It’s not easy when you first learn you have to go gluten free. It doesn’t compare to being sick for week, taking an antibiotic, and then going back to your lifestyle. Nope, this diet is for life. What you have to remember when you are diagnosed as being celiac, or gluten intolerant, is to focus on what you can eat and not what you can’t eat. Perspective is key to jump starting your new lifestyle. Finally you know what makes you ill and you can prevent it.
In the beginning start small. Stick with simple foods that are easily definable and easy to say. A rule I learned to live by as I overcame the label reading hurdle (hydrolyzed wheat protein and/or hydrolyzed soy protein – really I need to learn this stuff)?, I started with the least processed foods. This meant food shopping along the perimeter of the super market and down the organic isles, even though gluten free does not mean organic. Reading labels became easier over time. You get familiar with the term gluten, and understand that it encompasses multiple grains such as rye, spelt, barely, and durum. Also, when the FDA passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA), consumers were able to see in bold if the product contained one of the top eight food allergens. The caveat? Gluten is not part of the top eight food allergens, only wheat. This means products such as Rice Krispies contain gluten because malt flavoring is listed in the ingredients, but the allergen warning does not disclose it.
Over the past few years gluten free products have been hitting the shelves. You can find breads, cake mixes, pizza crusts, pasta that doesn’t turn to mush if it overcooked by 30 seconds, and a wide array of sauces. Stores are making it easier to find their gluten free products too. Wegmans has a “G” marking a product as Gluten Free, and recently Giant has instituted a program where they disclose gluten free products throughout the store. Though these seem like small steps they are a huge help in daily living. It’s nice to be able to go in a store, like Wegmans, and just shop from their gluten free section. It decreases the time needed to read labels, and more manufacturers are promoting that their products are produced in a dedicated gluten free facility.
Lastly, as you continue to develop a routine to manage your gluten free lifestyle, be adventurous in the kitchen. Try out new recipes and dishes whenever possible. Test out quick meals that can be thrown together in 30 minutes, to meals that recreate what you used to eat when wheat was in. Being gluten free doesn’t mean sacrificing taste or eating the same five foods daily. View dinner as a veggie, meat, and starch and go from there. Or base it on being Italian, Mexican, or Asian. No time to cook? There are great frozen meals out there too. Really you can have all that.