Interview with Ellie O'Brien of Hungry by Nature

In honor of Celiac Awareness Month, we interviewed Ellie O’Brien, recipe developer and blogger behind Hungry by Nature, a site that celebrates balance and is filled with delicious gluten-free recipes.

Ellie’s food approach is to eat healthy, whole, natural foods and always leave room for dessert - which is definitely something we can get behind!

Read on to learn about Ellie’s top tips for stocking and maintaining a gluten-free kitchen, see some of her favorite gluten-free products and recipes, and more!

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First, tell us a little about yourself and Hungry by Nature.

Hi! I’m Ellie and I love food. I love making it, baking it, eating it, sharing it, and talking about it. I started Hungry by Nature in 2015 as a way to catalog all of my favorite recipes and to learn/practice photography. As time has passed, my diet has changed but my approach to food has not - eat healthy, whole, natural foods and always leave room for dessert!

‘Hungry by Nature’ is about balance and moderation. In addition to it being a clever title (I am always hungry!), it is about feeding your physical hunger with natural foods and wholesome ingredients. It is about feeding your intellectual hunger to learn and to grow. Hungry by Nature is about moving forward, constantly learning, and never settling.

In 2017, Hungry by Nature launched a grain free granola line! Somewhat similar to Bread SRSLY, I found a need in the market for a gluten and grain free granola that was made from real ingredients that make you feel good when you eat them; and Hungry by Nature Grain Free Granola was born. After a year and a half, I launched two new flavors - Lemon Blueberry and Chocolate Cherry Chia - and cannot pick a favorite!

When were you diagnosed with celiac disease? What led to your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed with Celiac disease in December 2016 at the age of 28. I was not experiencing many of the classic Celiac symptoms and ate a fair amount of gluten regularly. But, I have a long history of autoimmune disease personally (morphea, Raynauds, and ITP) as well as in my family. My little sister was diagnosed in the fall of 2014 and I decided to get tested just to be safe.

Even though I wasn’t experiencing many of the classic symptoms - or thought I wasn’t experiencing them - I removed all gluten from my diet due to my diagnosis and felt better almost immediately! I had no idea how terrible gluten was making me feel because it was just my normal every day.

What resources did you turn to when first learning to navigate and adhere to a gluten-free diet?

Because my little sister had been diagnosed before me, she was a great resource. I also turned to other bloggers for recipes, tips, and tricks and got acquainted with the gluten free section of the grocery store.

How would you describe your approach to food?

My approach to food is simple – eat healthy, whole, natural foods and always leave room for dessert!

Personally, I have found that I feel my best when I eat a diet that is primarily paleo. I’ve found my body and mind are happiest when I eat mostly vegetables, fruit, and protein and omit almost all dairy, grains, and legumes; and most importantly when I minimize my sugar intake.

What are some of your most popular recipes/resources on Hungry by Nature for new gluten-free eaters?

Below are my most popular recipes for gluten-free eaters!

Whole30 Taco Frittata

Stuffed Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowls

Tigernut Flour Zucchini Muffins

Coconut and Cassava Flour Tortillas

I also have lots of sheet pan meals and gluten free baked goods!

What are your top tips for stocking and maintaining a gluten-free kitchen?

I have a few tips for what to immediately do after being diagnosed:

  1. Throw/give away all baking supplies, not just flours - due to cross contamination.

  2. Get rid of any food products that contain gluten or segregate them if you have members of your household that still use them.

  3. Replace all of your condiments - due to cross contamination.

  4. Replace your toaster or get toaster bags.

  5. Clean your oven!

I know this seems daunting, especially after just being diagnosed, but it will help clean up your kitchen and your diet!

As for stocking and maintaining a GF kitchen, here are my tips:

  1. Don’t focus on all the foods you can’t eat. Instead focus on the foods you can. There are still tons of foods that you can eat without consuming gluten!

  2. Along those same lines, don’t try and recreate your favorite gluten filled foods at the beginning. Gluten free pasta and pizza are not as good and it’s easy to be disappointed.

  3. When you are ready, start experimenting with GF flours - 1:1 all purpose, almond, and coconut are my favorites.

  4. Find your favorite substitutes and brands. Below are a few of my favorites:

    1. Bread SRSLY! Sourdough is my favorite bread of all time and I am so happy to find something safe for me to eat.

    2. Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers - great to snack on or grind up and use as a breading!

    3. Big Tree Farms Organic Coco Aminos in place of soy sauce.

    4. The New Primal sauces and marinades.

    5. Aldi’s Live G-Free line has amazing crackers and boxed cake mixes!

    6. Birch Benders Paleo Pancake and Waffle Mix

  5. If you can, don’t bring any gluten into your kitchen.

If you could only eat one of your recipes on repeat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I could seriously eat tacos for every meal, every day. But no matter what, I want those tacos served in my coconut and cassava flour tortillas.