How to Have a Sandwich on a Gluten or Grain Free Diet
So What is Gluten Anyway?
Once upon a time, I was a bread baker and gluten wasn't a "bad" word. In fact, it was a very good word because gluten meant I could work my bread dough into a lovely elastic state that would then produce a light, airy delicious loaf of bread. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and that doesn't sound so bad, right? Well, for most people, it's not, however for some, it can be a real nuisance and even life threatening for others.
No Bread?? How Will I Eat a Sandwich???
Now that is the question, isn't it?? Being gluten free really isn't too hard once you get the hang of reading the labels in the grocery store. There are obvious ingredients you'll train your eyes to look for like wheat, rye, and barley, but you'll also need to learn those not so obvious ingredients such as malted milk, spelt, brewer's yeast, farina and oats (unless they specify they are certified gluten free). Many foods are now labeled as gluten free and some stores are posting brightly colored labels on their shelves to help you identify gluten free products.
WebMD offers a good list of ingredients to look for when avoiding gluten. I strongly encourage you to get familiar with this list if you are avoiding gluten.
So, how will you eat a sandwich? You can bake your own breads using a gluten free bread mix such as Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix or you can buy it pre-made off the store shelf or freezer section from brands such as Udi's (they even offer coupons). The thing to remember with gluten free bread is not to compare it to "real" bread. The alternate flours used to make gluten free bread will have a different taste and texture. This doesn't mean these breads aren't delicious in their own right, it's just that they are different than what most of us are used to.
If You're Avoiding Those Alternative Grains as Well...
This is where life gets a good bit trickier. When I was only gluten free and not having to avoid other grains such as rice or oats, I could purchase those lovely loaves of Udi's bread, but now that I don't tolerate those grains, I have to get creative when making a "sandwich". Basically, it's down to those large leaves of Romaine lettuce and Paleo Wraps. Sounds rather sad doesn't it? It's really not....OK, it is, but I promise you can survive this way!
Lettuce wraps are really easy and versatile. Wash. Dry. Fill with something yummy. That's it. Simple, right?? You can fill those lovely leaves with anything you can think of. I've used them for tacos and Philly Cheesesteaks as well as chicken and tuna salad sandwiches. Remember when using lettuce leaves for hot sandwiches to heat the filling first rather than in the leaf.
Paleo Wraps from the Julian Bakery are made from coconut, coconut water and coconut oil. Yes, they do have a faint hint of a coconut taste, but if you fill them with something savory, you'll never notice. One of my favorite things to fill a Paleo Wrap with is a good old bacon cheeseburger! Rather than make the patties on the grill, I like to scramble the grass fed/finished ground beef with some onions, a bit of Himalayan pink salt and ground white pepper because I have found that patties can become dry when reheated, but scrambling makes the beef retain more of it's natural juices. When I make my burger, I reheat the meat mixture and cover with a good helping of cheddar cheese. When melted, the cheese helps to hold the meat together so less escapes the wrap when eating...how's that for a helpful hint?? Now you can build your burger anyway you like, just keep in mind the wraps are only so big so be sure to leave room for wrapping!
Paleo Wraps also make good peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I use Sunbutter rather than peanut butter due to following a low oxalate diet. I keep a pack of wraps and a jar of Sunbutter in my cubicle drawer at work for a quick snack or for lunch if I didn't have anything to pack on a Friday. Once you get past the fact that they aren't "flatbread", remember my caution about comparing alternative breads to the "real" thing....they are a wonderful addition to a gluten/grain-free diet.
The biggest drawback to Paleo Wraps are the price. They are available in packs of seven for $10.99 on Amazon which makes them about $1.57 each without shipping. This is a good option for testing the wraps to see if you like them. I purchase mine in the pack of fifty for $49.99 which brings the individual wrap cost down to $1.00 each without shipping. For the convenience of a quick sandwich, I don't mind the price....too much.