May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. I plan on sharing several posts that pertain to awareness this month, beginning with Five Things to Know About Being Gluten-Free.
Starting out on a gluten-free diet can be very scary. The foods that may have once provided a source of comfort & satiety – pastas, bread, and cereals – are now off limits. On top of feeling robbed of old favorites, you may not be feeling all that great either. Gluten can wreak havoc on the body and can cause a multitude of symptoms for those who can’t tolerate it. Here are five basics to know about being gluten-free.
1. Do not embark on the gluten-free diet until all of the testing that you & your doctor have talked about doing has been completed. It is understandable that once you get your blood test results and find out that gluten has been causing your problems that you just want start the diet and feel better. However, the test that doctors use to confirm Celiac Disease, an endoscopy with an intestinal biopsy, is most accurate while you are still consuming gluten. Removing gluten from your diet before the testing is complete can skew the test results.
2. Start simple. Instead of stressing out and combing through countless articles and labels, buy the basics that are naturally gluten-free. Fresh fruits, vegetables, rice, potatoes, most unseasoned meats (feel free to add your own salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc at home), milk and plain yogurt are all naturally gluten-free. Sure, there are thousands of items in the store that are gluten-free, but starting out simple will make the entire process seem a whole lot less daunting.
3. Once you have the hang of it, there are many gluten-free replacement foods on the market. Arm yourself with your lists of safe & forbidden ingredients and get to work. Several mainstream companies have begun to label their foods as “gluten-free. Some of these companies are Van’s International Foods, General Mills, Kraft and Hormel. Triumph Dining has a grocery guide to help navigate the grocery store. There are also many specialty companies that make breads, mixes, rolls, cakes, pies, etc.
4. Eating out is still possible when you are following a gluten-free diet. Many of the chain restaurants now have gluten-free menus available. Triumph Dining also has a dining guide & cards available for purchase to help navigate the restaurant world. Aside from making sure the food you order is gluten-free, you need to make sure the staff is aware that you are following a gluten-free diet and that precautions should be taken to keep the risk of cross contamination to a minimum. Some of these precautions include mixing your salad in a clean bowl where no croutons have been tossed previously, cooking your food in a separate pan or clean area of the grill and using separate utensils to flip and/or stir food.
5. Attending public events is still possible. As soon as you receive notice of the event, start your plan. Contact the person in charge of the event and find out what, if any, food is going to be served. Casual family functions may be the easiest, as you will feel most comfortable explaining your dietary needs to them. If your friends and family are not willing to accommodate you or you don’t feel that they have grasped the severity of your needs, simply eat beforehand or bring along a dish to share that you can eat. More formal functions can be handled by contacting the person in charge of the food and going from there. Most restaurants or conference centers can accommodate you in some manner. Always keep a gluten-free bar or snack in your bag, car or purse. There are several gluten-free options that travel well, including Lara Bars, Pure Bars, Zing Bars and when in doubt, nuts.
So, while starting the gluten-free diet can seem intimidating, it can be tackled one step at a time to make the transition more manageable. Of course there is so much more information, but I want to try to put this information into small, easy-to-read & access posts. If you are ever looking for more information, please make sure to check the links on the right side of my blog. There are restaurant menus, grocery store gluten-free lists, celiac links and more. Furthermore, if you can’t find information you are looking for, you can always email me and I am happy to try and help.