boiled Vermicelli Rice Noodles (here are some great gluten free noodle options:
Protein (chicken, avocado, or tofu are great options!)

First fully dip the entire sheet in a bowl of water for about 5 seconds.  Let it sit on the plate for about 1-2 minutes.  You’ll be able to see and feel the sheet soften!  Place your ingredients on one end and tuck and roll, tuck and roll!  Boom!  Instant spring roll ready to eat.  This is another great way of using up all your left over ingredients or produce that may be on the verge of being too ripe or spoiling in the next few days.  It’s a delicious way of eating your vegetables and it’s gluten-free friendly. Win-Win!

For those who can’t have Gluten, search for great alternative sauces like Tamari-style “soy sauce” and I think sriracha is gluten free too (double check your food labels!).  For those who can have gluten, I recommend Hoisin sauce (dilute it with some water for a runnier consistency).  It’s delicious!

Cheers to your good health.  Happy eating, all 🙂


3 Comments Add yours

  1. shanners says:

    thank you for explaining the difference between an intolerance and an actual autoimmune response; a lot of people don’t know the difference or the severity of the disease. i get SO MAD when people think my milk allergy is lactose intolerance. lactose intolerance = stomach cramps and farting. allergy = hives, severe headache and fatigue, difficulty breathing, etc. i haven’t seen anyone say to skip milk to lose weight (though i think that would work!) but it really screws with things when people sans intolerances choose to eat whatever-free; makes servers and others think actual contamination isn’t a bad thing.

    that said, in the interest of science (and education!) i would like to challenge you to a week (or month!) of dairy-free living. read all your labels, cook all your own meals, ask for allergen info at all restaurants. it’s pretty easy to cook for yourself at home (i always have eaten mostly asian at home) but finding things without dairy outside of home cooking is HARD. even when i wanna cheat and have candy, i can’t have chocolate 😦 only justin’s peanut butter cups and junior mints will work!

    so, if you’re up for a difficult no butter, no milk, no cream, label-reading time, eat my way!

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