Byline: Samantha Elkrief
I’ve been living gluten-free and sugar-free for a few years now. And let me tell you, I’ve learned a lot along the way! I’ve had lots of great guides, and lots of blunders, too (have you learned the difference between coconut powder and coconut flour? they are definitely not the same!).
Here are some of my favorite tips that helped me along my journey. Some of them I’ve heard a million times, but sometimes you just need to hear these things again and again.
1. Know Your Stuff
The first thing we learn are the basics; gluten can be found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. But, for whatever reason, gluten is hiding in a lot of what you think of as innocuous places. Soy sauce was one place I definitely didn’t expect to find wheat. Who decided to put that there? And that’s one of the tricky things. The food industry doesn’t always make sense. Which is why you are now charged with learning the information for yourself.
Another thing many people overlook as they begin to cut out gluten is that a lot of batters contain gluten. That includes the panko crumbs on your sushi or coating on your fish or chicken. Make sure to read ingredients. This is how you’ll learn.
Vitamins are another culprit that can contain hidden sources of gluten. When buying vitamins, you want to look for a section that says that there is no gluten or wheat in the product. There a number of lists online that detail what to avoid, and some retailers, like Whole Foods, keep lists of their gluten-free products. Remember, it’s up to you to know your stuff. And tip #2 is my advice to you as you work your way there.
2. Stand proud
Making the switch to living gluten-free can be a stressful transition, whether you have celiac disease or a food sensitivity. The most important thing to do at this point is to stand proud of your choice and know that you are doing it for your well being. People may make fun of you, or think it’s a drag to try to find a place to eat, but that’s their problem, not yours. You’re about to feel so much better, and that’s what this is about.
When you’re proud, you aren’t embarrassed to ask questions. Ask your waiter what is in the food you want to order off the menu. You can even call restaurants in advance to ask them if they can accommodate you. Be that person. It’s your life, it’s your health.
3. Explore and Experiment
Over the years I have discovered so many awesome recipes, products and people through changing my diet. And, believe it or not, every year it just gets better and better. Experimenting in the kitchen can be a lot of fun, and there are tons of bloggers that specialize in gluten-free food. Including baking. To tell you the truth, I was never a baker until I went gluten-free, and now I find it to be a ton of fun. You can make crackers, breads, cakes and cookies in ways you never would have imagined. Going gluten-free is just like any new skill. You’ll learn from those who came before you and through trial and error.
4. Get support
If you’re anything like me, you might feel like you can do everything on your own. Well, I won’t argue with you there! You definitely can. But it is so much easier and more enjoyable with others. Let people know what you’re up to so they can support you. Join a meetup or facebook group where you can chat with other gluten-free folks. Who knows, you may even make a friend or two!
Keep in mind that some people won’t support your lifestyle changes. The people you want in your life will support you, especially if your goal is to feel your very best. Just like it takes time to find recipes and restaurants that work for you, it may take time to find the right support network. It can also take time for friends and family to come around and support you. And, it will get better and easier over time.
5. Be ready
I don’t know about you, but when I’m hungry, I get moody. Apparently there is even a word for it – “hangry”. Since going gluten-free, finding food when I’m in this state has become harder. So, I prepare. You can keep almonds and chopped fruits in your bag, a prepped salad or dehydrated flax crackers.
It’s also important to make sure that you’ve got a pantry full of gluten-free goodies, so you don’t have to scramble when you get home. Keep hard boiled eggs in the fridge, and hummus and chopped veggies like carrots, zucchini or celery. And when you find a meal that you like, write it down. Over time you’ll build up a super diverse menu that doesn’t include pasta every night, and your friends will all be jealous of your meals. Who said gluten-free had to be boring?
I hope you’ve enjoyed my 5 tips on living gluten-free! If you’ve enjoyed these tips, check out my website and jump on my newsletter, I have tons of tips and tricks for those who struggle with less than optimal digestion and want to improve their health through diet and lifestyle.
Samantha Elkrief is a Social Worker and Holistic Health Coach committed to talking about everything and anything other people are embarrassed to talk about. As a health coach, I specialize in supporting people with less than optimal digestion find ways to live happier and fuller lives. For information about working with Samantha and upcoming classes, visit www.SimplySamanthaNYC.com.