6 Tips On Going and Eating Gluten Free
12 years ago, when I first figured out that I was having issues with gluten at the age of 19, it seemed like no one else in the whole wide world had any idea what the stuff even was, let alone how to avoid it and what to eat in it’s place. The few gluten free products that were available tasted like salty cardboard, and eating out was definitely a challenge. The #1 question I received from family and friends upon telling them about my gluten intolerance was either, “Can you eat potatoes?” or “So you can’t eat bread anymore?”
Things have definitely changed since then, thank goodness!
It seems like everyone knows about a gluten free diet these days. Celebrities tout it for their glowing skin, athletes worship it for it’s ability to improve their performance, even comedians use it as fodder for their monologues. More and more restaurants have gluten free options on their menus, and grocery stores are designating entire sections to gf products!
There is even an entirely gluten free restaurant in Asheville, NC!!!
While these changes make my heart happy, it can still be difficult to navigate the food world safely, both for veterans of this way of life and especially for newbies.
I had to learn on my own, with limited information resources as well as limited alternative products, how to avoid those foods and products that would ruin my day, but also how to satisfy some of the cravings that popped up (and still do!) for the gluten filled foods that I had enjoyed for 19 years. It was a lonely and at times embarrassing journey, one filled with ups and downs, belly ache days, feeling awesome days, and everything in between.
I don’t want you to feel like you’re alone in your journey of going and eating gluten free!
I wish I had had someone to navigate this new challenge with, try and share new recipes with, and a place to feel understood. I understand what you’re going through! I understand that your symptoms may not look like mine, but we are both dealing with the same challenge. It gets easier, I promise!
To help you get started, or to freshen up your gf diet, here are my top 6 Tips:
#1. Go on an elimination diet. This was how I initially identified that I definitely had an intolerance to gluten. If you’ve already done this, great! If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. Nothing worse than avoiding gluten for several weeks or months and then recognizing that it’s actually something else causing you problems! An elimination diet can also help you reset if you’ve shirked your gluten free ways for any period of time (I’ve been here, too. Regrets.)
Here is a link to one similiar to what I used: http://www.doctoroz.com/article/elimination-diet-plan-food-allergies
#2. Learn your ingredients. While gf packaged and processed foods and sauces have become more available and more clearly labeled, there will still be times you want or need to buy items that are not obviously labeled gluten free. This is where your own research will be vital. You need to know that regular soy sauce is processed with wheat, and therefore not safe for you. You need to know that malt is typically a derivative of barley, and barley is not safe for gf people, so that means malt is not safe for you. It takes time to build up your knowledge, so take the time to research and be patient with yourself.
#3. You Gotta Eat. Once I discovered my gluten intolerance, I was so mad and frustrated. I just wanted to be able to eat a sandwich on soft, whole wheat bread or a slice of normal birthday cake without any side effects. But my new reality was that I could no longer eat those things without being in significant stomach pain, among other things. Instead, I was eating scrambled eggs for breakfast, sandwich meat wrapped in iceberg lettuce with potato chips or carrots for lunch, and fish, rice, and canned green beans for dinner. Everything was pretty bland, but safe. Pretty soon, however, I realized that I wasn’t getting enough nutrients, and I was left hungry, tired, cranky, and dissatisfied.
When eating gluten free, try not to focus on what you can’t have, and instead focus on all of the foods that you can have.
Smoothies, gf pancakes or waffles (homemade or store bought), fresh fruits, fresh veggies, nuts, rice, gf oats, gf breads, milk, cottage cheese, the list goes on and on. Please make sure you’re still eating a nutritionally packed and diverse diet, just sans gluten. Your energy level will thank you!
#4. Cut Yourself Some Slack. Didn’t know there were oats in that seemingly safe dessert? Caved and ate a gluten-filled chinese takeout dinner? Attended a wedding and just had to have a slice of the wedding cake?
It. Is. O. K.
Listen, you gotta live. Life is full of moments that are celebrated with delicious food! You know your body, you know what kind of consequences there are, and you are in control of what you eat or don’t eat, no one else.
If you decide to eat something not safe, my advice is to choose the gluten-filled moment wisely. If you eat something by accident, just triple make sure your next meal or snack is 100% safe. In either scenario, jump back into gluten free as soon as you can so you feel good again in as little time as possible.
#5. Be Prepared. I almost always have some sort of gluten free snack in my bag: an apple or banana, some almonds, or a gf granola or cereal bar. Even with more and more options for us gluten free-ers, you never know when you might be in a situation where there is nothing safe available for you to eat. Pack that snack friend!
#6. Don’t Be Afraid or Embarrassed. Haters gon’ hate. But even friends and family may poke fun at you or roll their eyes every time you ask for the gluten free options at a restaurant or start scanning every product at the grocery store for wheat, gluten, or their derivatives.
Just like you’re being patient with yourself in this process, be patient with them, too. They will come around. At the end of the day, do you want to know you treated your body with respect and are feeling better or even great with more energy and less brain fog, or that you made the people around you comfortable at the risk of your body and health?
Hopefully you have family and friends who are supportive of your gluten free diet. But if they aren’t quite there yet, find an online community for support, or even check out your local healthfood stores to see if they are offering gluten free themed events or recipe nights. And you can send me an email anytime to chat about your gluten free journey!
I hope these tips help you as you navigate the world of gluten free! What are some tips you can share below on going and eating gluten free?