As I've said before, my big mouth is finally paying off!
I've had now ten (TEN!) people approach me about going gluten free.
In three years, I've attended a lot of discussions about gluten and its affects on the body. In addition, my wellness Dr. is also gluten free, and has done (EXTENSIVE) research on affects of gluten- all the way back to studying mummies in Europe. It's amazing to hear all this research, and I just soak it up like a sponge.
D's cousin has recently gone gluten free after her Rheumatologist recommended a gluten free diet in order to avoid heavier meds. Guess what- in a few months, she's already noticed a difference.
So, if you have ANY digestive disorders, ANY inflammatory diseases, or ANY autoimmune diseases, a gluten free diet CAN HELP YOU.
It's your choice.
Here's my check-in after 2 years...you can see how it's changed my life.
But staring down the gauntlet of gluten free eating can be daunting, I know.
"How do I get started?!?!?!" That's what I hear most often.
Here's my top 10 list of getting started. It's not really as hard as one would think.
1. Educate yourself. What is gluten? (wheat, rye, barley, and (some)oats...although I don't have an issue with oats). True Celiac's need to eat gluten free oats because they're guaranteed to be grown in a field MORE than 7 miles away from the nearest wheat field. I'm not that sensitive. Find some books. I went to the library and checked out every book on the shelf about gluten. This is my ultimate favorite:
Elizabeth Hasselbeck is a self-diagnosed Celiac. She takes you through her diagnosis journey, and is the ultimate cheerleader to a G-free diet. In addition, there's an entire page dedicated to gluten free check out candy. :) She gives you pointers for living g-free, and gives you great useful strategies for living g-free. This is the book I reference most when talking about G-free diets and getting started. It's an easy read too.
2. Give it 30 days. It takes 4 days for the gluten to leave your digestive tract. And the villi in your intestines will start to repair themselves after 10. After 30, your villi should be (mostly) healed. Your cravings for gluten free items will diminish by this time. If you want to try gluten then, you could- just to see how you react. This is what I did....and whoa, nelly.....did I react. It was enough to make me never look back. And the longer I'm off gluten, the better I feel every day. You can do anything for 30 days, right?!?!?
3. Create a menu for two weeks. Then repeat it. You're at 28 days....just 2 days short of your 30 day goal. Not to hard, right? Some of my favorite g-free dinners include the bacon wrapped chicken breast (use g-free bacon!), and the Just Joan Casserole. There...there's 2 recipes for you that are easy-peasy and yummy too....Next try Spaghetti (with either spaghetti squash or brown rice noodles- I like Prego Natural sauce...that's gfree!), grilled chicken breast, tacos (use corn shells and Mrs. Dash Fiesta spices), and steak. There's four more. Find some breakfast foods that you can rotate through ( I go between eggs and an Herbalife protein shake), and some favorite lunch ideas (I love salads or deviled eggs for lunch!), rotate through them...and before you know it, you're at 30 days. I PROMISE you'll notice a difference at the end of 30 days.
4. Snacks. Yes, this deserves a number of its own. If you're a snacker (which I am), it's important to have some gfree snacks on hand. When I first started, I always had 10 different snacks on hand. If I have the good choices on hand, I know I will stick to the g free diet. Here's some of my favorites:
- Costco White corn tortilla chips and Organic corn and black bean salsa
- Hummus (make sure it's gluten free!) with cucumbers
- Apple slices with all natural peanut butter (sprinkled with sea salt for flavor)
- carrot sticks with Marzetti Ranch dressing to dip
- protein bar (not all of these are gluten free...I prefer Herbalife Vanilla Almond, but there are a few others in the store that are.)
- Kraft Tomato Basil (or Jalapeno) Cheese sticks
- Quaker rice cakes (some flavors are not gluten free- be careful!) with natural peanut butter and natural strawberry preserves.
- All natural Kettle Corn
- Hormel mini-pepperoni
- Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt parfait w/ fresh strawberries and homemade granola (recipe forthcoming)
- Protein crackers (recipe and tutorial forth coming as well)
- A handful of almonds and walnuts
- Special treat for special occasions: bryers natural ice cream
- Special treat for special occasions: strawberry shortcake made with gfree Bisquick.
6. Be prepared to be assertive, but also expect to be insignificant. If you're eating out with friends, don't be afraid to ask to go to a restaurant that you know has a gluten free menu. Make sure the server KNOWS you are gluten free- so the chef knows to use a separate fryer or grill. When dining at friend's houses....this is where things get tricky. They either 1) don't try to do anything g-free 2) Try to do g-free and fail miserably or 3) Try g-free and are wildly successful.
Of course, I LOVE the #3 friends.
The #1's really don't hang with us too much anymore- perhaps I'm too high maintenance? (I don't prefer to suck on a half-rotten grapefruit while everyone else eats lasagna, and I don't prefer to sit there while you tell me how awkward it is for YOU- cause it was a total walk-in-the-park for me).
and #2...well, those are dangerous. Sure, grilled pineapple is gluten free....but the teryaki sauce you just slathered on it is most certainly NOT. Sure, you purchased the gluten free brownie mix for $5.99/box, but the frosting you put on there is not gluten free (some are, by the way).
Pot luck dinners are my favorite- I'll bring something that's safe for me to eat and I know at least one thing will be good.
Otherwise, I have a protein bar in my purse at all times just to tide me over until we're home and around safe food. You will hurt feelings by not eating some things people will prepare for you, and you will get your feelings hurt. But, your health is worth it.
7. Determine how much you're willing to increase your grocery budget. Yep, gluten free items are and can be very expensive. Our grocery budget is VERY finite. I decided that we were only going to spend an additional $25 a month. That limited my choices in the gluten free aisle. But...hey, that's ok! Honestly, most of the substitutes are very high in carbs (this is where I'd love to talk to you about insulin and glucagon and the affect it has on our bodies....but that's another post for another day)....and I really need to focus on my protein intake anyway! And guess what?!?!? All basic produce and fresh foods are naturally gluten free. I've made friends with fresh produce, and I love that area of the store. :)
8. Watch the "sneakers". The things I would assume were safe, but had gluten in them (note: not all of them have gluten in them, but they are red flags for me to REALLY read labels closely!)....These include: spice mixes, drinks, sauces, soups, salad dressings, anything with caramel coloring, medicines, blue cheese, beer, alcohol, pop, anything that's flavored, and some gums.
9. Get comfortable in the kitchen. If you don't cook, you better learn. Quickly. Otherwise, be prepared to spend a lot of money and gain a lot of weight on high carb foods. Get in your kitchen.... find some recipes online. The Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen has a whole gluten free section. Gluten free girl has a blog (as well as a book) that has been helpful. You'll find what works for you. Me? I choose not to have 12 different kinds of flour in my kitchen. I purchase King Arthur's Multi-purpose flour and Xathan Gum. In addition, I've picked up brown rice flour and almond meal that I keep in the freezer. That's it. Figure out what works for you and stick to it.
10. Find a support group!!! My first 30 days I did essentially solo. It was so isolating, and I was absolutely miserable. Sure, D. was supportive of figuring out what was wrong with me....but he also didn't want to spend more money, and didn't want to deal with the hassle of it either. But, in those 3 years, he's discovered the wife that smiles again, who has energy again, who has started to loose weight, and has regained fertility that we didn't know existed. ;) He's actually seeing people's behaviors and noticing people he knows and loves that could benefit from a gluten free diet! Anyway, there will be friends and family members who are 100% in your corner. Encouraging, accommodating, and helpful. Hang onto them. They are the priceless ones. I'm happy to encourage you through it! Let me know how I can help!