This article is for anybody who has recently discovered they have a gluten allergy, gluten intolerance, or celiac disease.
The process of eliminating gluten from your diet is often confusing and overwhelming.
I have put this article together to help you get off to a great start!
By: Sarah Koontz
I remember the feelings of devastation and loss I experienced when I first discovered I had a gluten allergy. I know it is just FOOD, but the idea of living without it for the rest of your life is depressing! I didn’t really know where to start, but my health was so poor, I knew I had to at least try to make the change.
The first few months were the most challenging, as I learned all the sneaky little places that gluten can hide. For example, who would have ever thought that Twizzlers were made with wheat? Not that Twizzlers are a huge part of my diet, but they have been my favorite candy since I was a kid. Oh, and Campbell’s Tomato Soup was another childhood favorite that I had to say goodbye to forever.
In the beginning, all that I could think about was the foods I CAN’T eat anymore. I think that everyone reading this would agree that some of our favorite foods contain gluten. But everything got a lot easier for me once I realized all of the delicious food I still CAN eat.
I have chosen to focus on all of the things I CAN eat rather than the few things I CAN’T eat, because who wants to live their life feeling deprived?
Although that is the most valuable piece of advice I can give anyone who is learning to live without gluten, there are many more tips and tricks I have learned along the way. I have compiled a list of my 20 best tips for anyone going gluten free. Here they are:
- Focus on all of the things you CAN eat rather than the few things you CAN’T eat (yes, I am repeating myself here….it is that important!)
- You must become an expert at reading labels! Here is a wonderful guide to help you get started.
- Learning the art of gluten free baking is the best way to feel “normal” as you transition to being 100% gluten free. Start with my Gluten Free Flour Blend. It is frugal and makes the most delicious muffins and treats.
- Gluten sensitivities are often a sign of a compromised immune system; be sure to research the health benefits of taking high quality nutritional supplements in the form of cellular nutrition (the author of this article is my daddy!). Sammi and I take and recommend the Ariix Nutrifii products.
- Be prepared to pay around 6 dollars per loaf of bread, and also….it will taste like Styrofoam. I find that it is really only good as toast. Rudi’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread & Vans GF Blueberry Waffles are my favorite choices for breakfast. If I truly want a sandwich, I find I am only happy with fresh baked bread (within 24-48 hours from the oven). This is my favorite GF bread mix.
- Focus on eating as many NATURALLY gluten free foods as possible. Not only will this save you money, but it will also help you to feel normal. The Peaceful Mom has put together a printable list of Naturally Gluten Free Foods.
- It is important for you to discover exactly HOW sensitive you are to gluten and respect your own boundaries. They are different for everyone!!!! I have discovered that I can eat foods that have been prepared in a facility that has gluten in it without having a reaction. Some people cannot. So keep that in mind as you read the rest of this list!
- Sometimes you just need a little crunch (that isn’t a carrot). HERE is a list of all the Frito-Lay products that do not contain gluten. What, I can eat Cheetos and Hint of Lime Tostitos??? Yes…yes you can!!
- Eliminating gluten is a great way to take stress off your digestive system (if an allergy or intolerance exists), but there are other things you can do to help heal the damage gluten has done over the years. I am a huge advocate for fermented foods like Kombucha, Kimchi, and Kefir and their ability to improve digestive health. Sign up for this e-mail list and you will receive some great ‘How To” e-mails.
- No matter how careful you are, you will accidentally consume gluten from time to time. If you are anything like me, you will get very sick, and you will be sick for days. I have a prescription of Lomotil that I take at the onset of any symptoms and it seems to ease my pain a bit.
- Eating out can be tricky. Here are a few of my favorite places to eat: Outback Steakhouse, Olive Garden, PF Changs, Wendys, Ruby Tuesday, Pizza Ranch, Chilis, and Qdoba. Here is a list of 75 Gluten Free Restaurant Menus for your reference.
- Eating at friend’s houses or church functions are often the most challenging situations for people with food allergies. No matter how hard people try, they often don’t understand what gluten free means. If you DON’T KNOW FOR SURE, then DON’T RISK IT. I am always prepared and unapologetic about bringing my own food (hosts are usually appreciative).
- There are some really great gluten free products out there! My favorites include: Crunchmaster Crackers, Cinnamon Chex Cereal, Go Picnic Meal Kits, Kind Snack Bars, Larabars, Pure Nourish Meal Replacements, Mama’s GF Pizza Crust & Pie Crust Mix, Mrs. Leeper’s Corn Pasta, Bisquick Gluten Free Brownies & Pancake Mix, and Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Chips.
- Most ice cream and French fries are gluten free (just be careful if the fries share oil with other gluten-containing foods). These have definitely become my “splurge foods” since going gluten free.
- ASK QUESTIONS when you are dining out! Keep in mind that YOU are the only person who suffers if there is a mistake with your order. PROTECT YOURSELF! Here is an excellent guide to help you have a positive dining out experience.
- Be patient with your friends and family, they won’t always understand you…and that is ok.
- Just because you are gluten free, that doesn’t mean your whole family must be gluten free 100% of the time. Most of the meals I prepare are gluten free, and almost all of the goodies I bake are too (I mean who wants to slave over a treat that they can’t eat!). But my family still consumes plenty of gluten. I just do my best to keep those dangerous crumbs away from what I am eating.
- There are some great resources and guides for gluten free living. BOOKS: The First Year: Living Gluten-Free, The G-Free Diet. MAGAZINE: Living Without’s Gluten Free & More. COOKBOOK: Gluten-Free on a Shoestring.
- There are some super talented gluten free bloggers out there! Here is a roundup of 10 Inspiring Blogs for Gluten Free.
- The learning curve is steep, you will make mistakes, just keep on trying….the benefits are well worth the effort!
Going gluten free is not the simplest thing you will ever do, but it is well worth the effort! It has taught me to respect my body, protect my body, and do what I can to rebuild my body. It can be discouraging at times, especially when you are on vacation.
Because, people like me, never get to take a vacation from their gluten free diet.
But the health benefits are undeniable. I have been gluten free for nearly 3 years and I am finally feeling vibrant and healthy. I have margin in my life now, and I am proud of myself for practicing the self-discipline it takes to be gluten free. I never thought I would be able to stick with it this long, but it has gotten much easier over time.
I do not feel deprived any longer. Because saying NO to gluten is saying YES to feeling like a normal human being. What is your favorite tip from the list above and why?