Gluten-Free Living Doesn't Have to be Difficult

Starting a gluten-free lifestyle might seem a little daunting at first. You may not know where to start or what to look for in your ingredients. Gluten is hidden under so many different names and the research takes a lot of time to go through and learn. I will give you references and resources to turn to in order to make the transition a little more smooth.

Why Go Gluten Free?

There are many reasons to go gluten-free: Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, eliminating other medical conditions or just trying to lose weight. Contrary to popular belief, the gluten-free diet isn’t just another fad diet; it’s a way of life for a lot of us.

Where is Gluten Found?

Gluten is found not only in your foods, but also in your skin care products and even your medications. I have found an extensive list of medications that are gluten free, however; please be advised that you must ALWAYS check with the manufacturer of each medication first. I had an experience where the medication was on the list of safe pills to take and I had a reaction from it. Sometimes, the manufacturer may not have a separate plant that is dedicated to gluten free and sometimes the manufacturers change the filler ingredients. Please, always check with the manufacturer first. The pharmacist will not be able to tell you what the ingredients are. 

Can Gluten Cause Other Problems?

A great resource book is The Gluten Connection, by Shari Lieberman. She shows how the elimination of gluten has cured digestive disorders, autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders, skin diseases and more. Lieberman shares reports of stories from individuals who have even seen drastic changes in children with behavioral problems just from eliminating gluten from their diets. Her book will give you a list of recipes and online stores that sell gluten-free foods.

Quick and Easy Recipes

I have never been one to follow a recipe but I know that when I first started cooking gluten-free, I would have been nice to have a few good ones that I could just turn to rather than snacking on fruit and veggies for dinner all the time. Rice becomes a great staple food and you can make quite a few dishes out of it. Gluten-free foods are more expensive than regular foods so when I make meals, I prefer not to waste a single bit of it.

Turkey (or Chicken) Crock-pot Meal

I love my crock-pot. Placing a whole turkey, or chicken, into the crock-pot and adding your favorite veggies, such as; carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and celery and letting it cook all day is a great meal. It also makes many more meals to come, depending on the number of people you are feeding. I usually intend to cook for 6-8 people but I always have leftovers. The next night, I will make about 3 cups of rice (1c rice and 3c water) with gluten-free veggies seasoning. Then I will add some of the turkey, or chicken, and the veggies to the rice and make a soup. You can also mix all of the ingredients together with a hand mixer and eat it with some gluten free bread for a whole other meal.

Rice with Cinnamon and Granola

Make sure you are purchasing gluten-free granola. (It could have raisins, cranberries, etc, if you desire) Cook 1c rice with 3c water and cinnamon for about 22 minutes in the microwave. Then add coconut oil (optional, but really good) butter, sugar or sweetener to taste and granola and cook 3-4 more minutes. Stir, and let it cool down and enjoy a delicious snack or add some milk and create a breakfast out of it.

Dealing with Cravings

The hardest parts of living gluten-free, in my opinion, are dealing with the cravings. I’ve been gluten-free for about 3 years now and once in a while those cravings still rear their ugly heads and put me into a cranky mood. I used to eat pasta and bread quite often and now, I rarely want them. Giving in to a craving for an item that contains gluten can bring on more problems than it’s worth. If you have severe issues dealing with Celiac like I do, you could bloat up till it hurts to move, break out in a rash, develop blisters on your mouth and end up with a terrible migraine. Another woman told me her story about how if she breathes in flour, she starts to have seizures. Her daughter had an allergic reaction to gluten that was in the mouthwash the dentist gave her and she ended up partially blind. Sometimes, giving in is not worth it. Often, people who are gluten-free also have some issues with milk products. Fortunately for us, there are products out there in our local grocery stores that are both gluten-free and dairy-free. I have found chocolate cakes, cookies and brownies that taste great. Udi’s sells great tasting products that are gluten and dairy-free as well.

Keep fruit on hand for sugar cravings. A bowl of fresh fruit will help fill you up and curb the need for something sweet. If I’m having a craving for something, the first thing I will turn to is a bowl of fruit. It usually does the trick for me. If you are craving breads or pastas, again Udi’s has great bread products and you can also purchase gluten-free pastas (usually made from rice) that make pasta salads or spaghetti.

Gluten-Friendly Restaurants

There are restaurants that do cater to the needs of gluten-free diets. However, remember that most places are only gluten-friendly, not guaranteed to be gluten-free.

  • SouperSalad- they have a menu that you can ask for at the register to tell you what products are gluten-free.
  • Olive Garden- ask for their gluten-free menu and make sure that you tell the waiter/waitress that you are ordering from that. The first time I went to Olive Garden, the manager of the kitchen came out to speak to me and let me know that they would take all precautions; changing gloves and cooking on a separate grill, in order to make sure they aren’t cross contaminating foods.
  • Barros Pizza- they serve a gluten-free pizza; however, it is not milk-free.
  • Jason’s Deli- a great little sandwich shop. It is kind of pricy but their food is well worth the price.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Don’t be afraid to ask people about gluten-free products. Don’t worry if you get strange reactions either. I called ahead of time to a grocery store close to where I was going on vacation to ask if they had gluten-free products. They told me they didn’t think so because they didn’t even know what that was. So, I packed up a cooler full of gluten-free foods to take with me from home. I stopped to eat at a restaurant, figuring that I would just get the salad bar and I mentioned it to the waitress. She proceeded to tell me that her daughter has Celiac and gave me a list of menu items that were safe to eat, even if they don’t advertise them as gluten-free. She also warned the cook not to cross contaminate. She was even more helpful when she made a list of stores in the area that sold gluten-free foods, including a health food store that will make special orders if I need them to.