How exactly do you go about starting a gluten free diet? For people discovering they have a sensitivity or allergy to gluten, cultivating a gluten-free lifestyle can seem like an impossible task at first sight. There is no straight-forward list of foods to avoid, and countless other items that you might not think would contain wheat or gluten do. How can someone start living a gluten-free life when it seems to be gluten is hiding around every corner?
Fortunately, there are several ways that someone new to gluten-free living can begin eating a healthy diet free of this aggravating substance. Those living with celiac disease or any other gluten sensitivity have to be aware of what they eat. Living gluten-free may seem daunting at first but becomes second nature once you get the hang of it.
For the person new to living gluten free, these fourteen beginner tips below are a great place to start your gluten-free journey. They’re simple tasks that can help you keep an eye out for gluten so you can be sure to stay healthy while you find some delicious alternatives to the foods you love.
Top 14 Tips For Starting A Gluten Free Diet
1. Read Labels and Ingredient Lists
The best news for gluten-sensitive folks is that most foods label whether or not they contain gluten. However, you still have to become a gluten detective. This quick guide breaks down names to look out for.
2. Find Gluten-Free Versions of Your Favorite Recipes
Ease into the gluten-free diet by finding a healthy version of the foods you love most. This will make the diet change seem much less like a sacrifice and more like a lifestyle change.
3. Clean Out Your Kitchen
One of the first things you should do is clear your kitchen of any gluten-containing ingredients so that you do not use them again. Donate unopened products to a local food bank. If your toaster sees a lot of use, this may be time for a new one, as old crumbs can still hitch a ride on your gluten-free products.
4. Stick to “Real Food” Especially While You Adjust
“Real food” includes fresh vegetables, fruits and meats. These are sure to not include gluten. You can make plenty of creative meals with these and forego the gluten.
5. Keep a Food Diary
A food diary is your best friend while you switch to being gluten-free. You can write down how you felt about a new recipe, a new gluten-free replacement, or if a certain food caused you to experience symptoms.
6. Experiment with Gluten-Free Alternatives at Home
Another fortunate market trend is the presence of gluten-free flours and other baking ingredients in supermarkets. No matter what you’re in the mood to bake, you can be sure to find an alternative ingredient list for it, and the ingredients are only as far away as your chosen grocer.
7. Slowly Introduce New Foods into Your Diet
Bringing in foods that may not cause symptoms back into your diet can be a precarious thing. If you are doing this, do it slowly and one food at a time. Be sure you have your food diary on hand so that you can record what happens.
8. Learn How to Eat Gluten-Free at Restaurants
One of the downsides of eating gluten-free is that you may have to give up your favorite restaurant. While many restaurants and food chains may take time to label their menus with gluten-free options and educate staff, there are still many that don’t. While you’re beginning your new diet, it may be wise to cut back on the amount of time you spend dining out until you know of what to avoid and what you can enjoy.
9. Gluten Lurks outside the Kitchen
You may (or may not) be surprised to learn that gluten can be found in products outside the kitchen as well. Toothpaste, cosmetics, and shampoo can all contain gluten; and these can accidentally be ingested, leading to symptoms. Gluten can also be found in craft supplies so be sure to look for safe alternatives if you have kids with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities.
10. Be Watchful of Alcohol
For the wine enthusiast, finding an alternative may not be as much as an issue. However, if your drink of choice is a cold brew, it may be time to switch. Gluten-free beers may be available in some supermarkets, but for the most part most formulas are NOT gluten-free. Many beers are made with barley and wheat, so read your labels.
11. Bring Your Own Meals to Social Events
When attending a potluck or other social gathering, it’s safer to bring a gluten-free meal with you rather than have someone prepare one or hope that someone else brings one. You can ensure that it was prepared safely and that you’ll have something to eat.
12. Check Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medicines
Some medicines may contain gluten, so be sure to check with the pharmacist before taking them. Be sure to note which medicines contain gluten in your food diary.
13. Beware of Cross Contamination
Even the slightest bit of gluten can cause problems, so use separate bags for gluten and non-gluten products. Avoid using dirty utensils on gluten-free products. Have separate butters and spreads for gluten and gluten-free products.
14. When in Doubt, Do Without
If you’re not sure whether or not a food contains gluten, don’t eat it. You don’t want to risk getting sick on the chance that something does contain gluten. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Starting a gluten free diet is not as hard as it may seem. You only need to follow a few guidelines.