This guide is for anyone who is working on going gluten free. I mean truly gluten free, celiac style. Less than 20 parts per million of gluten 24/7, with the added burden of avoiding cross contact at every meal.
If you don’t need gluten wiped out of your life in such a stringent way. Congratulations!
This guide can show you where gluten hides and make you grateful that you don’t really have to care about it. Seriously though, even if you don’t have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, it’s good to know where gluten hides.
Then you can decide how strict your gluten free diet will be.
If you’re newly diagnosed with celiac disease, there may be an urge to run out and buy tons of gluten free snacks. That’s what I did.
I suddenly looked around and realized there were no meals in my home that I could make to eat. Panic set in. My advice is to hold off on making a big gluten free shopping trip if you can. Before you buy new foods, let’s work on clearing a space for your new gluten free life.
Take time to grieve the loss of your favorite food dishes and get ready for the internal push to take action. It may come with acceptance or alongside anger.
There is no wrong way to deal with a celiac disease diagnosis. When you are ready, let’s head to the kitchen!
Creating A Gluten Free Kitchen
How you handle going gluten free in your home is going to depend a lot on who you live with and if they are in your “Town”.
Some people have an urge to take every piece of food in the cupboards and throw them straight into trash bags.
I don’t recommend this if you live with other people. Nobody likes having all their food trashed.
Another knee jerk reaction is to force the entire family and household to go on a strict gluten free diet and ban all gluten from the home.
Going gluten free shouldn’t be forced on people or it will likely cause resentments.
Whatever you decide to do, I recommend making the decision together with all the people involved. A good way to start the conversation is by cleaning out the cupboards together.
My mom let me move in with her, due to my health issues, so we went through the cupboards together.
My mom grabbed the stuff she wanted to keep and we got rid of anything else that was questionable.
You may feel the urge to get rid of everything, but if you have someone willing to support you, this is a good opportunity to let your loved ones contribute and be involved!
In our home, cleaning the food out of the cupboards organically led into reorganizing the shelves and assigning which ones would be my gluten free shelf vs. community gluten free.
I highly recommend labeling foods gluten free, especially early on. It’s easy to grab what you’re used to at home and forget to check labels. You can use Post-Its or Amazon has a roll of 500 bright orange labels for under $10.
→ If you live alone, you can just focus on cleaning and organizing things.
On the other hand if you have children, roommates, or individuals that aren’t around during the cleaning process, you may have to make some decisions on your own and then do teaching later on.
Gluten Free Cupboard Tips
- Donate or toss foods nobody wants.
- Check expiration dates.
- Toss the peanut butter and other jars that have crumbs.
- Clean shelves with soap and water.
- Designate higher shelves for gluten free items only.
- Always keep baking flour in a sealed container.
- Label gluten free foods.
A Gluten Free Refrigerator
The next step in going gluten free is to tackle the refrigerator. Clearing the fridge should be a bit easier because many foods are fresh and already gluten free like fruit, vegetables and milk.
My mom and I had the refrigerator cleaned out pretty fast because it was smaller, but the size also made it harder to get designated gluten free spaces.
Getting shelf and door space might be hard, so labeling your gluten free items in the fridge is especially important.
Make it a habit to check labels every time you pull food out of the fridge or freezer. People are always unexpectedly moving and changing stuff around in there.
GF Refrigerator Tips
- Throw out condiment jars like Mayo, jelly, salsa, etc due to cross contamination.
- Get rid of your gluten foods to make space.
- Clean shelves and drawers with soap and water to remove any gluten residues.
- Don’t forget the freezer.
- Buy condiments in squeeze bottles instead of jars, whenever possible.
- Get a separate gluten free butter. Double dipping after spreading butter on bread can add crumbs to it.
Now your cabinets and fridge are clean and practically empty.
Is it time to fill them up with all the great new GF foods?
Yes… and No!
Gluten Free Foods
Yes, It’s important to have gluten free foods available so you aren’t tempted to eat gluten. There’s also an emotional desire to know that in a world where so many foods have been taken away, there are new foods out there to replace them.
Basically, nobody wants to feel like they will be living in a constant state of deprivation. Especially while watching your loved ones continue to eat anything they want.
For this reason the answer is yes, go ahead and buy some gluten free foods.
No, don’t go crazy filling your cabinets with tons of processed gluten free foods. There are a couple things to keep in mind when going gluten free.
First, keep in mind gluten free doesn’t mean healthy. There are a lot of processed gluten free foods available that are stripped of fiber, vitamins and nutrients. For me, going gluten free started by spending $100 on foods that looked healthy but had the nutritional value of a bag of chips.
It’s easier to find fresh foods that are gluten free.
Second, not everything marked gluten free IS gluten free. What?! I know it’s annoying, but it has improved a lot since the 2014 Gluten Labeling rule went into effect.
After checking if food is labeled gluten free, always check for the Made in a Facility with Wheat label or any other suspicious writing that negates the gluten free claim… like May contain wheat.
If the product is Certified Gluten Free and has these warnings, it should still be safe.
If the food is not certified gluten free and it is made in a facility with wheat, there is a risk for gluten. At this point, I don’t buy it or I check online for what other celiacs are saying about the product. I also consider whether the brand is trusted in OUR community.
Going Gluten Free: Now What?
Now you have a clean, organized space ready for some great gluten free foods. I recommend finding fresh healthy foods whenever possible.
However, many people also like to have some quick and convenient foods around for days when you’re in a hurry or frustrated with celiac disease.
