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Quick Start Your New Gluten-Free Life

How you start living gluten-free depends on exactly why you’re doing that.

Cover #2If your physician has diagnosed you with a disease that requires you to live gluten-free, make sure that your physician knows and agrees with what I am telling you to do here.  There is absolutely no way that I can cover all reasons your physician may tell you to begin living gluten-free, or take into account your personal medical situation in this article.

In the event you have simply decided that you would like to live your life gluten-free, for whatever reason, I strongly recommend that if you suspect you have a disease which causes you to be gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive, you see a physician immediately for a proper evaluation and related diagnosis.  There are two reasons for this recommendation.

First, there are quite a few very serious and sometimes fatal diseases which may appear to be celiac or a similar disease or some form of allergy which you might be suspecting is a wheat allergy.  Neither you nor I are probably qualified to diagnose what you actually have.  If this is the case, see your physician for evaluation and related diagnosis.  It’s important… Your life may depend upon it!

Second, if you are, in fact, the victim of a disease which requires you to live your life gluten-free, it’s very important that you not start living gluten-free prior to seeing your physician for evaluation and related diagnosis.  There’s a very good reason for this.

That reason is that many of the tests that are currently used to detect the presence of a disease which might cause you to be gluten intolerant depend upon your body’s immune system response to the presence of gluten in your diet.  And, because of that, if you cut out all gluten from your diet, any test which depends upon your immune system’s response will give you a false negative and your doctor may be unable to give you an accurate diagnosis.

The Gluten Challenge Test

If this happens you will probably be asked by your physician to undergo a thing called a “Gluten Challenge” test.

In a gluten challenge test, it will be necessary for you to begin eating foods again which contain gluten for a period of 4 to 6 weeks and perhaps longer, as determined by your physician and depending upon your medical situation.  In the event you are actually gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive, your symptoms will probably return as soon as you begin the gluten challenge test.

I’m not a physician.  So what I am saying in this paragraph may not in any way be related to you.  However, in my case, after I cut gluten out of my diet following my diagnosis in January of the year 2000, whenever I would accidentally eat something containing gluten, the gluten reaction I experienced was almost always much worse than it would have been prior to the time I stopped eating things with gluten in them.

I really don’t understand exactly why it happens that way.  I’m simply relating that it happened to me and I’m suspecting that the same thing might happen to you, also.  Ask your physician if you require more information.

The bottom line is you may not want to cut gluten out of your diet if you suspect you are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive until your personal physician directs you to do so… Especially if your symptoms are severe like many of my symptoms were.

Please, be aware that although in this article I am talking to you, any time that I refer to “you” (or similar verbage), I am actually referring to anyone in your life who must live a gluten-free lifestyle… you, children, friends, relatives or anyone else for whom you are responsible to prepare food for or make sure that they are not exposed to gluten contamination in foods or other items.

But, as a general rule, this quick start list applies mostly to adults and older children.  I talk about what you need to do relative to different age children in both the first and second editions of my book “Eating and Living Gluten-Free… The Official Guide.”

That said, let’s get to it.

How To Quick Start Your Gluten-Free Life

While it can be difficult and annoying to completely avoid gluten, I successfully did it and I believe that you can, too.  It was hard at first, but, it has been worth it… The best thing about it is that I feel so much better.  And, I am not getting sick all of the time like I was before I went on my gluten-free diet.

Step 1

The first thing that you will need to do is to find some gluten-free food to eat.  Eating healthy is very important at this point in your new gluten-free life.

One of the biggest problems that individuals who have diseases requiring a gluten-free lifestyle have is that at the time they begin going gluten-free, they are frequently not healthy and may, in fact, be malnourished because their small intestines do not absorb food properly.  And, one of the first, most positive steps that they can take is to begin eating well-balanced, healthy diets.

Keep it simple at first. You can’t learn to do everything immediately.

Look for things like whole foods (fresh, unprocessed fruits or vegetables, for example) and packages of processed foods that are actually marked gluten-free.  Find a few things you like – even splurge a little, if you can afford it — and don’t focus too much on what you can’t have.

You’ll find lots more that you can eat as time goes by.  If you are or suspect that you are malnourished when you start living a gluten-free lifestyle, I think that supplementation would probably be a very good idea.  I recommend that you seek guidance from your personal physician in this area.

