In the first part of the gluten-free series, I discussed why it’s important to consider going gluten-free. Now, I’ll show you how you to start incorporating gluten-free foods into your diet and switching over to the gluten-free lifestyle.
When you’re beginning the transition, you may feel overwhelmed, stressed, scared, or even frustrated. But I’m here to help you along the way so you can make the switch easily and smoothly.
And lucky for you, it’s a lot easier these days to go gluten-free then back in 2010 when I did. There is much more awareness now along with way better products and more variety.
How to Switch to a Gluten-Free Diet
Step 1: Clean out and reorganize your pantry, cupboards, and shelves in the kitchen.
It’s time for an overhaul of the foods you currently have in your kitchen. Decide what you want to get rid of and what you want to keep. Ideally, you’ll want to go cold turkey and get rid of all gluten foods, but if you need to take baby steps and wean yourself off certain items slowly, that’s completely fine (unless you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity). This is your journey! You also might have family members that aren’t going gluten-free so they will want to keep certain foods. You can designate space on a special shelf or in a cupboard for their items.
Now it’s time to gather all foods containing gluten that you want to remove from your kitchen. Be sure to read labels for any hidden gluten. This is a great way to “spring clean” your cupboards and throw out old, expired foods. Anything already opened that contains gluten should be thrown out as well, unless someone else in the house wants it.
With your remaining gluten foods, you can pack them into a box and take it to your local homeless shelter, food bank, or church/school food drive. Or, give it away to a neighbor or take it to work and set it on a community table for people to take what they want.
As you begin to get rid of certain foods, make a list so you know what you need to replace with alternative options. This will be a good place to start your grocery list.
Step 2: Do your research and make a list of gluten-free food options to replace what you just removed.
Once you know what you can eat in place of wheat and other grains, you’ll be better prepared when you’re shopping at the store and will know what to buy. There are many alternatives to replace grain, flour, and starches that do not contain gluten and can be consumed.
- Brown, white and wild rice
- Coconut flour
- Almond flour
- Potato flour
You’ll also want to start researching gluten-free recipes. If you’re on Pinterest, you can start a new gluten-free board and pin loads of recipes to refer back to later. You can check out all of my gluten-free recipes here.
Step 3: Buy new gluten-free foods to use in your kitchen.
Now that you’ve done your research and you’re armed with a grocery list of gluten-free foods you can eat, it’s time to go shopping. As you start out using these new products, you’ll want to try different brands to see which ones you like the best.
As you are shopping, be aware of cross-contamination that can happen with all grains. Even gluten-free foods can be grown, milled and manufactured near grains that contain gluten. If you’re gluten sensitive or have celiac disease, even the smallest amounts of gluten can cause damage to your body. Therefore, you’ll want to pay attention to labels and purchase naturally gluten-free foods that are labeled as so, and also, certified gluten-free by third parties, if possible.
Step 4: Plan ahead and know where the gluten-free restaurants are in your area.
Once you’ve cleaned out your kitchen, removed all or most gluten from your home, and purchased gluten-free alternatives, it’s time to find out where you can eat when you decide to eat out. A quick Google search should provide you with all the options in your area.
If you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, don’t be afraid to call ahead and ask if a restaurant has a designated kitchen for their gluten-free dishes to avoid cross-contamination. Just because gluten-free options are on a restaurant’s menu doesn’t mean they cook those dishes in a separate kitchen.
If you’re already dining at the restaurant, ask how certain foods are prepared. For example, is their salad dressing from a bottle or made in-house? If made in-house, what are the ingredients? Do fries and chicken fingers (breaded with flour) use the same oil for frying? Are eggs used on the same griddles as pancakes? Is gluten-free pasta boiled in the same water as regular pasta? Get used to asking questions – it’s for your health after all!
Helpful Tips for Going Gluten-Free
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you transition to the gluten-free lifestyle:
- Double-dipping can spread gluten. Try to use condiments in squeeze bottles if possible. Otherwise, you may want to make a house rule that no one dips more than once into a jar with whatever utensil they are using.
- Read ingredient labels! Gluten can hide in many condiments, sauces, spreads, and dips. Even if it says gluten-free on the front of the package, flip it over to investigate further. You’ll need to become a food detective.
- When traveling and not sure where you’ll be able to eat, pack some gluten-free options ahead of time.
- Just because companies make gluten-free brownies, cookies, snacks, and other junk food items doesn’t mean it’s good for you. At the end of the day, junk food is junk food. Watch your sugar intake and read ingredient labels even on gluten-free items.
- Thoroughly examine your pots and pans that have worn surfaces, scratches, or dents because they could harbor food between uses. You may consider replacing pans and utensils for gluten-free meal prepping. However, if you can’t afford a total overhaul, you may want to buy one pan and one pot and designate them with duct tape or colored electrical tape for gluten-free use only.
For more information on going gluten-free, here are some great resources:
- Gluten-Free Diet 101 – A Beginner’s Guide
- The Gluten-Free Quick-Start Guide
- Beyond Celiac Website
- Gluten-Free Living Website
- Gluten Intolerance Group Website
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