Our foray into guest blogging was such a success that we decided to do some more. We chose a topic that all gluten-free eaters have had to deal with with at some point: starting out. It is by far the most frustrating period in our gluten free lives. The moment we take our first bite into a gluten-free cookie we know that our lives will never quite be the same. And who can forget our first shopping expeditions? So we decided to present our guest blogger with the question that all gluten-free newbies ask themselves:
what are five steps to living gluten-free?
At some point, after you’ve been told to eliminate gluten from your diet, you’ve probably thought, “What does that mean?” At first it may seem pretty basic—no bread, baked goods, or pasta. But, when you dig deeper you’ll find there’s more to it than that.
Here are five things to think about as you navigate the gluten-free world.
Giving up that gluten is a lifestyle change. It’s OK to feel a bit overwhelmed at first. Start by keeping things simple. Eat naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, poultry and meats. Supplement them with gluten-free items—pastas and snacks, for example—sold at most health food and some local grocery stores. You’ll miss some of the gluten-filled foods you’re used to, but it gets easier over time.
And, with the amount of GF foods entering the market daily there’s no reason to feel deprived.
Find out as much as you can about being gluten-free. You’ll quickly want to learn what gluten is, where it hides, and how non-gluten foods and items can become cross-contaminated. It’s important to become familiar with the many gluten-containing ingredients in food. And, to understand how gluten can make it’s way into your body—by means of things as seemingly harmless as cooking utensils, appliances, and beauty products. It’s ideal to meet with a dietitian or nutritionist for guidance. But, don’t stop there. Tap into the huge community of gluten-free resources on the Internet. There are helpful websites that post lists of gluten-containing ingredients and foods and GF restaurants directories, GF blogs written by folks who talk about their experiences and post mouth-watering recipes and there are even iPhone Apps listing thousands of GF products.
Read, read, read the ingredient labels of everything you buy. And, don’t hesitate to call a manufacturer if you’re uncertain whether or not a product is gluten-free. Many companies provide this information on their website. Prepare to spend a little more time food shopping at first. My rule of thumb—if it has more than five or six ingredients put it back. Soon you’ll find you’re coming home with more whole than processed foods translating to a healthier, more satisfying diet.
There’s no need to give up all the foods you love if you embrace new ways of cooking and baking or take advantage of GF options available at some restaurants. There are many delicious gluten-free recipes available online and in the growing library of GF cookbooks—more than can be prepared in a single lifetime. I find freezing homemade baked goods and foods allows me to have quick meals and snacks readily available. When you start to venture out to restaurants begin with those that have GF menus. A quick search on the Internet will yield some well-known chain and local restaurants that provide GF selections. Once you’re a little more confident about your gluten-free diet you may want to explore other types of restaurants. A call ahead to the chef will tell you if the restaurant will take the time (and have understanding) to prepare food to your requirements.
Many people who are gluten-free soon see the health benefits of their new lifestyle. It’s the reward for all your hard work—you’re probably going to feel better than you have in quite awhile. Embrace it 100% as your new way of life. Being gluten-free means being 100% gluten-free—all the time.
So, yes, there is life after giving up gluten. In fact, here’s a little secret—it’s a better life. You’ll feel better; you’ll eat foods that are better for you. And, you may find getting together with friends and family will be more about sharing their company than about sharing a meal together.