Going gluten free can be a very daunting task to take on. For starters, you need to read every label of everything before eating it. Plus, a lot of people out there just don’t understand what gluten is, or why you can’t eat it. I think one of the hardest things is that eating gluten does not cause an immediate reaction, often times the reaction is an hour or two after you’ve eaten, which is part of why gluten intolerance (or Celiac Disease) is so darn difficult to diagnose. It doesn’t help that gluten hides behind many different ingredients/names, many of which are difficult to pronounce, let alone remember.
I’m still pretty new to the gluten free world, but I have learned a few tips so far, and I’m eager to hear yours.
1. When checking an ingredient list, always scan for bold words, or notations at the end of the ingredients list that says “wheat”. These foods are automatically out.
2. Make yourself a little cheat sheet of ingredients to look for. The biggest identifiers of gluten are: wheat, barley, rye, and malt. (Maltodexterin is fine, but malt is not. This could mean malt flavoring, or other variations of malt (some other word)).
3. The internet is your friend. There is a wealth of knowledge on being gluten free, from recipes to restaurants. Below is a list of some of my favorite websites.
UrbanSpoon.com – you can search for gluten friendly restaurants
GlutenFreely.com – a good source of information, plus you can buy gluten free products. I found a Groupon for Gluten Freely and bought several GF cooking mixes and all purpose flour. I’ll let you know how they are!
Yummly.com – a great recipe website that let’s you filter certain things out, including common allergies and gluten.
4. When dining out, try to check out the restaurant’s website online ahead of time, or even call the restaurant to discuss any gluten free options they have. Many places are now quite accommodating to gluten free diners. If a restaurant seems uncooperative or just doesn’t understand what you’re asking of them, my recommendation is to find another restaurant. Your health isn’t worth the risk of eating in a gluten-questionable place. Even fast food restaurants can still be safe for you to dine at. I generally order a hamburger (or cheeseburger) without the bun, and I always ask if their french fries are fried separately or with other fried foods (like chicken nuggets). I have not had any issues eating bun-less burger and fries at fast food restaurants. Unfortunately, cross-contamination is a problem for Celiacs and GFers, so don’t be afraid to tell the restaurant workers about your dietary needs and ask whatever questions you feel are important.
5. Just because you’ve bought it before, doesn’t mean the ingredients haven’t changed. Always read the ingredients list when grocery shopping. Food companies can change the ingredients of their products at any time, without warning. It’s always best to check the ingredients, and don’t forget your beverage, certain things like flavored teas can contain gluten.
6. Get creative. Now that I’m settled into my gluten free eating routine a little more, I’m starting to dream up new ways to make things. I want to try crushing up Chex Cereal (many flavors are gluten free) and use it as breading for shrimp. I have yet to break down and buy gluten free bread (it’s so darn expensive), so for breakfast, I often have rice cakes with peanut butter and jelly (it’s kinda like toast).
7. Find some quick and easy go-to meals. We all have nights where we need something on the dinner table fast (or when we just don’t feel like putting much effort into cooking). There are some pre-packaged dinner options available out there (personally, I haven’t tried any of them). My go-to meals include Chipotle Mexican Restaurant – currently everything there EXCEPT the tortillas is gluten free. I also like Noodles & Co.’s Pad Thai – also currently gluten free. Otherwise, I still enjoy a nice bowl of pasta. I’m fortunate enough to have two Trader Joe’s fairly close to me, which is where I now shop for GF pasta. I have found Trader Joe’s to have the best price in town (nearly half the cost of the other grocery stores). I like the corn pasta, although it does have a corn flavor to it, so not the best for buttered noodles. I’ve also tried the brown rice pasta, which is excellent.
Main Gluten‐Containing Ingredients to Avoid
• Wheat: wheat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat starch, durum, kamut, semolina, spelt, farina, bulgur, cake flour, matzo, couscous, graham flour, self‐rising flour, triticale
• Rye: rye bread, rye flour
• Barley: ale, beer, lager, brewer’s yeast, malt, malt extract, malt vinegar, malted milk
• Oats: oat flour, oatmeal, oat bran
*Per clinical studies: 1 cup cooked pure, uncontaminated oats is generally well tolerated
Thanks to CookitAllergyFree.com, here’s a list of foods that commonly contain gluten:
- Soy sauce (some are wheat-free, most contain wheat), teriyaki sauce (contains soy sauce), oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, many marinades
- Commercial cereals — most are made from wheat and/or have malt flavoring which comes from barley
- Flavored coffees or teas
- Imitation seafood (if ordering sushi, make sure that they use real crab)
- Imitation bacon
- Packaged bacon (some brands contain soy sauce, eg. Farmer John’s)
- Processed meats (although many now list “gluten-free” on their labels)
- Mexican food (some places buy marinated meats that contain soy sauce; corn chips are sometimes cooked in same oil as fried flour tortillas)
- Soups, stews, bisques, anything made from a “roux”
- Anything breaded, floured or marinated
- Blue cheese, veined cheeses — although many/most may be OK
- Medicines — go to www.glutenfreedrugs.com for GF list
- Lipstick and any other non-food items like playdough, lotion, paste, etc.