If you have recently been diagnosed with Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance then you are probably feeling extremely overwhelmed. However, simply knowing a few basic Gluten Free 101 tips can help lower your stress level.
If you are like me then you are on a mission of Research, Research, Research.
On the bright side, you don’t have to take any medications or get regular shots, all you have to do is stay away from gluten. On the downside, it seems like every food you have ever loved contains gluten. All you can think about is bread and pasta. I know that is how I felt when my 9-month-old daughter was diagnosed with gluten intolerance.
This post was originally published on January 24, 2014, and updated on July 14, 2017.
Let me share with you some tips for going gluten-free.
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Steps for Going Gluten-Free
First of all, visit celiac.org and read all about celiac disease. You can also print off a list of safe ingredients and unsafe ingredients and put it on your fridge until you have it memorized (that won’t take as long you think it will).
Next, focus on what you CAN eat.
Also, start your diet today. Don’t wait until after you’ve finished everything in your pantry (this will just prolong you getting healthy and feeling better). Donate all your gluten-filled food to a food pantry or a non-celiac family member.
Fill your kitchen with safe foods: dairy, fruits, vegetables, meat, and nuts. Get rid of boxed foods, bread, canned soups, most cereals, oatmeal, crackers, pasta, and certain flavors of chips. Read How to Get in the Habit of Eating Vegetables All Day Long.
When I got home from the doctor’s office with our gluten-free orders, I grabbed a sharpie and labeled everything with either “GF” or “Contains Gluten.”
When you buy groceries, look for things that are naturally gluten-free. There is a lot more out there than you think. You don’t have to spend a ridiculous price for organic rice cakes…. nearly all rice cakes are going to be gluten-free. (Always read the labels though!)
Don’t waste your money on gluten-free hot-dog/hamburger buns, they are ridiculously expensive, hard and chewy, and just not worth it. I will update you if we find one worth the money, but so far that hasn’t happened. We, personally, wrap our hamburgers and lunch meat in a leaf of Romaine lettuce (it’s not bad, seriously, give it a try!).
Take those safe and unsafe lists with you when you go shopping for a while. I have found that the most common ‘hidden’ gluten ingredients to look out for are Modified Food Starch and Malt.
Oatmeal is also cross-contaminated, so you have to buy organic, certified gluten-free oats. We buy Bob’s Red Mill Organic Rolled Oats and love them!
You need to read the labels on everything! There are a lot of foods that should be gluten-free that are not: cheese, lunch meats, nuts, etc.. If a brand puts gluten in these things, you probably want to avoid that brand altogether.
You also want to avoid anything that says may contain gluten, or processed in a facility that also processes wheat ingredients or something along those lines. You might have to spend a little more money and buy named brand foods, but it is worth it to avoid getting sick.
Shop at ALDI, if you have one near you. I love Aldi for many, many reasons. One, they have the cheapest groceries. Two, they label their food as gluten-free when applicable. You can easily see if their cheeses, milk, chips, lunchmeat, hot dogs, canned vegetables, spaghetti sauce, and so on, are labeled gluten-free. It is so convenient to pick up an item and not have to read all the ingredients because there is a beautiful little circle telling me it is gluten-free right on the packaging.
You can’t buy everything from Aldi (such as flour or oatmeal) but you can get the basics. They occasionally have special purchase items that are gluten-free such as chicken nuggets and pancake mix (Ahhhhhmazing!!!!). If you ever catch these things on a special purchase, buy all of them! The pancake mix is way better than regular pancakes. I also hear they are going to be adding an organic section soon, so maybe their gluten-free stock will be increasing (fingers crossed!).
Update: I went into a whole lot more detail in this post: Where to Find Gluten-Free Ingredients for the Best Prices!
If you go to a gluten-free section in a grocery store there will probably be a whole wall full of different types of flours. This can be very overwhelming.
The three flours I recommend buying first are Rice flour (white or brown), Tapioca Flour, and Potato Starch (there is a difference between potato flour and potato starch). If you mix these three flours together you can sometimes substitute this blend for regular white flour. The ratio for the mix is 2 parts rice flour: 2/3 part potato starch: 1/3 part tapioca flour.¹ I mix up a double batch of this and keep it in my pantry for baking.
Update: We went into more detail on making your own flour blends here: 5 Basic DIY Gluten-Free Flour Blends
Buy a gluten-free cookbook. These days that are many to choose from. This will help you substitute your favorite meals and recipes and eventually you can experiment turning gluten-full recipes into gluten-free. Also, flip through your chosen cookbook and see what types of flours most of the recipes call for–then buy those flours to start out.
When you need a thickener for gravy, soup, or roux, use cornstarch instead of flour. The substitution ratio is half (e.g. the recipe calls for 1 C of flour use 1/2 C of cornstarch).
Update: I give a lot of tips in this post: How to Make Almost Any Recipe Gluten Free
Thankfully, many restaurants are adding gluten-free options to their menus. When we first started our diet we avoided eating out because we didn’t know what to order. Today, many restaurants are jumping on board.
Avoid fast food. Sometimes we will order fast food burgers without a bun, but I really don’t think this is safe–do so at your own risk. If you order french fries make sure they aren’t cooked in the same fryer as onion rings or other breaded foods.
A Word of Encouragement: I know it is overwhelming. I have been right where you are. We have been gluten-free for
two SIX years now, and already there are many more things that are becoming gluten-free. You can now go to Walmart and buy a tub of gluten-free cookie dough, pizza dough, or pie crust.
I have found that we eat much healthier than we did before. We now eat more fruits, vegetables, and meat, and less pasta. Instead of grabbing junk food we now healthier options such as apples or peanuts.
If you would like an abundance of gluten-free recipes, follow our boards on Pinterest.
Now stop stressing out and go eat something delicious!
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