If you’ve recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or have decided you’d like to pursue a clean eating, gluten free lifestyle, you know that it’s not an easy change.
It can be daunting to drop something that’s been part of your diet for life – and gluten seems to be in everything at first!
To help out those that may be struggling with this transition, I’ve decided to put together some tips and strategies for getting started. I went gluten free as a diet and lifestyle choice over 2 years ago, and by now it’s second nature.
Please keep in mind that I've never been tested for celiac disease; going gluten free was a personal choice (as all diet/lifestyle choices are). As a result, these tips are primarily aimed at those who are looking to cut out gluten but don't necessarily have an intolerance...however, if you have celiac disease you might find help here, too.
1Clear The Cupboards
I’ll be the first to say this approach doesn’t work for everyone, but I found it the most helpful. I emptied my cupboards of all the junk food and gluten-containing products by throwing it away, giving it to friends, or donating it to my local food pantry.
If it’s not in my home, I don’t think about it that much. Case closed!
If you live with others or have kids, it can be harder to clear this stuff out. First, see if they’ll get on board. If so, great! Clear everything out. If not, try and compromise – anything with gluten gets stored in one cupboard that you won’t use.
Hopefully your roommate/partner is supportive of your goals and is willing to help out where they can. I often serve my gluten-loving partner gluten free meals and he doesn’t even notice – if I don’t mention the lack of bread or pasta in a meal, it’s not an issue!
2Do Your Research
If you have celiac disease, you’ve probably already gotten used to reading labels. If you’re going gluten free for a lifestyle change, read up on what foods have gluten or ingredients you should avoid!
Get used to reading labels. Be aware that just because something says “gluten free” on the package doesn’t mean it aligns with your goals (junk food is still junk food even if it’s gluten free).
3Don't Be Afraid To Eat Out
Restaurants are almost always willing to accommodate. If there isn’t a gluten free menu presented, ask your server if they have one.
As more people discover they have celiac disease and others are adopting a gluten free lifestyle, more and more restaurants now label gluten free items on the menu or have a separate gluten free menu available. But, if those aren’t available…I frequently order burgers without the bun.
I ask if gluten-filled sides can be subbed for veggies or removed completely. It’s also very helpful to look up the menu online before heading out, so you have an idea of your options beforehand.
If you have celiac disease, don’t be afraid to let them know you have food allergies and request special care be taken with your food. Yes, there is still a risk of gluten contamination at most places, so be aware of that.
NOTE: Some readers pointed out that restaurants without a dedicated gluten free menu can't be trusted and I wanted to clear some things up. In my area, there are restaurants that have a gluten free menu that is separate from their standard menu (and gluten free items aren't marked on the standard menu). To get the gluten free menu, you either have to look it up online or request it when you're there. If you're worried about gluten contamination, ask questions. Some of my celiac friends discovered that a new restaurant in town didn't know that gluten free menu items can't be fried in the same fryer at non-gluten free menu items, but they're working on correcting their oversight. My celiac friends always request that grills and prep areas be cleaned for their food, and most restaurants are happy to comply. I didn't mean to imply that just because a restaurant labels something gluten free that you can assume it is gluten free. However, whether you have celiac disease or choose gluten free as a lifestyle, I don't think you should have to live in fear of gluten contamination and never let your food be prepared by another person. By asking questions and requesting care in regards to your food allergies or preferences, you can do your best to prevent contamination while still going out.
4Stick With It
It can be monumentally helpful to do a challenge like a Whole30. Many people find it easier to stick to a challenge that has a bit of structure rather than winging it themselves.
If you have celiac disease, you’ll probably feel better shortly after cutting out gluten. For others, the change might not be obvious at first. I’m guessing after accidently eating gluten after avoiding it for a while, the negative side effects and discomfort you experience will be enough to support your gluten-avoiding practices.
I personally am not gluten intolerant, but when I do eat it I have get digestive discomfort, gas, and bloating – that’s enough encouragement to avoid gluten.
At some point, you’re going to be caught in a place with no gluten free options, and you’ll be starving. Make sure you’re prepared for those moments.
Keep a stash of no cook options that you know you like in a specific spot at home, at your desk, or in your bag. Fruits like bananas and apples are always good options, and they pair well with nut butters!
Plus, at Swanson we carry over 1400 gluten free grocery products, including many snack and protein bars. You’re sure to find a favorite that you love having around!
Likewise, there are numerous food blogs and websites that have stunning and delicious gluten free meals. We have a whole section of our recipe collection devoted to gluten free recipes! Try some out and decide on a few staples – go-to meals that you know you’ll love. Don’t be afraid to try new things!
Hopefully my 5 tips help you on your journey to be gluten free.
Do you have any tips you would add to the list?
If you’re a gluten free expert, what helped you make the switch?