→ After all, you have been diagnosed with celiac disease not forced into a raw, vegan, paleo diet lifestyle. So eat whatever gluten free foods YOU want to and be proud of yourself for successfully following the only treatment for celiac disease that day.
Eat whatever gets you through the day, as long as it’s gluten free.
Once you have that mastered feel free to work on getting healthier versions of gluten free foods into your day.
Fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and milk are all celiac safe foods.
Meats can also be safe; however, watch out for added seasonings and fillers that contain gluten. Also, learn about cross contamination at the deli counter before buying meats.
There are a lot of gluten free sandwich meats, bacon, and sausages available in grocery stores. So meats are something you can still enjoy quickly and conveniently.
Technically nuts are also gluten free, but they are often victims of gluten cross contact during processing. Companies also use anti-caking and natural flavors with gluten. The Blue Diamond brand is very good about marking which nuts are gluten free.
Also, many condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise and BBQ sauces are clearly marked gluten free now.
The Udi’s brand makes many celiac safe products, including frozen meals that many Target stores carry. I don’t recommend their breads though.
If you enjoy baking, don’t forget to get a one to one gluten free flour to get you started. I recommend cup4cup as a great starter flour.
The Rest of the Kitchen
The next step when going gluten free is to take a look around your kitchen and figure out which small appliances are a risk for cross contamination.
When going gluten free try color coding all your dedicated gluten free kitchen items. This makes them easy for everyone to identify and it can help people remember they are gluten free. It also makes them more fun to buy.
Next, it’s time to look at other kitchen utensils. There are some items that should be replaced with a dedicated gluten free version. There are surfaces which hold gluten even after thorough washing. For example, porous wood and non-stick pans with scratches can’t be washed of gluten.
Below is a list of kitchen items that I bought when newly diagnosed.
Initially, I bought cheap versions of everything because my friends and family were still learning about how to interact with my gluten free stuff. It’s less upsetting when someone makes toast in your $20 clearly marked gluten free toaster, than it is in a $90 gluten free toaster. Over time, I’ve slowly invested in gluten free kitchen gear I can be proud of.
- Waffle maker, Panini Press, etc.
- Wood cutting boards
- Wooden spoons and utensils
- Scratched plastic or nylon spatulas
- Scratched non-stick cookware (Includes pans, baking sheets, muffin pans)
Look over your kitchen tools and get yourself a safe gluten free kitchen set. Pick them up one at a time, all at once or wait for a holiday and make a gift list.
Other Hotspots For Gluten
The next step in going gluten free is to check common hotspots that gluten can hide. Remember as someone with celiac disease, it’s important to question anything that goes into your mouth.
A good place to start is by checking all vitamins, herbs, supplements, probiotics, nutrition drinks, etc that you take and make sure they are gluten free.
Research has shown that probiotics marked gluten free aren’t always gluten free. Be wary of scammy products and try to use reputable gluten free brands for your vitamins and supplements. Nature Made is one reputable brand and they clearly mark all their gluten free products.
Going gluten free doesn’t just involve food. Next, it’s time to check your toothpaste, mouthwash, chapstick, lipstick and anything else you can think of that’s likely to end up in your mouth.
I have had a surprisingly difficult time finding a toothpaste that’s actually labeled gluten free.
Some people switch all their beauty products to non-gluten versions so they don’t have to worry about getting glutened in the shower,etc. I love the Eclair brand which is completely gluten free and celiac friendly.
Many people don’t worry about their beaty products except the most important thing, which is to keep gluten out of their mouth.
There is no right answer on this subject, do what works for you.
• Pet Food
Next, lets talk about pet food. If you have a pet, they are probably eating gluten. My dogs food tend to be grain free, but not free from gluten.
I have a long-haired chihuahua and he is the pickiest and messiest eater you have ever seen. He was a rescue and came to us missing quite a few teeth.
Because of the missing teeth, food drips out the sides of his mouth when he eats. He also somehow flicks baby food (yes he loves Gerber meat flavored baby foods) onto his own head, chest and paws while eating. He gets gluten everywhere!
After being diagnosed with celiac disease and going gluten free, I learned to get creative and find solutions when problems present themselves.
For my messy pet problem: I got him a food bed to eat in and a puppy food blanket to eat on. This helps minimize the mess and keeps the gluten under control.
To protect myself, I’m vigilant about washing my hands and the kitchen counter after preparing his food.
Going Gluten Free: Do’s and Dont’s
- Clean out your kitchen.
- Learn what gluten is and where it hides.
- Learn about gluten cross contact!
- Allow yourself to grieve.
- Find a dedicated gluten free eatery.
- Bring snacks everywhere.
- Rush and buy GF junk foods.
- Stay positive all the time.
- Believe everything you read.
- Trust everyone who claims they are GF.
A Word About Grief
Going gluten free after being diagnosed with celiac disease is a big adjustment. It’s not just about losing favorite foods or meals. Our entire relationship with food is turned upside.
The joy of food centered traditions is replaced with fear, anxiety and sometimes physical illness. The fun is gone.
On top of all that we quickly realize how much socializing revolves around food and drinks.
These are just a couple reasons many people feel a deep sadness after diagnosis. I was very focused on staying positive and moving forward. After all, I had survived cancer so it felt petty to get upset about gluten.
I give you permission to grieve after your diagnosis.
It’s not petty. What you’re really grieving is your relationship with food and relationships with people through food. Take as long as you need to be sad, but don’t wallow in grief. When you’re ready, take steps forward to heal yourself and learn about your new celiac lifestyle.
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