There are many reasons why you may be considering a gluten-free diet as your New Year's Resolution. You may live a very healthy lifestyle and want to make it even more so, or maybe you are starting to live healthier by cutting gluten out of your diet. The most common reason, however, is Celiac disease - a disease in which the small intestine is overly sensitive to wheat gluten, and consuming wheat gluten can cause damage to the intestine. This damage can create a whole host of other problems, including malabsorption leading to malnutrition. A gluten-free diet is a primary solution for those with Celiac disease, and it can help to curtail your symptoms in a matter of days or weeks if you keep to it very strictly.
When you look at the list of names that gluten often goes by (gluten, wheat, rye, semolina, Durham, triticale - just to name a few), you may be a little discouraged. How is it possible to remove gluten from your diet when these things are found in so many of the foods we consume every day? The task doesn't seem so daunting with just a little bit of research. Follow these steps to start and maintain your New Year's Resolution for a healthy and gluten-free diet.
Cleaning Out the Cupboards
Your first step is to go through your pantry and refrigerator - item by item. You are looking for items that contain gluten. Do a quick search of the internet to find a complete list of the names that gluten can often be disguised as and read through the ingredients list on each food item you have searching for these. Many food manufacturers will have a line of ingredients listed UNDER the full ingredients list that is usually bolded and contains a shortened version with only the items that people most commonly have allergies to (like gluten, milk, nuts, etc.) You might want to look there first to save yourself a bit of time.You may like: Top 3 Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance to Check Yourself For
Anything that has gluten in it, separate from your non-gluten containing products. If there are others in your home that will continue to eat gluten, then they should know where you've placed these foods, and they should know to keep them separate from the foods that you will be eating. If you live by yourself or if everyone in the home will be starting a gluten-free diet, then these foods can be given away to neighbors, friends, or family. Non-perishables that have not been opened can even be donated to a local food bank to help those less fortunate.
The next step is to go shopping, but not without two lists in hand. One list should be foods that commonly have gluten ingredients in them that you should avoid. The other list should be foods that usually do not contain gluten that you should be looking for. Make sure to read the ingredients list on each item before you decide to buy it, and if you're not sure or if the ingredients list isn't clear, write it down and do some research on it when you get home. You don't want to end up buying something that you shouldn't be eating just to have it sit in the cupboard! Some of the things your new diet will have plenty of are fresh fruits, corn and some types of cornmeal, vegetables, rice and rice flour, and milk products.
Many grocery stores now have a section of specialty foods. These foods might be branded for a specific diet, come from a specific country for ethnic cooking, or might be free of certain ingredients. Many sugar-free and diabetic foods may be found there, as well as dairy-free products for those who are lactose intolerant. Foods that are not usually gluten free (like flour or crackers) can usually be found in this section of the store. If your local grocery store doesn't have a food section like this, you might want to suggest it. And if you can't find a satisfactory selection of gluten-free products, you might want to suggest that they start carrying more as well. (Don't end your quest for gluten-free products if your grocery store doesn't carry them, though. You may be able to find a specialty food store in your area that has them! Some non-perishable non-gluten products can even be found on the internet.)
If you can't find certain types of foods in your area grocery or specialty stores, you may find it easier to make them yourself. A quick search of the internet will net you a huge list of recipes. Double check the ingredients list on these recipes to make sure that there aren't any items containing gluten and add any items that you don't currently have to your shopping list for your next trip. You might also want to check your local bookstore and specialty food shops for gluten-free cookbooks. You will probably find a better selection of tried and true gluten-free recipes in these published books.
A Few Warnings
Because of your gluten-free diet, eating out at restaurants may seem difficult. Just remember to stick to meats without sauces or gravies (grilled works best), vegetables or fruits, and rice dishes. And if you can't find anything on the menu that appears to be gluten-free, don't be shy about asking the waitress or chef.There are also a lot of items out there that you may not think of as containing wheat or gluten that should be avoided. Imitation or lunch meats should be avoided, as well as most canned soups and gravies. Most, if not all, beers contain gluten, as do candies, cakes, and pies. There are even some non-food items that contain gluten that you should try to stay away from - some medications and vitamins, some toothpaste, and even lip balms. The 'sticky' adhesive on most envelopes and postage stamps also contains gluten. Make sure that you tell your doctor about your gluten-free diet if he wasn't the one that recommended it so that he can prescribe you medications that are gluten-free. Try making your own toothpaste or lip balms from gluten-free recipes. And use envelope adhesive or an envelope sealer that uses water to seal envelopes and adhere stamps.Starting a gluten-free diet can be a bit daunting, but maintaining it once you have a core set of foods that you enjoy and that are easy to prepare makes keeping to your gluten-free lifestyle not only easy but also healthy!