• Concentrate on what you CAN eat, not what you can’t. Try not to stress even though at first the gluten free diet can be intimidating. If you take processed foods out of the equation, you can eat almost anything: fruits, vegetables, beans, meat, fish, rice, corn, etc. When you eat plain food, you start to really taste food the way you never tasted before. What we can eat is good for us.
• You will have to do more cooking and baking, but this is the fun part. Turn cooking into an adventure and become a great gluten-free cook. Eat simple foods. For breakfast have eggs, or yogurt, fruit, gluten free cereals, gluten free bars, or even vegetables, and gluten free oats. For lunch you can eat leftovers. Leftover rice mixed with a vegetable is always a good idea; meats that are cooked to be more convenient like chicken breast and you can keep bags of frozen peas, corn, or broccoli in the freezer. A lunch idea is to put plain peanut butter on a rice cake and slice apples on top. For snacks try fruit, Jell-O, dried fruits, or home-popped popcorn, all of which can be quickly prepared.
If you are eating at a restaurant, first check the menu to see what you can eat without question, what you might be able to eat if you ask questions, what you’d better stay away from, and what you might want to look into a little bit more. Do not be embarrassed or afraid to ask questions. There are many places now that have a gluten free dining menu and you can research the restaurant online before you go.
• Join a support group. The best place to get information about Celiac disease and the gluten-free diet is from a support group because the leaders and members deal with diet issues every day. A great support group that I am a member of is firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Eat a varied diet, which will provide a wider variety of vitamins and minerals for better nutrition. Iron, calcium and folic acid are the three nutrients that those with Celiac Disease are mostly lacking; eating a large variety just helps you get all the nutrients you need. If you jump right into all processed packaged gluten free food, you are not going to get the healthy nutrients you need to heal and thrive. The packaged items are best reserved for occasional use.
• Have an annual physical exam that includes a complete blood count (CBC) and stool testing, according to Dr. Joseph Murray of the Mayo Clinic. He thinks you should have thyroid testing every other year, but if you already have thyroid disease, more frequent testing might be needed. Make sure you are on a good quality multi vitamin. Whatever other supplements you take will depend on your own personal needs. You will need to investigate the possible gluten content in everything you ingest, including (and especially!) vitamins and medications. We have to be careful of everything that goes into our mouths.
• The very best thing you can do for yourself is to have a life beyond celiac disease. Don’t let having this disorder stop you from doing anything! Make sure you have other interests. Make sure you exercise. Make sure you get out and eat with friends who understand your restrictions. Make sure you travel. Make sure you stay all-around healthy. Life doesn’t stop because you cannot eat. Take your own foods if you must but enjoy life.
Five Quick Tips:
• I recommend a 100% gluten free kitchen although I know that is not convenient for everyone. Do what suits your needs the best. If you have a shared kitchen make sure you have all your own items such as toaster and cooking supplies.
• It’s best to avoid processed food. Life is simpler and safer when you avoid processed foods–or eat them as infrequently as possible.
• Learn to cook with simple whole ingredients.
• Check all your medications for gluten; inform your doctors and pharmacy so that they can assist you in finding the best supplements. Medications are not required to have allergy statements so it is really hard to know what is safe or not.
• Always read labels. Even if you bought the food yesterday, manufacturers change their foods constantly so it’s most important to read labels. Remember wheat free is not gluten free.
Other words for gluten:
Wheat, Rye, Barley, spelt, bulgur, semolina, frumento, durum, kamut, graham, einkorn, farina, couscous, seitan, matzoh, matzah, matzo, flour, wheat alternative, malt, tritcale, wheat starch, and many many more.
Main foods no one associates with gluten:
Soy sauce, licorice, beer, wines, liquors, broths, chocolates, flavored coffees and teas, imitation bacon bits, medications, salad dressings, hot dogs, sauces, seasoning mixes, pickles, bouillon cubes, lunch meats, veggie burgers, flavored potato chips, and candy.