When I started this whole journey of restoring my health a few years ago, one of the first steps was to go gluten, dairy, and sugar free for several months. Within a few weeks, I felt absolutely amazing, and all of these symptoms I had dealt with since childhood were completely alleviated- stomach aches, bathroom issues, headaches, chronic sinus infections, constant fatigue, anxiety, eczema, and this overall sense of just feeling unwell. My Dr. explained that I could be lactose intolerant and/or gluten intolerant. I was tested for both and was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance.
It really was one of those moments in my life that I will never forget. It may sound weird or silly, but I had struggled with the symptoms I mentioned above for YEARS. I can remember being a little girl, and being passed around from doctor to doctor, GI specialist to ENT, having this test done and that test done, and finally being told in 5th grade that I just had IBS or a sensitive stomach. To finally know WHY I had struggled all this time, and to know that the answer to all of these problems was really quite simple was by far one of the best moments of my life. I remember sitting with my husband at night and talking to him about how amazing it was to not have a stomach ache or a bathroom issue- it was surreal to me.
Becoming gluten free was terribly overwhelming at first. In the beginning, it felt like gluten was in everything, so, therefore, I could eat nothing, but I started following some gluten free blogs, and reading books, and I quickly learned it wasn’t that bad. Thankfully, there are so many substitutions on the market these days, and I have never found a restaurant that didn’t have at least a couple things on the menu that were naturally gluten free, like salads and what have you.
So, I’ve put together a simple list of 5 steps to help you if you’re thinking about going gluten free or need to for health reasons.
5 Steps to Go Gluten Free
1. Do a Little Research- one thing that really helped me when I became gluten free, was to make a list of all of the potential gluten-containing ingredients that I could come across in an ingredient list. For example, maltodextrin is a food additive that comes from starch. Most times it is made from corn, potato, or rice starch, but it can be made from wheat starch, so it’s important to ensure that the item is either labeled gluten free or the maltodextrin is labeled corn maltodextrin or what have you. Another example is caramel- most caramel contains malt coloring, which is made from barley, which contains gluten, so again, it’s a tricky one to catch. Here is a link to a list of most common gluten containing ingredients: http://abt.cm/1hxwwRB
2. Clean Out Your Kitchen- whether you’re becoming gluten free for a health-related reason, or you’re just trying it out to see if you feel better, I would recommend cleaning out your kitchen. Go through your pantry, your fridge, and your freezer to ensure that everything you have is gluten free. If you’re just experimenting, or you have others in your home who are not gluten free, you may want to designate a shelf or area in the fridge where you can stock gluten-filled foods for them until you have a better grasp of what is and isn’t gluten free.
3. Purchase Staple Replacements- when I first became gluten free, I became paralyzed and thought my life would now consist of meats and veggies. Once I became a little more comfortable with the GF lifestyle, I realized that there is literally a substitute for just about everything. Here is a quick list of the staples I would purchase right away to make life a lot more bearable during this transition.
- GF All-Purpose Flour for baking, sauces, whatever you use flour for- I am OBSESSED with Pamela’s GF Baking and Pancake Mix, and I buy it on Amazon, because it’s much cheaper than the health food store: http://amzn.to/1dYosuS
- GF Bread– I love Rudi’s. Udi’s isn’t bad either. You can usually find these at any grocery store these days. Helpful tip: all GF bread is in the frozen section, because it can mold quickly- the best way to eat it is toasted or heated.
- GF Pasta– I have tried pretty much every one on the market and Schar is my favorite brand. Again, I purchase this on Amazon, because it’s the best price. http://amzn.to/KVHCV2
- GF Cream of *** Soups– Pacific makes Cream of Mushroom, Chicken, and Celery soups that are gluten free: http://amzn.to/1feAUoQ
- GF Crackers– there are tons of GF crackers and cookies on the market- Annie’s is a good brand. Also Schar and Glutino are great.
4. Substitute Ingredients Not Recipes– when I first started, I thought I had to get rid of all of my old recipes, and start from scratch. It’s way easier to purchase the staples above, and then just swap out the ingredients instead of trying to find a whole new book of recipes. If you love Spaghetti, Lasagna, Fettuccine Alfredo, Mac ‘n Cheese- just swap out the noodles and your GF. Casseroles that need Cream of whatever soups- just swap out the soup. Baking that calls for flour- use Pamela’s. I love the Nestle Tollhouse cookie recipe on the back of the bag, and if you just swap out the flour for Pamela’s, they turn out exactly the same! It really is quite easy to just start substituting GF ingredients, than to completely abandon your recipe book of old faithfuls!
5. Find Support– one of the best things I did when I became GF was to find other people, blogs, and websites that were GF, and I followed them, and asked questions, and used their recipes- it was super helpful, and encouraging to know that I wasn’t alone! Download a GF finder app- there are several of them- to find restaurants and menus that offer GF options. Like I said before, every restaurant has something that is naturally gluten free, and most restaurants now have a designated menu for GF options- it’s really easy these days!
If you ever have any questions, or just want support, feel free to email me at [email protected], and I would be happy to connect!