Once you and your doctor agree that you should be starting a gluten free diet, it can seem like an overwhelming challenge. The idea of going completely gluten free is extremely difficult when you don’t know where to start. Here are a few steps you can take to make the transition easier:
Take all the literature your doctor has to offer on the subject of celiac disease and a gluten free diet
It may give you a head start and answer some of the questions that come up on the fly.
Meet with a nutritionist
I have a science background and was lucky enough to have a husband with a nutrition degree so we did not have trouble developing a balanced diet but when you first go gluten free it can be difficult. Whenever you start eliminating whole groups of foods, you run the risk of missing important vitamins and minerals. Also, many gluten free products are higher in fat and sugar (that makes them taste better) so at first people may lose weight from eliminating all the gluten but then, once they start replacing the missing items (cookies, cakes, pasta, bread, basically…all the yummy stuff), they find they gain weight rapidly. A nutritionist can set you on the right path to a healthy diet from the beginning. Sometimes your insurance will even pay for it.
Make sure you take a good gluten free multi vitamin
This will help fill in the gaps in your nutrition until you develop a more varied diet.
See what gluten free foods you already eat
You may be surprised at how many foods you already eat that are gluten free. Plain fruits, vegetables and meats are all gluten free but there are many other foods that you may not realize are gluten free such as most cheeses, yogurts, many plain tortilla chips, rice and most individual spices. Just make sure the brands you normally eat are gluten free.
Google celiac disease + your town, city or state to find a celiac group in your area
They will know where to find the best stores and restaurants to get gluten free food. They will also keep you up to date on the latest news in the gluten free community. If you attend the meetings, they will even sometimes have food samples from local vendors so you can “try before you buy.” Gluten free food is expensive and it’s nice to be able to not waste money on food you don’t like.
Talk to other people who have Celiac disease or know someone with celiac disease
People in the gluten free community generally love to share information. They understand where you’re at and want to help you not make the same mistakes they did.
Start with foods labelled gluten free
It can be hard to remember all the ingredients that you have to stay away from when starting a gluten free diet. Gluten is almost never listed as gluten and although it is easy to look for wheat, barley, rye and oats, it can also be found in ingredients such as spelt, farrow and malt among others. It might be easier in the beginning to look for foods that are labelled gluten free and as you get the hang of it, you can branch out to other foods.
When you eat out try to stick with restaurants that have a gluten free menu
Restaurants with gluten free menus have usually put more time and effort in to making sure their gluten free food really is gluten free and that their staff is trained in preventing cross contamination. I would still Google the restaurant with the words “gluten free reviews” to make sure there is not anyone who has gotten sick (with a gluten reaction) while dining there.
When in doubt, call the manufacturer
When my family was starting a gluten free diet, I spent a lot of time on the phone, especially standing in the middle of the grocery store, after calling the number on the back of the box of food I wanted to buy. Speaking with the manufacturer’s customer service department can often give you an answer about whether it is safe to eat the product you are looking at. Which leads me to the last tip…
When you don’t like the answer, don’t eat it
If you feel the person you are speaking with really doesn’t know what they are talking about, then it may be best not to eat the food you are interested in. It’s not usually worth the symptoms you may end up experiencing by eating something with gluten in it.
These are just a few tips to help you with starting a gluten free diet. As you get more comfortable, you will be able to venture out and try new things. What once seemed like a daunting task will become easier and easier.