When you first start eating a gluten-free diet, it can be overwhelming. Your mind tends to obsess over all the food items you can no longer eat and you think, there’s nothing left. That’s obviously not the case but it’s human nature to think of what we’ve lost. But we’re going to try to change that way of thinking with these 15 steps to living gluten-free.
Our goal is to breakdown the process of “going gluten-free” into actionable steps that will put you in control and have you navigating the grocery aisles (and your kitchen) like a pro in no time.
Now, I don’t want to mislead you. Living gluten-free requires more effort. You always have to take a few additional steps regardless if it’s a product you buy weekly. You also find yourself cooking/baking more. You definitely spend more time on food in general. At the end of the day, your health and wellness is worth the effort.
15 Steps to Living Gluten-Free
1. Join Social Media Groups Like Our Gluten-Free Foodee Facebook Group Which Has Over 42k+ Gluten-Free Members.
I say this is step one because it’s the perfect time to introduce yourself to a community of people who have been where you are and are extremely supportive and understanding. You can ask them any question and if they can help, they will. I am regularly blown away by the generosity and compassion of our members and their willingness to share their experience.
2. Identify The Foods That Are Naturally Gluten-Free.
There are so many foods that are naturally gluten-free. So, let’s start off on a positive note and look at some of the foods that are naturally gluten-free:
3. Make A List of The Foods That You Like Best and Will Have to Replace with Gluten-Free Options.
You want to make a list of these products so you can focus on finding substitutes for them ASAP to minimize the time you are without them. Some of the usual suspects are bread, buns (kaiser, hot dog, hamburger, etc), pizza dough, pasta, cereal, snacks, pre-made gluten-free desserts (cakes, doughnuts, danish, cookies, pies, tarts, bars, etc). We have already created some great gluten-free food lists that provide you with gluten-free chocolates, candy, condiments, and other sauces. Check them out – they are a great resource.
4. Research Products and Reviews Online to Find Gluten-Free Replacements for the Products you Like Best (above) That Will Suit Your Palate.
Take the list you created in Step 3 and start doing your research. You have every reason to feel confident. The gluten-free food market has exploded in recent years so there is an ever-growing number of traditionally gluten products being made gluten-free and being made very well. Your goal here is to find the best replacement product(s) for your palate and these tips will help make it possible:
- Look to see what product(s) you can make yourself and then look for the best gluten-free recipe(s) for you, to get it done.
- Go to your regular/local grocery store or online store (depending on how you shop) and, if in person, ask for their gluten-free products. If shopping online, try searching the store for the word gluten-free.
- Look online for reviews of the products you are looking for so you can get a sense of their pros and cons.
- Ask your social media group community if anyone has tried the product and, if so, how it was.
- If you want to test it out, look online for coupons or contact the company direct and ask if they have coupons to encourage first-time customers.
Gluten-free products tend to be more expensive so taking these additional steps will help you find the best products for you while minimizing money spent for those living on a gluten-free budget.
5. Become An Avid Label Reader.
Read every label. It’s like gluten-free 101. Even if it’s for a product you buy regularly, still scan the label to confirm nothing has changed in the formulation. Even if the product says, certified gluten-free, still scan the label. You are your best advocate. It’s your responsibility to keep yourself healthy. Know the difference between “Contains” and “May Contain” and your tolerance for both.
6. Get to Know the Sources of Gluten (Keep Infographic Handy.
It’s important that you understand the many sources of gluten so that you can identify gluten on the ingredients list. It’s going to be time-consuming in the beginning but as you get more familiar with the terms and the most commonly used sources. Keep this alphabetized infographic handy, so you can quickly confirm if a product is safe to eat.
7. Use a Gluten-Free Apps.
You can also use one of the very popular gluten-free apps that will help you quickly find the information you require. The Gluten-Free Scanner will access your camera to scan the barcodes on any food package to see if it contains gluten (using its in-app barcode scanner). The Gluten-Free Scanner will also keep track of the products you have previously scanned.
Personally, I still give the label a glance. Formulations can change and the app may not be updated. I just believe in erring on the side of caution when it comes to my health.
8. Source Gluten-Free Recipes.
As we wrote previously, look for gluten-free recipes for the same foods you used to eat prior to living gluten-free. There is a recipe for every level of cooking experience.
9. Create Meal Plans.
Creating meal plans are so important when living gluten-free. You don’t have to carve every day in stone – I don’t want to make this sound too militant – but breakfasts, lunches, and dinners will be a breeze if you: a) have an idea of what you’re going to make; and b) have all the ingredients to put it together.
For example, say for breakfast you are going to eat either eggs, fruit and yogurt, or cereal. Just make sure you have enough of these food items to last you until you go shopping again. Below is a sample meal planner for you to view/download/print.
10. Make Grocery List Based on Meal Plans and Go Shopping.
Make your grocery list based on your meal plans and the products you want to try. Make sure that those meal plans include snacking and sweet treats if you usually include them in your diet. We want to eliminate the idea that living gluten-free means living compromised – or going without. With proper planning and a little extra time, there is no reason for any of that.
11. Clean Out Your Kitchen.
If you live alone or if everyone in your house is going to adapt a gluten-free diet too, then clean out your kitchen and get rid of any and all traces of gluten in your home. You can’t reach for (or be tempted by) something that will make you feel unwell, if it is not there. Then give your kitchen and utensils a good cleaning. Prepare it to receive your first gluten-free shopping.
12. Avoid Gluten Cross-Contact.
If you live with others and they will NOT be eating gluten-free, then your cleaning has to be a little different. You have to separate all the food containing gluten from the gluten-free food and make sure they are never mistaken. We wrote about how to avoid cross-contamination (or cross-contact as it is referred to now) in your shared home kitchen. You must identify areas of the kitchen for each, including cooking utensils. Buy plastic bins of various sizes that you can keep your gluten-free food in and clearly label them gluten-free.
13. Tell Your Family and Friends.
Talk to those closest to you about the change in your diet. Tell them that you have it under control and that you don’t intend on making anything difficult for them. You will gladly bring your own food (all or part of it). You can prepare one-page info sheets for them to help educate them. You don’t want your diet to interfere with your friendship. Explain you are doing it for your health and wellness.
14. Dining Out.
Take the time to research restaurants. Call, email or chat with them (during off-peak hours of course) and ask them specific questions about their menu if it is not published online. Find me Gluten-Free will help you find a gluten-free restaurant based on your location. Below is a 6 tips for dining out gluten-free infographic:
15. Know Which Alcohols Contain Gluten.
Wine drinkers rejoice as most wine – including sparkling wine, Champagne, and Prosecco – are naturally gluten-free. Beer is a different story as almost all is not gluten gluten-free and gluten-free beer doesn’t tend to have a good reputation.
Hard Cider made with fermented apples is gluten-free as is all liquor and a wide variety of liqueurs.
You can read Best Gluten-Free Alcohol Choices for more information.
Breathe and embrace your new lifestyle. It is the path to health and wellness. Use the support being offered to you to ask questions and share your challenges. We are all committed to collectively living our best gluten-free life. Welcome to our community. Join our Facebook group now.