Story, research, photos and Pinterest board by Meghan Feir
For many living in the land of flowing milk and golden waves of wheat, it’s torture, specifically for allergenic Midwesterners. We were expected from toddler-hood to drink several glasses of cow milk and to eat eight servings of whole wheat every day, as if our bodies needed their own grain factories and dairy farms attached to our churning stomachs.
Little did any of us suspect that the wholesome bread and butter we were bringing to our tables three times a day was making our lives a living nightmare of bad health, causing a whole list of ailments.
Gluten intolerance and milk allergies have progressed swiftly in our nation. Attempting to stay away from two of the most commonly used ingredients in our food supply can be a daunting task, but after a bit of investigating, the F-M area has more options than one might assume.
Pinterest: More organized than a recipe box
To make this dietary transition less overwhelming, included in this article is a link to a Pinterest board full of gluten and dairy-free recipes and replacement products. These substitutions you can make and buy should ease the pain of excluding wheat and dairy from your diet. You may not be a good option for the next dairy princess candidacy, but at least you’ll feel and look less bloated.
Overcoming bad health: Finding healthier options for your dinner table
Crystal Nicklay, the retail supervisor at Swanson Health Products in downtown Fargo , says she stays away from both gluten and dairy.
“I feel better that way. I don’t necessarily have lactose intolerance or gluten, celiac, but I feel worlds better, worlds better.” Nicklay, who has been working with this limiting lifestyle for two years, said health reasons played an important role in cutting out these American staple ingredients.
“I have health issues,” Nicklay, who suffers from asthma, said. “Dairy creates a lot of mucus in your body. Then the wheat creates an inflammatory response. I need to be able to breathe. Breathing’s good,” Nicklay said with a laugh.
Nicklay advises shoppers to read labels, which is crucial to finding things that will help and not harm your body. “You gotta read labels or ask ‘What do you have?’ Now a lot of people are doing the gluten-free, dairy-free thing, even if they’re not celiac or lactose intolerant. They’re feeling better,” Nicklay said. “The ingredients in those products are generally cleaner. They’re trying to get away from the junk.”
Rebecca West, a health food store retail associate said, “When it comes to eating gluten-free, just think simple ingredients. Don’t try to replace all the highly processed ingredients that you’re used to eating. It’s an opportunity to change your life – eat better foods.”
West, like Nicklay, urges everyone to investigate the ingredients listed before throwing it in the cart. “Just read those labels on all those gluten-free products,” West said. “They say ‘gluten-free’ and they’ll buy it – it doesn’t matter how much it costs, what’s in it – they just see gluten-free, but it may be hurting their bodies just as much as eating gluten ‘cause of all the other chemicals in it. Anything that’s shelf-stable for a couple of years, whether it’s gluten-free or not, is going to have a ton of chemicals in it. In the natural world, good food would go rotten fast. Food isn’t supposed to sit on a shelf at room temperature for two, three, five, 10 years. I just wish people would stand back for a little bit, take a breath and read those ingredients.”
Ridding your shelves and fridge of commonalities
Nixing a glass of milk from your diet isn’t the hard part. Substitutions like coconut, almond and rice milk are carried in grocery stores everywhere, even at Target and Wal-Mart. Soy milk, though it is another milk substitution, should be used in moderation. “Soy milk isn’t necessarily the best thing to be drinking every day because it can have too much estrogen for some people, but once in awhile it’s totally cool,” Nicklay said.
Nicklay, a vegetarian for years, gave up her solely herbivoric ways and began eating meat again when she started her gluten and dairy-free lifestyle. “I had to totally cut out a lot of stuff. I am a meat eater. I was a vegetarian for 12 years, but I do eat some meats now. If I do a grain, it’s usually quinoa or brown rice, but quinoa has a lot of protein in it and it’s super good for you.”
Fresh produce, meats, lentils, rice and quinoa (among other more simplistic ingredients) are, in reality, what any health-conscious person should primarily consume. Unless you have an egg or nut allergy, those are other foods that contain protein and are great for a quick snack. If you want to go the extra mile, make sure your vegetables and meat are coming from reliable sources – foods that are not genetically modified.
Going out to eat never looked so limiting
Preparing meals at your own home with fresh ingredients can be difficult enough, but finding restaurants that accommodate these allergies and intolerances can be especially disheartening.
