By Kelly Cartledge

I’ve only recently stifled the groans heard far and wide in my family from the great high fructose corn syrup extraction of 2012. It is not easy to take away products kids (and husbands) love, and try to find a suitable substitution. And although I’m not one to jump on the health trend wagon at every turn, I’m always looking to improve my family’s health and the function of our bodies. I recently found that although gluten-free eating is not a necessity in our household, it may be worth a try.

Unraveling the complexity of the science behind a gluten-free diet may be as mystifying as choosing products to eat while you are on it. It is indeed one of those tricky diets that requires attention at every turn because while gluten is most commonly found in bread and wheat-related products, it sneaks its way into the most surprising everyday items like ketchup, lipstick and sausage. A good rule seems to be that if a product needs some sort of stabilizer or “glue” to keep a thick or elastic texture, you may need to question its label.

A strict gluten-free diet has been lauded as a good treatment for celiac disease or wheat allergies, but some people are taking this lifestyle on as a healthy way to keep the digestive track, well, on track. Skipping the gluten could mean less bloating and less discomfort after meals, especially for smaller tummies. But if you plan to go all out on gluten-free, be sure that you have a good vitamin that will replenish B vitamins, magnesium and zinc–but check the label because vitamins can contain fillers including (you guessed it) gluten.

Stock up on grains that will work for your family–there are so many choices out there, but not all of them are great-tasting. I plan to test these on my family and see what their honest opinions are. Quinoa, rice, and clearly labeled gluten-free oats are good options. And fresh, whole vegetables and fruits are of course surpassed by none! I like the following quinoa salad–you can make a huge amount of the quinoa mixture ahead of time and have a different salad every day of the week by changing the add-ins.

Every Day of the Week Quinoa Salad

Mix a bit of olive oil with curry powder to taste and fresh garlic in a saucepan over medium heat. Add a cup of quinoa and 2 cups water and bring to a boil, cooking quinoa according to package instructions. Cool the quinoa mixture and reserve any unused portion in the fridge for later.

Add your choice of chopped fruits, vegetables and herbs like cucumbers, white raisins, mangoes, celery, black beans, green pepper, cilantro, basil or the fennel that was included in this week’s local bin! Serve it all over fresh greens like baby spinach if you please.

Orange Dressing for Quinoa Salad

2/3 cup juice from about 2 oranges

2 Tbs. juice from one lemon

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1 Tbs. finely chopped scallions

2 tsp. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk ingredients together and pour over your own quinoa concoction!