One of the biggest hurdles to making any diet change is actually doing
it. Whether it's finding a new job, trying a new movement at the gym or
deciding to clean up your diet, the act of DOING IT is typically where
people either get stuck. That problem is no different for those who
decide to give a gluten-free diet a try.
When I was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity in
2008, I was given 3 websites to help me and wished good luck. I went
from a fairly traditional Italian diet of pasta and bread to one that
slowly evolved into something much healthier today. The point is that
my transition didn't happen overnight, but is the culmination of many
baby steps taken each day... which mirrors the phrase I always tell
clients -- "Rome wasn't built in a day".
If you're really serious about eating better (and
reducing or entirely removing gluten), start by learning the basics of
what gluten is and where it hides out. Talk to others who've done it
and see what two or three steps really helped them make a change and see
if your significant other or a friend will do this with you. Remember
that taking stock of the new landscape to which you're headed will make
the transition easier.
Here's a few points that I find often help people make eating gluten-free easier:
Know the basics about where gluten hides. Typically gluten exists in
foods that contain any part or derivative of barley, rye, oats (which aren't automatically gluten-free)
wheat and spelt. To remember this, use the acronym BROWS. Granted the
list of grain and cousins of wheat is longer than this, but these are
the most typical problem areas you'll encounter and can make explaining
to people where gluten comes from a lot easier. Also, be aware that the
label "wheat free" does not mean "gluten free" since gluten is found in
more than just wheat.
2) Focus on foods that are naturally gluten-free.
Most everything in the produce aisle is gluten-free. Meats, fish,
nuts, seeds... all are as well. Unless you've got celiac disease or you
know you're gluten sensitive, then looking for a gluten-free label
isn't as important and can often lead to having blinders on to the food
that just happens to be gluten-free.
3) Plan your meals. I know... it's not sexy. Meal
planning isn't something that will make you jump up and down with joy,
but it is a life skill that will not just ensure you'll have food on
hand for your week, but can also save you a ton of money since on
average people throw out about 25 to 40% of the food they buy. That
waste is literally throwing money in the trash, my friends. If you want
to see what a meal plan looks like, you can download this free resource
or my book
that guides people step-by-step through the process.
4) Make the recipes come to you! Sign up for
newsletters or updates from sites you love so that new recipes are sent
to you rather than having to search for them. Create a folder in your
inbox just for them and drop in those that sound good to make later.
Before you know it, you won't need to search for them when you're meal
planning, except when you don't have one, you can...
5) Ask Google questions about food. If you don't
have a recipe in your inbox or bookmarked on your computer, use Google
to search for something. I'd recommend adding the word "paleo" to the
search because most "gluten-free" recipes are loaded with so many weird
and unnecessary ingredients that your head will spin. If you want to
make chili, type in "paleo beef chili recipe" and plenty of options will
come up. To make it gluten-free (which is less restrictive than
paleo), add in rice and beans.
6) Enjoy your social life and dine out easily! Use
apps like "Find Me Gluten-Free" and search for restaurants no matter
where you are that cater to gluten-free diners like yourself. Depending
on how strict you need to be will determine how much research you may
want to do about a restaurant before eating there. An easy go-to-option
is typically a salad with grilled, baked or broiled protein on top.
Beware of anything fried because unless a restaurant has a dedicated
fryer (which most do not), whatever comes out of it is contaminated with
gluten even though something like tortilla chips (made from corn) or
real potato french fries inherently don't contain gluten.
7) Replace the gluten intelligently. If you love bread, try making your own paleo bread instead. Elana's Pantry has some great (and easy) recipes
Use lettuce or collard greens to create a wrap. You can also try rice
wraps, large nori sheets, or even paleo wraps made from coconut. Pasta
can be replaced with gluten-free versions (there are plenty on the
market), but consider buying a spiralizer
and making your own pasta from sweet potatoes or zucchini which cooks
in minutes. Try making pizza crust from cauliflower and substitute
flour with more nutrient dense options like coconut or almond.
8) Get (and use) the appliances that actually save
you time. Start using a crockpot to cook food overnight or while you're
at work. (No, it won't burn your house down) A rice cooker is great
(which can be purchased for about $17 from Target) and can cook rice and
other gluten-free grains without much attention required of you.
High-speed blenders, though expensive, are well worth their weight in
gold because of how much they can do so quickly. You can make soft
serve ice cream, non-dairy milks, coconut milk, flours, soups,
smoothies, etc. in these incredibly powerful machines.
9) Beware of anything that ends up on your mouth.
That means you should check your lipsticks, glosses and balms. Gluten is
a common ingredient in these products because it helps provide the
consistency we as consumers are used to. Even though these items are
applied to the outside of your mouth, you will end up eating it. Also swap out your dental products
such as toothpaste, mouthwash and floss for those without gluten.
Again... if it goes in your mouth, you will end up ingesting gluten if
it's present in the product.
10) Have fun! Make dinner dates with friends who are
interested in or on board with your new way of eating. Cooking with
others is a great way to learn and enjoy new dishes. Buy one new spice
each week, google how to use it (or get The Spice Bible
and learn how to pair spices properly), and start making flavorful
dishes that you and your family love. Eat foods that you actually like
and slowly build upon them giving yourself permission to try new ones
with an open mind.
She is the founder of Gluten Free School and teaches gluten-sensitive individuals simple, savvy and empowering steps to get healthy. Living gluten-free since early 2008 after a gluten sensitivity diagnosis, she knows what it's like to feel overwhelmed by the cost and seemingly complicated aspects of going gluten-free. A sought-after expert, advocate & speaker about healthy, gluten-free living, Jennifer has been featured on Dr. Oz, Yahoo! News, eHow, CNN, and Philadelphia Magazine and is the author behind the ground-breaking book "The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy without Breaking the Bank".