Recently, I had the honor of being featured in a fun blog called The Chicago Prepster. I was connected with the blog’s curator, Carly, after she found out that she was diagnosed with a gluten allergy. Not only was I happy to provide Carly (and her readers!) with some advice, I also enjoyed this opportunity to put together a list of tips for the newly gluten-free – especially things I wish I had known when I went gluten-free almost seven years ago.
You can check out Carly’s original post here, and below is some of the information I sent her via email. I hope it is helpful to anyone out there recently diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity who needs advice on this dietary and lifestyle change.
There are lots of ways you can exchange foods you already love with gluten-free options. Some of these may seem pretty obvious, but I didn’t know about all of these when I first got started! Here are some easy changes you can make to go gluten-free:
1. Brown rice, corn, or quinoa pasta instead of regular pasta
2. Brown rice or corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas
3. Regular sandwich bread, bagels, and even frozen waffles all come free from gluten these days. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and some major grocery stores all carry different options you can try!
4. Gluten-free granola for breakfast (Enjoy Life has some without tree nuts, and I think it’s very tasty!)
5. Other gluten-free breakfast ideas include cream of rice, gluten-free oatmeal, and gluten free pancakes.
6. Even though all of these replacements are great, I have sometimes try to just cut the carbs out entirely. For example, I usually eat salads instead of a sandwich or eat fruit for breakfast instead of cereal.
Some of my favorites include…
1. Babycakes NYC – founded by Erin McKenna, this bakery is my absolute favorite gluten-free guilty pleasure. If you ever make it to NYC or LA, definitely check out their bakeries. Otherwise, you can get her cookbooks here. I’m obsessed with the banana bread!
2. Sticky Fingers- The bakery is based here in DC, and this is another great cook book with lots of desserts!
3. Here’s a blog post that talks about a lot of other great options!
1. Not surprisingly, you can use Google to find so much of what you need in terms of advice and recipes. Pretty much anything you would want to eat has a gluten-free version these days, so just do a search for it and a few good recipes are bound to pop up!
2. Celiac.com is a great resource, especially their discussion of safe and unsafe foods. (I highly recommend reading through these at some point!)
3. Other great shopping resources include:
1. Enjoy Life- great cookies and treats that are always free of nuts and shellfish, too.
2. Tinkyada (great brown rice pasta!)
3. Nana’s – my favorite pre-made cookies!
4. Bob’s Red Mill for baking – I recommend the corn bread.
5. Arrowhead Mills (especially their pancake mix)
Something that surprises many people when they go gluten-free is that some alcoholic beverages contain gluten. The most well-known of these is beer, which is very glutinous due to the barley and (sometimes) wheat used to make it. There are some gluten-free beers out there (including Dogfishhead) but not everyone likes the taste. Overall, my advice is to do some research online about what drinks you like (or want to try) to see if they are gluten-free. Some other safe options include hard ciders, wine, and some vodkas and tequilas.
There are some things you will be surprised to learn are naturally gluten-free, but other things are surprisingly unsafe. I definitely recommend reading Celiac.com for further advice, but here are a few I can think of off the top of my head:
1. Soy Sauce – is not gluten-free, though there are gluten-free varieties you can order online!
2. Licorice – also contains wheat. Who knew?
3. Blue corn chips and tortilla chips at some restaurants, including Chipotle and Baja Fresh, sometimes contain wheat. Always check labels or ask your server about these because recipes are always changing!
4. Soups, salad dressings, and sauces can all contain gluten to thicken the recipe. If you’re at a restaurant and want to order any of these things, be sure to ask first!
5. Anything that says “barely” or “malt” is probably not gluten free
6. On the bright side…Many name brand-cerals are gluten-free these days, including some versions of Chex Mix, Rice Krispies, and even Fruitty Pebbles! Most of these big brands advertise that they are gluten-free, so it will be easy to know when they are safe.
1. Keep a running list of recipes you like or want to try. I have a whole folder on my computer of gluten-free recipes so I can always look them up when I’m ready to cook!
2. Never be afraid to ask your waiter about your options! More and more waiters and chefs at restaurants are very knowledgeable about what foods on their menus are gluten-free, so don’t feel shy about asking for advice or speaking with the chef. Your health comes first! Plus, many restaurants such as P.F. Chang’s have prepared gluten-free menus these days.
3. My biggest piece of advice is to always check labels, even on products you have purchased in the past. Recipes change all the time even on big name brands, so look out for products that become newly gluten-free.
And a little motivation!
You will feel so much better once you adopt this diet and lifestyle. That isn’t to say that it will all be easy: there are plenty of bumps in the road as you learn what foods you are sensitive to and try new recipes – and there may be some days where you really miss what you used to eat. But always remember that you are making such an amazing change for your overall health and will be amazed with how energized (and stomach ache free!) you are once you are totally without gluten. Your friends and family may not understand all of these changes at first, but before you know it, they will be sending you gluten-free recipes all the time and YOU will become the expert on the best gluten-free options around :) Once you get used to all of these changes, you will have a hard time imagining life with gluten instead of the other way around and will love how great you feel overall.