Whether you've recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or are simply trying a Paleo or gluten-free diet for the health benefits it provides, you're probably feeling a little overwhelmed (and maybe a little sad) by the list of foods you'll be cutting out of your life. We won't lie; going gluten-free can be difficult at first but it's definitely worth it. Here are a few ways to make the transition easier and things to watch out for on your journey.
1. The first step, of course, is learning what you need to avoid. This includes anything with wheat, barley, rye, and anything made from those grains. Keep the list somewhere handy where you can easily see it in the kitchen to remind yourself while you get the hang of it and definitely keep a list on your phone for when you go grocery shopping!
2. Speaking of grocery shopping – your new bff is the food label. Lots of packaging now says “gluten-free” but plenty still does not, so check the label for mentions of the above grains OR if the food was made in a facility that contains these grains. (Yes, you must also watch out for “cross contamination”!)
3. Be aware of where gluten likes to hide. Oh yes, that gluten is sneaky. Gluten is kind of like the glue that holds together most of the carbs in the world so it can be hidden in some foods acting like a binding agent. Some to watch out for: soy sauce, imitation crab, soups/broths, seasoning packets, lunch meats, salad dressings, hard candies, pasta sauces, gravies, stock, condiments in general, and cornflakes and rice krispies. Bonus: you now get to learn how to make all sorts of homemade sauces.
4. Cooking is fun! Going gluten-free means you're going to be cooking A LOT. So check out some gluten-free cookbooks from the local library and then get creative. You also might want to buy a few new items for your kitchen (like a bread machine – much cheaper to make your own gluten-free bread than buy).
5. Don't forget there are plenty of naturally gluten-free foods out there. Fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, cheese and eggs are all naturally gluten-free.
6. Potatoes, rice, and quinoa are your friends. Quinoa is a seed, not a grain, and can be used similar to oats or couscous. Rice is another that's naturally gluten-free and comes in a wide variety.
7. Stock up on some of our very own gluten-free meals. Top Chef Meals has a great variety of gluten-free meals (and desserts!) to choose from for those days you can't find it in you to cook or just want some comfort food. (While we are not a gluten free facility, we take special care to segregate all wheat based products into one part of the facility away from all meal production.)
Going gluten-free suddenly seems less scary and overwhelming, doesn't it? Remember, transitioning lifestyles can take time, so don't beat yourself up too badly if you slip up and eat something with gluten in it. We promise one setback isn't the end of the world. You've got this. Go forth and live your best gluten-free life!