June 30, 2018 Updated October 8, 2018Categories: Essentials
When you’re newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity and need to eat gluten free, these 10 tips can help make life a bit easier by giving you important information and strategies.
Celiac disease is a serious lifelong autoimmune disease caused by the immune system reacting to Gliadin, which is a gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley. The only treatment for this condition at this time is a strict gluten free diet.
With the right knowledge on how to eat gluten free, it can be easier to eat gluten free. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, these 10 tips will help the task of eating gluten free be a bit less daunting.
1 - Learn to Read Labels
When shopping for groceries, packaged foods will be labeled gluten free if they don’t contain gluten. You also want to read the ingredients section. You want to also avoid products labeled that they were manufactured in a facility that also processes wheat, barley, or rye.
Be aware that there can be a number of unhealthy ingredients used in some gluten free products, so be aware that just because something is labeled gluten free does not mean it’s healthy. If you are unwell, then limit your packaged food purchases, and hunt around for some healthier gluten free options. The healthier you eat, the easier it will be for your body to heal.
2 - Substitutes
There are a number of gluten free substitutes for common gluten containing products. You can find gluten free bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, etc. Read the labels carefully to ensure they are gluten free and not processed in a facility that prepares gluten products (wheat, rye, barley).
There are also a number of flour substitutes that can be used for gluten free home baking.
It’s not uncommon for those who need to avoid gluten to also react to other grains, so if you try some products that don’t make you feel well, try some others, or limit the intake of these types of products.
There are many substitutes that you would not at first think could make a good choice, so be open to trying out new foods you haven’t had before, and you’re bound to find substitutes you like.
3 - Naturally Gluten Free Foods
There are many naturally gluten free foods, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and eggs. These foods can form the core of your diet, and will provide a tremendous variety that can keep you satisfied.
4 - Other Grains
There are a number of grains and seeds that are gluten free, that you can try:
Be sure to read the labels to make sure they are labeled gluten free, as it is very common for grains and seeds to be contaminated with gluten if special growing, transporting and processing procedures are not put into place.
Many of these different grains and seeds can be used in place of gluten products you may be used to, in dishes such as pasta, breadings, etc.
Research is starting to show that people will also react to other grains. For more information on this, check out this website, that has tons of info on this subject: Gluten Free Society
5 - Alcohol
Gluten free alcohol can include cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port and liqueurs. You will need to ensure they are labeled gluten free. The labeling laws for alcohol do not require full disclosure of the ingredients, so the only way to be certain is to purchase alcohol with a gluten free label.
There are a number of alcohol products that do contain gluten, so these will need to be avoided. Beer, lager, stout and ale all contain gluten. There are some gluten free beer on the market, that you can try, as long as they are labeled gluten free.
6 – Restaurants
There are more and more restaurants catering to gluten free food than ever before. When choosing a restaurant, take the time to plan ahead, and visit the restaurant ahead of time, during their slow time. Speak to the chef directly and find out how they deal with preparing gluten free food. They need to be using some fairly involved processes to avoid cross contamination. This will include clean utensils, clean mixing bowls, clean pans, 100% gluten free ingredients, etc. Be sure to tell them that you absolutely 100% cannot have any gluten. You need to stress to them that you are eating this way for medical reasons and you’re not just following it for the “fad” of it.
Find a support group and ask for recommendations. The best recommendations come from those people who are the strictest with their diets and make no exceptions when it comes to gluten intake and their health.
There may be times when you need to go out with friends or family to some place that you have not had a chance to fully check out. In those cases, it’s recommended to eat at home before you go. You can have a simple drink while visiting and enjoying the company of your friends. This may not seem ideal, but the seriousness of Celiac disease should take priority over the risk. Over time, and with practice, you’ll be able to increase the places that you’ll feel comfortable being able to eat at, and with regular outings with friends and family, you will find new favorite restaurants that will be safe for you, and that everyone will love.
For more in depth info on finding good restaurants, be sure to check out our article Gluten Free Beginner - Restaurants
7 - Cross Contamination
Cross contamination is a big issue with gluten. First of all, gluten can seem to be in just about everything. Secondly, so many things can get contaminated by growers, farm transportation, initial manufacturing, and final preparation.
Take the time to first ensure that the ingredients you purchase are gluten free. Then you need to ensure your preparation area and techniques do not cross contaminate your food.
You should to a kitchen overhaul. This can mean cleaning non porous items, that don’t have little hiding places, such as folds and joints in utensils and cooking pots and pans. For those types of utensils and cooking items that are porous and have folds, joints and little nooks and crannies, purchase brand new ones, and keep those only for gluten free cooking. Have new and separate cutting boards, baking sheets, etc. Keep all your gluten free cooking utensils and pans in freshly cleaned and segregated areas of your kitchen. You may want to also get some lay down surfaces that you can prepare food on, such as disposable wax paper, or large non porous cutting boards, or marble blocks. These can be a safer surface for you to work on.
Have gluten free segregated containers of food, such as refrigerated sauces, like mayonnaise or mustard, jams, jellies, peanut butter, etc. Anything where someone could dip a utensil should have a gluten free version.
Get a gluten free toaster and toaster oven.
Also be aware of gluten that people will spread around on their hands when they touch everything in your house. Get in the habit of washing your hands before sticking them in your mouth or on your face, or before you start preparing your food.
Dishes should be washed separately, and should use a clean wash cloth, or a segregated wash cloth.
Some families will choose to have a mostly or completely gluten free house, especially if the person who is gluten free is a child, or a very sick person. For those in the family who still eat gluten, they can limit their gluten eating to when they are outside of the house.
For more in depth info on setting up your home to be Celiac safe, be sure to check out our article Gluten Free Beginner - Home Sweet Home
8 - Gravy and Sauces
Many packaged mixes and packaged prepared sauces, gravies, soups, stocks, and condiments contain gluten containing ingredients, so be sure to purchase only those labeled gluten free. You can also opt to make home made versions of many of these things.
When making gravies or sauces, many of the gluten free substitutes can be used for thickening, such as corn flour, corn starch, arrowroot or potato starch.
Soups, broths and stocks can be homemade, by making a basic soup with some simple vegetables and meat, and boiling it. You can then prepare your soup as you normally would, and now you can ensure it doesn’t contain any gluten.
9 - Experiment and Try New Recipes
Try out a variety of new gluten free recipes and new cooking techniques. Your personal taste will help guide you in what you want to try, and for those that are a bit more adventurous there are endless options that will allow you to have a nice variety of foods, that will help you get used to this gluten free lifestyle. Spend some time in the kitchen and many of the things you’ll learn will get easier, and take less time.
Be sure to check out our Recipe Section, which has tons of recipes that are all gluten free! You're bound to find some that will suit your family.
10 - Gluten Free Can Be Healthy and Delicious
Start to make positive changes to your diet, and to your life, and it will improve your health. Take this as an opportunity to expand your knowledge, not just in gluten free, but in healthy eating. Small steps make a big difference, and your body will thank you in the long run.
Keep learning more about gluten free, and Celiac disease. What may seem overwhelming now will slowly get easier.
Join some support groups, both in person and online. There are a lot of varied resources at your disposal. You can find some that suit your personality, and that share the same goals you have – to feel better, and make life easier.
Here are a couple good Facebook groups that are worth a look. I’ll see you there if you decide to join up!
- Celiac Disease & NCGS Support Group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/Celiacdiseasesupport/
- Celiac Disease-Gluten Free Support Group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/1960316204295033/
- The Gluten Free Life - https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheGlutenFreeLife/