Hello, my name is Kristin and I am in gluten-free heaven.
- The gluten-free products in Sweden taste nearly as good as their gluten counterparts.
- Not only are there great-tasting gluten-free products available, but there are lots of them and they are available in many stores.
- Restaurants typically indicate which of their entrees are gluten-free.
- There is a higher percentage of people with gluten problems here (indeed, even in the U.S., you are more likely to have the problem if you have Scandinavian heritage) and thus a higher level of understanding and better alternative foods.
By the way, the other Scandinavian countries are equally “gluten-educated.” I’ll never forget the time I saw a fresh sandwich labeled “gluten-free” in the Helsinki airport. In an airport—the last holdout against trends in healthy (and/or diet sensitive) food!
Before I moved here, I knew that it would be easier to eat gluten-free in Sweden, so I can’t say this was a lucky surprise. It was definitely a check-mark in the “plus” column when I was analyzing whether to move to Sweden or not.
What is gluten?
In my late twenties, I discovered that my body couldn’t handle gluten. It took me years to figure out why I would frequently get horribly sick in the evening. Doctors used to insist that there was no such thing as late-onset celiac spree or other variations on gluten intolerance. I don’t think I am a celiac but I definitely have an allergy or intolerance. If I stop eating gluten, the problem goes away.
In case you don’t know what gluten is, it is found in the commonest flours—wheat, barley, rye, and some think, oats (the last one is hotly debated). The thing is, these flours are found in all sorts of common foods that you would never dream had any flour in them. There can be wheat flour (and therefore gluten) for example, in ice cream, vitamins, spices, hamburgers, etc.
Luckily it is not a life or death sensitivity for me. I can tolerate having my gluten-free bread toasted in a toaster that has had gluten bread. Some people are so sensitive that they can not do that.
There are ways around the gluten problem. There are other kinds of flour—rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, almond flour. But none of these taste like the real thing. For example, I decline to eat untoasted gluten-free bread—it tastes terrible uncooked. And the irony is that it is actually quite hard to get gluten-free bread to brown or “toast” because it is the gluten that burns in regular bread.
But I am freed from these issues in Sweden because the gluten-free selections taste so good. The pasta is good, the bread is great (still needs to be toasted but that’s okay) and there is even gluten-free gingerbread cookies available at Christmas.
Assorted Thoughts on Eating Gluten Free…
- Avoiding gluten-free foods is a good way to lower carbohydrate intake. It’s true, I don’t need the carbs anyway!
- The Powers on High must think that gluten-free people are both a miniature race and a very rich, miniature race, at that. Gluten-free products tend to be much smaller—a slice of bread is usually one-third to half the size and the price is at least double. So not fair!
- Airlines still haven’t mastered serving a gluten-free diet. Nearly every time I order a gluten free meal, there are crackers included on the tray that have gluten in them. Parents of gluten-free children have to really watch carefully