Have you been diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance and can no longer eat foods with gluten?
Having any disease or food allergy can be a frustrating, depressing, life changing experience. Fortunately, you don't have to do it alone, and there are many resources to help support you. There are still many foods that you will be able to enjoy. Here are some tips for eating gluten free from my own experience with gluten intolerance that will hopefully help.
1. Get used to reading labels: Don't trust the outside of the packaging. Read the full list of ingredients. Many products contain gluten where you would least expect it: cosmetics, cough syrups, French fries, soy sauce, and even capsules for vitamins.
2. Dining out: When dining out, check online first for gluten free options. Some restaurants, like Olive Garden, have a separate menu that you have to ask for. If you have Celiac disease (which is more severe than a gluten intolerance), you really need to be mindful of cross-contamination.
Ask the server:
- if there is a separate area in the kitchen for gluten free dishes
- if the frying oil is changed or if there is a dedicated gluten free fryer
- if the grill is cleaned before making gluten free dishes
- if there are separate kitchen utensils for gluten free dishes
There are more and more restaurants popping up that are 100% gluten free.Those are the safest option, but harder to find.
Think globally: Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Malaysian, Chinese, Ethiopian, and Indian restaurants have corn tortillas, injera (an Ethiopian spongy flat bread), rice, rice noodles and rice paper wraps that are all gluten free.
Ask questions and let the server know that you WILL get sick if you eat gluten. Make sure they know what that means. The reason I say this is because I was a server for four years. At one of the restaurants I worked at the chef had the nerve to tell the staff to tell the vegetarian and vegan patrons that one of the soups was vegan even though it had chicken stock. Even though I was not yet vegan at the time, I was appalled. So beware! If the staff knows you will get sick from something they will very likely investigate the ingredients of a dish.
3. There's an app for that: My favorite is Gluten Check, which lists foods that have gluten in red and those that do not in green. How easy is that? Some others that I love are Gluten Free Registry, Find Me GF, Allergy Eats, and Urban Spoon, all of which do a search of local and chain restaurants in your area that have gluten free options.
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4. Grocery stores: Most grocery stores have some gluten free products, but if you shop at natural food stores, you can find a larger selection. The stores I frequent include Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Sunflower, Sprouts (previously Sunflower here in Tucson), local natural food stores, and farmer's markets. Shopping online is another place to get gluten free products. I like Vegan Essentials (not an affiliate) and The Gluten Free Mall.
5. Online resources: There are many resources for gluten free eating, which provide recipes, tips, webinars, conferences, and support. Here are a few that I have found helpful: Celiac Support Association, Celiac.com (both are not affiliates), and The Gluten Free Mall.