When Nicklay does go out for a meal, she knows exactly where to go. “Honestly, the only place we go out to eat downtown is the Hotel Donaldson,” she said. “It’s a little more expensive, but they do a lot of local ingredients and you can ask them to leave something out for you. That’s the thing about going out – you don’t necessarily know if the chef is going to be willing to make a recipe different for you.”
Nicklay’s best advice for people who are contemplating a lifestyle change by revamping their diet is to “get a book about it, come into your health food store and ask for help,” Nicklay said. She advises everyone to stick with it “because you will feel so much better. It will be hard sometimes – sometimes you will cheat. And it’s funny when you do that because you notice how much it affects you.”
Staying away from dairy and gluten is difficult because whey and other milk and wheat derivatives are excellent fillers and are used in nearly everything semi-processed. If we’re being completely honest, we all know cheese, especially in this part of the country, makes everything better. Every Americanized ethnic eatery uses pounds of it in their cooking, especially Mexican and Italian restaurants, so beware of those places. Even if you ask for no cheese, cheese and cream-based sauces are poured over flour tortillas or pasta (both substances are full of gluten). Some restaurants are beginning to offer rice noodles and potatoes as a replacement for regular noodles, but loads of butter and dairy are still used to maximize taste appeal. Ask for corn tortillas if you find yourself in a Mexican eating establishment.
Sushi and fish dishes are great options when going out for a meal. Stay away from items like the Philadelphia roll since that does include cream cheese, and make sure your fish meal is not breaded or covered in butter.
For anyone still craving coffee drinks more fancy than a simple cup of Joe, various coffee shops offer soy milk as a substitution. Cassandra Lien, a barista at Babb’s Coffee House, Fargo, said they “do have both soy and almond milk.” For a dollar extra, you can still indulge. Though they also offer vegetarian and vegan sandwich and wrap options, those still contain gluten. “We have all sorts of ingredients and we can create your own sandwich if you don’t see something you like.”
Atomic Coffee in both downtown Fargo and South Moorhead offers some gluten-free delicacies, a few of which are vegan-approved. Brownies, decadent peanut butter chocolate bars, carrot cake and cookies are a welcome sight for sweets-deprived eyes and taste buds. They also have gluten-free soups.
Chelsea Thorson, a barista at Atomic Coffee, decided to cut gluten and dairy from her diet recently. “I decided it was finally gluten that was bothering me. I was always feeling bloated and just really crappy every day, all the time,” Thorson said. “Even the days I wasn’t eating dairy, I was still feeling bad, so I decided to cut-out gluten and I started feeling great.”
Other resources to check out
Just like a bad breakup, saying goodbye to wheat and dairy may seem nigh to impossible, but after the initial pain, living without them becomes much easier, especially with resources like these. It’s time to kiss your unhealthy dietary relationships goodbye. You don’t need them anymore.
- Sydney’s Health Market in Moorhead is committed to providing quality gluten and dairy-free products.
- This celiac-friendly restaurant guide is a great resource for anyone trying to stay away from gluten, but who still want the luxury of going out on the town.
- Living gluten-free in the F-M area can be a lot easier when you know where to buy goods. This site provides a list of area grocery and health food stores that provide gluten-free (and many dairy-free) options.
- Founded in 2006, Fargo-Moorhead Vegetarians & Vegans is a club that meets at different times for restaurant outings, free monthly potlucks, recipe swaps and more.
- Paul Mehl, the founder of Simply Savory, has concocted an astounding assortment of gluten-free breads, pizza crusts, cookies, cakes and the like at his store in Fargo. You can even place your orders online.
- This GF Resource List provides a long compilation of restaurants and businesses that offer gluten-free options. Whether the places listed offer dairy-free options is another matter.
- Grocery stores like Cash Wise Foods and Hornbacher’s offer the best natural health food sections, while SunMart is lacking.
- The Green Market Kitchen in Fargo offers catering and in-store delights. Gluten-free and vegan options are available.
- Tochi Products, at 1111 Second Ave. N., Fargo, is a family-owned and operated health food store that has been around since the ‘70s. Like Swanson’s, Tochi’s offers a variety of health foods and offers some gluten and dairy-free options. They also carry an assortment of international products. In their store, a corner is designated for the gluten-intolerant with an assortment of gluten-free cookies, candy bars and even donuts. Unfortunately, the majority of these products do contain dairy.
(Edited by Brea Aamoth, MSUM advertising and public relations major).