Our oldest son used to be a gluten addict. One Christmas, the present he wanted under the tree more than anything was boxed macaroni & cheese. No joke. (And his grandpa actually wrapped some up for him.)
But after a lot of research, when we finally decided to take the “gluten-free plunge” as a family, we made a lot of mistakes as beginners—gluten seems to “sneak in” to a lot of things. Store-bought chicken broth. Soy sauce. Salad dressings. And even the scrambled eggs at IHOP.
For more gluten-free recipes, tips, and tricks, look no further than our Everything Gluten Free page!
But we began to see health changes almost right away once we figured out what we were doing. At nighttime our oldest son would wet his bed, and occasionally he would vomit in his sleep (gross), but both of these problems stopped right away once we started on a gluten-free diet. His psoriasis healed up. For me, inflammation in my body and general body aches also went away.
If you’re looking to going gluten-free, below is our short beginner’s guide:
A Closer Look at Gluten
What exactly is “gluten”?
Gluten is a protein found in certain grains, like wheat, rye, and barley.
Glutenin and gliadin are the two main proteins found in these grains, and they play a role in giving food like like bread both elasticity and texture.
Gluten is not necessarily a harmful substance, and many people can handle gluten just fine. A problem can occur, however, if a person’s body recognizes gluten as a foreign substance and launches a systemic attack against it. If your body is gluten-sensitive (or gluten-intolerant), whether you have celiac disease or something else, gluten can cause many negative symptoms.
The symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the gluten sensitivity, but the list of symptoms includes: stomach issues, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
If the gluten problems harm your small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients, then you can also have nutrient issues, anemia, chronic fatigue, and more.
Common Mistakes When Going Gluten-Free
It can be very tempting to just buy gluten-free prepackaged foods and to automatically consider gluten-free = healthy. However, just because something is gluten-free doesn’t mean that it is healthy for you. For example, you can find gluten-free brownies and candy bars, but that doesn’t mean you should start eating more of those things.
It can also be tempting to fall for your old cravings. Here are some tips on how to cope with wheat withdrawal. You might also find it difficult to go gluten-free if you aren’t getting the support from the rest of your family. Here are 5 ways to cope with living gluten-free in a gluten-filled family.
How To Prepare Your Kitchen for a Gluten-Free Diet
The best way to prepare for your gluten-free diet in the kitchen is to clean your kitchen thoroughly. If you are planning on having the entire family/household go gluten-free, consider completely cleaning out your pantry and donating your gluten-filled foods to friends or local charities.
You might want to buy new kitchen products, too.
- Your toaster might be filled with bread crumbs.
- Non-stick pans can absorb gluten materials.
- You should also clean all of your dishes, pots and pans, microwave, oven, etc., to remove any possible hidden gluten.
Finally, slowly start to add some products back to your kitchen. A few gluten-free snacks, gluten-free pasta, gluten-free flours, etc. to replace the things you are getting rid of. It can be incredibly overwhelming to start your gluten-free lifestyle by staring at a completely empty pantry.
Tips for Eating Gluten-Free
Going gluten-free can seem difficult and stressful, especially since gluten can be hidden in many types of food, and even in dietary supplements. However, I hope these tips help you through your gluten-free journey.
Here is a List of Common Foods that Contain Gluten:
- Wheat, barley, and rye in all of their forms (including ancient forms of wheat, like spelt)
- Foods derived from wheat, barley, and rye (including barley malt, malt vinegar, malt syrup, etc.)
- Foods that include wheat in the ingredients
- Any foods that are breaded, unless it specifically says it is gluten free.
- Conventional flours (including all purpose flour, cake flour, pastry flour, etc.)
- Anything made with conventional flours (including crackers, cookies, bread, pastas, etc.)
- Breakfast cereals that are not specifically labeled gluten-free.
- Beers that are not specifically labeled gluten-free.
Here is a List of Foods that You Might Not Have Known Contain Gluten:
- Fried foods
- Chicken broth
- Processed cheese
- Soy sauce
- Artificial flavors
- Salad dressings
- Seasonings and Spice Packets
Here is a List of Foods that You Should Include in Your Gluten-Free Diet:
- Meat, Poultry, Eggs
- Fish and Seafood
- Beans and Legumes
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Gluten Free Grains
- Gluten Free Spices and Seasonings
If you need gluten-free recipe inspiration, make sure to check out my Gluten-Free Everything List, which includes more resources for going gluten-free as well as tons of recipes.
Tips for Avoiding Hidden Gluten and Cross-Contamination
If you are trying to go gluten-free, any traces of gluten can still be bad for your health and progress. In order to avoid hidden gluten and/or cross-contamination, here are a few things you can do.
Tips for Finding Hidden Gluten:
- Look closely at the packages for labels! When you are grocery shopping, take the time to read the package for the allergen statement or look for a certified gluten free label.
- Research the main food companies you want to buy from and make sure their gluten free products were NOT made in facilities that make gluten/wheat products.
- Read the ingredient list: even if you see a label for gluten-free, scan the ingredients to double check.
Tips to Avoid Cross-Contamination:
- Buy a new toaster that is used only for gluten-free bread
- Purchase new bakeware and/or line it with parchment paper before use
- Use stainless steel cookware because nonstick pans can absorb gluten
- Keep a separate cupboard for gluten free foods
- Always wash your hands and clean your utensils before eating dinner with a gluten-eating family
Tips for Eating Gluten-Free at Restaurants
Eating gluten-free at restaurants used to be challenging, however, things have been getting better as the gluten free diet becomes more commonplace. The best tip for eating gluten-free at restaurants is to plan ahead. If you know where you want to eat, simply research their menu online beforehand (or call them if they do not have an online menu).
If you are struggling to find a good gluten-free selection at restaurants, there are some safer restaurant options than others.
- Mexican food is a safer option than others as long as you use corn tortillas instead of flour ones.
- Other safer options include Indian food, Greek, Asian (just avoid soy sauce), and Middle Eastern.
Don’t forget to ask them how they prepare the gluten-free meals. You don’t want to risk cross-contamination if they cook their eggs and pancakes on the same griddle, for example. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your meal, just do so politely and you will usually find the servers and managers of restaurants to be helpful and considerate.
You can also come prepared when you are dining out. For example, bring gluten-free crackers or chips so you can still have chips & salsa at a Mexican restaurant. Or bring your own gluten-free buns to your favorite diner. With a little preparation and creativity, eating gluten-free at restaurants doesn’t have to be difficult.
Tips for a Gluten-Free Home
Gluten finds a way to hide in many different products in your home, especially in your bathroom. Make sure you find any possible gluten sources in your home and replace them with gluten-free products.
Some Hidden Gluten Items in the Home Include:
- Oral Care: double check that your toothpaste and mouthwash are gluten-free.
- Hair Care: Check your shampoo and conditioner and other hair products for a gluten-free label.
- Cosmetics: Check your lotions, makeup, sunscreen, etc. for gluten-free labels.
- Soaps: Check your hand soap, laundry detergent, etc. to make sure it is gluten-free.
- Pills: Check your vitamins, supplements, and prescriptions for hidden gluten.
- Pets: Make sure your pets are also eating a gluten-free diet to avoid cross-contamination.
You Can Do It
With a little preparation and knowledge, transitioning to a gluten-free diet doesn’t have to be hard. Now that we’ve been gluten-free for several years, we’ve really come to enjoy how this decision has impacted our health.