You have decided to fully commit to a 100% gluten-free lifestyle. The only problem? You have no idea where to start. Grab a cup of coffee (not the instant kind, unless you know for sure it’s gluten free, as many of them are “gluten-ated!”) and get cozy….help is on the way!
Before diving in, you must confirm (and be completely honest) with yourself one of the following three statements:
- I have just been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
- A doctor (or via elimination challenge) has confirmed I am gluten intolerant and should refrain from all gluten.
- I want to lose weight. All my favorite celebrities are gluten free, thin and healthy.
Again, be completely honest with yourself when choosing #1, #2 or #3. Why? Because each statement likely associates the gluten-free lifestyle with something unique. Let me explain:
- If you chose #1, you absolutely, positively – 150% - need to refrain from gluten. There is no magic cure or medication you can take to make Celiac disappear, except for remaining 100% gluten free. If you fall into this category, then you should spend a few days (or even a week) completely clearing out your kitchen. Remove any and all things with gluten and/or that have touched gluten (ie. toaster). You can read more about this via, “Make Your Kitchen Gluten-Free – Six Steps to Get Rid of the Gluten.” (Make note: I do not have Celiac, so I do not live this way.)
- If you chose #2, then you also fall into the category where the only “cure” is to adopt a 100% gluten-free lifestyle. (I fall into this category -> perhaps you have a story like mine.) The difference between #1 and #2 is that with #2 typically (but not in all cases) if your food “touches” food with gluten in it you will not become ill. I never deliberately allow my food to “mingle” with the gluteneous food, but I do not operate in a 100% gluten-free kitchen, and it has been okay for me.
- If you chose #3, then my first recommendation is to read, “Gluten Free is the new Atkins.” Help yourself understand why you think going gluten free will help you. It’s not an easy lifestyle. It’s not just about giving up wheat bread and white pasta. Know, too, that if you plan on just switching from your regular cookies to gluten-free cookies that you likely aren’t saving any calories, carbs or fat grams. In fact, many times you’ll likely be adding to those numbers. That being said, if you adopt the “Real Food” way of gluten-free eating you will become healthier all around (more on “Real Food” gluten free later). If #3 is your statement, maybe you just need to adopt this “Real Food” way to life and not necessarily be gluten free. Think about it as I continue on….
Now that you have your starting place, let’s move right on in with the main squeeze of the day, Mr. Gluten.
Gluten is (in simplest terms) a special type of protein that is commonly found in rye, wheat, and barley. You now know whether you fit into statement #1, #2 or #3. Use the following resources and information to help guide you to the gluten-free healthy lifestyle you need.
Resources for foods that do/do not contain gluten:
- Mayo Clinic: Gluten-Free Diet
- Celiac.com: Safe Gluten-Free Food List
- Gluten-Free InfoWeb Food List
- Restaurant Terms Explained (from riceworks gluten-free snacks)
- Books, Articles & Videos (from riceworks gluten-free snacks) -> I also recommend The G-Free Diet by Elisabeth Hasselbeck
- Gluten Free Menu & Fast Food Information
- Celiac Sprue Association
- List of Gluten-Free Foods
Blogs for gluten-free living (recipes, information and life):
- elana’s pantry
- The Spicy RD
- Gluten Free Blog
- Gluten Free Mommy
- gluten-free goddess
- simply gluten-free
- The Spunky Coconut
- RSS My Blog (Yes, this is a shameless self plug. I do, however, put up recipes, videos and gluten-free information all the time. It’s my life. This is how I live.)
* I could go on forever here. It’s just a matter of perusing the Internet to see which blog/personality fits best with your style. Want to find more (and get trapped into reading all day?) just Google, “Gluten Free AND Blog.”
Tips and Tricks
- Have a Smartphone? Download the Red Laser App. If I’m out and about, and I’m not certain about a product, many times I’ll scan the barcode and it will list allergens. Slick, eh?!
- If something is wheat free, it may not be gluten free. If something is gluten free, it will always be wheat free. This is very important to know because a lot of packaging says, “wheat free.”
- Make Gluten Free a Game.
- Shop at grocery stores that cater to you. (I understand it’s more expensive many times to eat healthier, but investing in yourself and your health is the best investment you can make. Remember that.) Try: Whole Foods, Safeway (they now have “gluten-free” tagged labels on most items which are gluten free), Trader Joes (they also label the gluten-free items –> and Trader Joes is uber-affordable!), (special) health or natural food stores, Target (yes, they have a ton of gluten-free products) and finally your local/regional grocery store (almost all grocery stores carry gluten-free options).
- On Facebook? Twitter? YouTube? Other? Within each network, you are bound to find a gluten-free community for support, ideas and overall help and tips. Feel free to steal my “Gluten-Free Twitter List”. Search “gluten-free” on Facebook or on YouTube; you are bound to find someone to connect with – your support group is waiting.
One aspect of going gluten free that I think many people overlook is that many foods, in their natural state, are already gluten free. If you are the type of person who loves fresh fruits, vegetables and plain meats (no, deli meat is not included usually – sorry) then you will do very well with a gluten-free diet. I eat very, very simple. I eat most foods as close to their natural state as possible, and the only things I add are fresh spices, herbs and sea (or Kosher) salt. The problem with gluten free comes for those who have lived their lives off of packaged and processed goods. Those are typically the foods that are plump full of gluten. The only time I really have to worry anymore is if I’m craving a cupcake or chips. In those instances, I make sure they are gluten free. If you can train your body to enjoy real foods, half of your battle is won! (Remember, though, not all foods in their original state are gluten free. ie. Whole Wheat Pasta.)
Finally, I did a post called Gluten Free 101 last November. You will find some additional things there, as well as a very basic ongoing shopping list.
One final thing, please remember that I am not a doctor. But even though I have only been 100% gluten free for the past 14 months, I have been “on” to the fact that I am gluten intolerant for several years now (remembering back to symptoms even as a child, in high school and then reached the top in college). Therefore, I have read, studied and been fascinated with gluten and food in general as it relates to making us healthier and happier, without medication. I have never gone to a doctor who was able to help me with “food” the way in which I have been able to help myself. Doctor’s just told me to “stay away from bread and pasta.” And because that makes me *SO* mad, I vowed to learn everything I could and share it with anyone and everyone who needed a little help (or a lot of help).
In the next year, I will share everything I learn about this as I embark on further knowledge through The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. And I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
In the meantime, I’m always here to answer your questions the best I can. Remember, you can contact me anytime!