A few years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, I was absolutely overwhelmed. I did not have the time, freedom, or budget to handle this transition! But we made it work and now that our home is entirely gluten free, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
Over the years, we found that two other children and I also suffered from gluten sensitivity. You may have heard of advocates for gluten free living who believe that present-day wheat is bad for everyone. I’m not a food scientist, so I will not present any argument here, but I do know that each and every member of our family began to benefit mentally and physically when I made the leap to a completely gluten free home. At this point six of us are completely gluten free while the other two only eat wheat and barley products occasionally.
If this is something you wish to try or must try because of a medical diagnosis, here are my personal tips for getting started:
1. Go cold turkey.
Don’t eliminate bread, then pasta, then cookies, etc. Just stop eating it. You really don’t get a benefit until it is out of your system for a few weeks. After a few weeks without gluten, you begin to adjust to your new lifestyle, but the slow road takes too long with no benefit and is hard to stick to.
2. Stick with it.
The first few weeks can be tough. Headaches, cravings, and hunger are normal, and then, suddenly, you feel great! If you are trying to see if this will benefit you, you really have to commit to it for a month or two to properly evaluate.
3. Go for the substitutes, but only for a while.
At first, getting the gluten free substitute foods can help with the transition. I had kids who ate peanut butter sandwiches all day. Gluten free bread helped with the transitioning, but now they eat their peanut butter on thin rice cakes. Gluten free pasta feels more familiar, but rice, potatoes, quinoa, and polenta are naturally gluten free.
Gluten free substitute products are a fun treat, but they are expensive and always fall short of the real thing. Also, people with gluten issues are often sensitive to many ingredients used as gluten substitutes.
4. Use the internet frequently.
Rather than trying to master gluten free living in a crash course, look up EVERYTHING online as you eat it. If a product is not labeled “Gluten Free,” it still may be naturally gluten free. Read all your labels and avoid anything with wheat, gluten, barley, or malt.
Did you know soy sauce is made with wheat as are many alcoholic beverages? Barley is not safe, but buckwheat is. Oats are often contaminated with gluten. If your French fries are fried in the same oil as chicken tenders you may get cross-contamination.
Always ask for help when eating out. Many restaurants have gluten free menus and if needed, your server may have to check with the kitchen to ensure your meal is safe.
5. Take your time learning to bake and cook.
Building your gluten free pantry doesn’t happen overnight. Start with the naturally gluten free dishes you normally eat. If you try a gluten free recipe and it doesn’t work out, try another!
It takes time to understand how to mimic gluten in a baking recipe and to meet your personal preferences. You cannot make assumptions based on your past experience in the kitchen, so stick to recipes exactly at first until you get more comfortable. Buy your various flours (almond, tapioca, etc) in smaller bags as needed for recipes.
You may find you are sensitive to one or more of these ingredients. Once you find your groove, you can order larger quantities online to save money
A gastroenterologist can diagnose you with Gluten Intolerance or the more serious Celiac Disease. Additionally, others have found eliminating gluten to help with various conditions:
- Weight gain
- Sensory Disorders and Learning Problems
- Chronic Digestive Issues
- Symptoms of Autism
- Arthritis and other Inflammatory Issues
- Dark Circles under the Eyes
- Skin Conditions
Do you have tips for a gluten-free diet? Have you considered trying a gluten-free diet?
Copyright 2015, Kate Daneluk
Image from Dollar Photo Club.