If you wish to supplement your diet to make sure you are getting adequate nutrition, we generally recommend supplements from a company by the name of “Life Plus, International,” which is located in Batesville, Arkansas.  Their products are always fresh, reasonably priced and are made completely in the USA.  Al and I have been independent associates since the mid-1990s.  We use their products and are extremely pleased with them.  <Click Here> to find out more.

Step 2

Then, before you prepare or eat anything, you will need to start paying attention to what touches your food.

This step contains a list of things that immediately come to my mind that you need to be aware of.  If you’re just starting out your gluten-free life.  There is no way I can possibly list everything that might touch your food.  As always, it is your sole responsibility to ensure that your food or anything else that goes in your mouth is, in fact, gluten-free.

Things that do touch your food, must all be gluten free.  Things like plates and silverware, cutting boards, knives, serving forks and spoons, oven accessories, cooking pots, pans. skillets and implements, to name just a few of the many things that you must make sure are gluten free before you use them to prepare your food.

That includes your toaster/toaster oven.  Get a new one!  Never use that old one again to fix  anything you are going to eat.

However, if you live in a mixed gluten environment household, get yourself a new one and use the old toaster for the rest of the family.

And, don’t forget your hands and fingers, especially your fingers. They all need to be gluten free before you handle any food which will end up  in your mouth.

One area that you might overlook is pet food, treats and toys.  Even something like fish food may be gluten-y.

Al and I are dog lovers and absolutely adore German Shepherds which eat a lot of gluten-y foods and treats and they slobber all over their toys.  I have a long pair of kitchen tongs that I use to get doggie biscuits out of the treat jar.

There are actually gluten-free pet foods available… Unfortunately, they tend to be quite expensive.

Personally, I try to wash my hands any time that I touch something containing gluten or at least before I handle food that I’m going to eat.

Clothing is another thing that many people who are new to living a gluten-free lifestyle might overlook.  This is especially important in the event you are nursing a gluten-free baby or have younger, gluten-free children who you might hold on your lap several times each day.  When you do that your clothing must of course be gluten-free, especially with the baby.

Step 3

This may seem overwhelming at first, especially if you live in a mixed gluten environment like I do.  But, you can do it, and the trick is in the system.  Join the Connoisseurs Club at ElegantlyGlutenFree.com.  When you do that, you will receive a free copy of my book excerpt entitled “How I Set up My Gluten-Free Pantry and Kitchen.”  You can sign up on any page of the website except for those containing legal gobbledygook.

Step 4

Get used to reading ingredients on everything, every time you buy something, to make sure it’s safe.  It’s very important you do this all the time, every time, each time you buy something to eat… Even if it’s something that you believe to be gluten-free.  The truth of the matter is that manufacturers and food processors sometimes will change how they process, handle or formulate the food products that they sell.  And, to make it worse, they will probably not publicize the fact that they changed the gluten status of the food they are selling.

Remember: You and you alone are now responsible to avoid gluten and gluten contamination in all aspects of your life…

Step 5

If you have any doubt whatsoever about whether something you want to eat is gluten-free, I strongly recommend that you contact the manufacturer or food processor, in the event it is a non-fresh food, to determine whether the food is in fact gluten-free.

I cover each of these five steps in great detail in the second edition of my third book entitled “Eating and Living Gluten-Free… The Official Guide.”

Step 6

Start Your Own Gluten-Free Foods List.

Begin keeping a list of what you find that you can eat and where you can get it.  This is a very important step.  Many times, especially if you are trying to locate something that you do not buy very often, there is a good chance that you will forget where you bought it the last time.

If you need to get started living gluten-free right away, I’ve put together a short list of things that I think most people can find easily and prepare and eat without much fuss.

