Living without gluten can make you feel like an outsider. All of your friends want to go out to dinner and split a pizza four ways, but you can’t joint in on the fun. You can look at it as a sad situation, or as a blessing in disguise. It’s an opportunity to improve your health, and one that could even help you live longer.
Perhaps you’ve been diagnosed as celiac by your doctor, or maybe you took your health into your own hands and eliminated gluten from your diet after reading a book or talking to a friend. You’re off to a great start, at least until you realize you are still consuming one of the many hidden forms of gluten. Don’t fret! Here are some tips that will help you through this transition.
- Read all of the labels, and know what ingredients to look for. Understand that some ingredients may not state wheat or gluten specifically, but they may contain it, such as modified food starch. Rye, barley, malt, brewer’s yeast – these are all gluten-containing ingredients. If your memory is not the sharpest, consider printing a wallet-sized cheat sheet and keeping it in your pocket for when you go grocery shopping or out to eat.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up in restaurants, even if the dish you are ordering should be gluten-free. you never know for sure until you ask. There is always a chance that they prepare it on a surface that is contaminated with gluten. Also, some restaurants will automatically add breadcrumbs to their burgers, which you would never know unless you inquire. Asian restaurants are notoriously difficult for the gluten-free crowd. A lot of the sauces are soy sauce-based, which commonly contain gluten. Sticky rice sometimes has gluten-containing starch added to it to give it that extra-tacky texture.
- Look up menus online or call restaurants ahead of time. My husband and I are huge BBQ fans. For our anniversary, we wanted to indulge in some tasty BBQ, and so I called around to see what the options were. Our first choice had wheat in all of their sauces! Now that would have been an unpleasant experience. It’s good to know ahead of time what your options are, especially if you are a planner and don’t appreciate surprises like me.
- Eat a cleaner, whole-foods based diet. It will make you much healthier, and make navigating a gluten-free diet much easier. It decreases your intake of processed foods, which makes accidentally ingesting gluten much less likely.
- Watch for gluten in more than just your food items. Gluten can often be found in toothpaste, shampoo, lipstick and other personal products. For those that are very sensitive, this can potentially prevent your body from healing.
- Gluten-free baking can be tricky. You cannot simply substitute 1 cup of white flour for 1 cup coconut flour. Different flours are used in different ratios, and a lot of recipes call for more than one type of flour. Know that if you make your own substitutions or alterations to a gluten-free recipe, you may end up with something as hard as a rock and completely inedible. Follow recipes exactly for the best results.
- Don’t get frustrated if you slip up. Being gluten-free is hard enough on it’s own. You don’t need to stress yourself out by worrying yourself to the bone. We all make mistakes, and not dwelling on them is for the best.
- Your family will likely not understand what you are going through, unless they are in a similar situation. They may never understand. When they say “you can’t have donuts, cake or pasta? That must be a terrible way to live”, reassure them that you are feeling much better without gluten in your life. Who can argue with doing something positive for your body and mind? Do it for yourself and don’t let people negatively influence the decisions you make for your personal growth.
- The Find Me Gluten Free app is amazing! Download it. Use it. Eat Well.
- Focus on what you CAN eat, rather than what you can’t. If you look at your situation as one of abundance, rather than one of scarcity, you will change your experience of going gluten-free. At the beginning, this is a challenging perspective to have, but the more you try to incorporate it into your life, the better and happier you will feel.
I hope you guys enjoyed this list of tips for beginners. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the process of going gluten-free. I know it can be quite challenging, especially for those who are doing it alone (as I did when I started). You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.