Be sure to check the label on the package before you eat from it.  Or if you are in doubt as to the gluten-free status of any item in this list or anything else, for that matter, that you might eat, contact the food processor or the manufacturer of the item in question.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Unbreaded, unmarinated, unseasoned meat, chicken and fish cuts that are cooked on clean grills or pans with oil or butter, salt and pepper, but no sauces
  • Del Monte®and S&W canned fruits, vegetables and fruit cups
  • Kraft natural cheddar cheese and string cheese
  • Yogurt, many brands clearly mark those of their products that are “gluten-free”, such as Chobani, Dannon, Stonyfield and Yoplait
  • Hormel packaged lunch meats such as sliced ham or turkey
  • Prepackaged lettuce salad mixes that don’t have croutons or dressing in them
  • Salad dressings such as Hidden Valley, Ken’s Steakhouse and Kraft, for example – check the label to see which are marked “gluten-free”
  • Several varieties of Rice Chex
  • Kellogg’s Rice Krispies® Gluten Free Cereal
  • LAY’S® Classic Potato Chips
  • Corn tortillas
  • Corn chips
  • Tortilla chips
  • Old El Paso® Refried Beans, traditional
  • Pace salsa and picante sauce
  • Swanson canned chicken
  • V8® juices
  • Prego® sauces
  • Walden Farms products
  • Smucker’s® Peanut Butter or Jif® peanut butter
  • Most jams and preserves
  • Blue Diamond Nut Thins® Crackers
  • Quaker® Lightly Salted rice cakes (not necessarily the flavored ones, though)
  • Thai Kitchen Green Rice Noodle Soup Mix, and many other of their soups and sauces (many, but not all)
  • San-J Organic Wheat-Free Tamari and Shoyu
  • La Choy® soy sauce
  • Frank’s® Original RedHot® sauce
  • TABASCO® sauce
  • Many roasted nuts (be sure they aren’t processed in a facility with gluten)

Remember, you and you alone are responsible for what you eat.

 Step 7

Be EXTREMELY careful when you choose where to eat away from home in restaurants and other eateries.

My favorite fast food suggestion right now is:

  • Wendy’s Sour Cream & Chives Baked Potato with a side of Chili or an Ultimate Chicken Grill Fillet or a Baja Salad

There are many resources online about regular restaurants, so I’d suggest you look into those at some point.  But, be aware that these online resources change frequently.

However, the safest, most practical way to find out if a restaurant can serve you safely is to talk to the manager.  It’s his or her job to know what their restaurant can do, and they’ll probably tell you if they can’t.

If they give you unclear or evasive answers, you should probably go somewhere else. 

But, I have found that most restaurant managers are exceptionally helpful.  Smarter managers know that their success depends upon as many as possible, if not all, visitors to their establishments, leaving more than satisfied.  It only takes one person who has a gluten reaction because they were careless or unable to meet your needs to destroy a business.  Because of that they want you satisfied!

If you are shy about explaining your gluten-free needs at a restaurant or if you like to eat ethnic foods where there might be a language barrier, you can get cards to carry with you that have your dietary needs clearly explained on them.

I recommend those provided by Triumph Dining.  You can get what they call “Dining Cards” in both disposable or permanently laminated formats to explain your dietary situation to restaurant and other eatery managers and employees.  Plus, they are available in 10 different languages, including English and Spanish, in case there is a language barrier.

Triumph Dining’s products are guaranteed and the company has been around since 2004 so they probably aren’t going away any time in the near future (in case you have a problem with any of their products).

I think that some people might think that their products are a “bit pricey.” But, you get what you pay for from Triumph Dining and, except for disposable items, you will be able to reuse them again and again.  And, it sure beats losing two or three days of work and pay because you had a serious gluten reaction.

You can show these cards to your server or the restaurant’s manager if you are shy to explain your gluten-free food needs or if there is an obvious language barrier.

Don’t be shy – it’s your health, and your money!  Even more than that, getting sick from a gluten reaction while you are away from home is to be avoided at all costs… Trust me… I’ve been there… Done that… Got the T-Shirt… You don’t want to do it… at any cost!

Good Luck!


Linked to:

Easy Green Mama’s Gluten Free Tuesday

Table for Seven’s Share Your Stuff Tuesdays

The Gluten-Free Homemaker’s Gluten-Free Wednesdays

The Tasty Alternative’s Allergy Friendly Wednesdays

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage Full Plate Thursday

Katherine’s Corner Thursday Favorite Things

Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten-Free Fridays

Rattlebridge Farm’s Foodie Friday

Home Maid Simple’s Foodie Friday

Simply Sweet Home’s Friday Favorites

Simple Living and Eating’s Foodie Friday

Sunflower Supper Club’s Weekend Potluck