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How to Start a Gluten-Free Diet

Tips to playing it smart, whether for a loved one’s health or your own.
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The gluten-free diet is gaining attention—and understanding—these days. Whether you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, an allergy or an anti-inflammatory disease, or someone you love does, the situation is the same. You need to figure out how to tackle this crazy world of gluten-free living.

Our society is so gluten-filled that it can often be overwhelming to think about avoiding this substance for the rest of your life. Health and nutrition advocates tell us to eat multigrain cereal for breakfast, a sandwich on wheat bread for lunch and fancy high-fiber grains for dinner. But what do you do if you can’t eat any of these things anymore?

Gluten is the protein found in barley, rye and wheat.  It is found in the majority of our processed food items and can be found in some very sneaky places that you wouldn’t suspect, such as shredded cheese, imitation crab and artificial bacon bits. So here are ten tips to follow when starting a gluten-free diet.

10 Tips to Follow when Starting a Gluten-Free Diet

1. Get a comprehensive list of where gluten can be found. The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America has an excellent bulletin about gluten-free foods. 

2.  Learn how to read food labels.In the U.S., food companies are now required to list if wheat is included in the ingredients. Many products say “gluten-free” on the packaging as a marketing gimmick and may not be truly free of gluten. Become a gluten “detective” and learn what is actually in your food.

3. Stick to “real” food for a while. Most of the food we eat today isn’t even food. The majority of what we put in our mouths is processed. Try eating fruits and vegetables, meat and whole grains such as wild rice or quinoa. Not only will you feel better, you won’t have to worry about these whole foods containing even a trace of gluten. Search foodspring.com’s archive for more information on rice and grain varieties.

4. Make a list of the foods you love and look online for gluten-free replacement recipes. Many websites have wonderful recipes and cooking tips, so you don’t have to feel left out or deprived.

5. Join a local support group or an online community. Both the Celiac Sprue Association and The Gluten Intolerance Group have local groups that provide encouragement and help in many communities. Also, many Whole Foods Markets offer monthly gluten-free gatherings.

6. Find a local cooking school or instructor to help you learn how to make your favorite recipes. You may also find weekend seminars, such as The Gluten & Allergen Free Expo, to help you learn how to cook gluten-free foods.

7.  Meet with a nutritionistwho specializes in the gluten-free diet. Your nutritionist can be of tremendous help in making sure you are getting enough fiber and nutrients with your new diet.

8. Join an online gluten-free community through a blog or website you like. This can be a quick go-to resource for more tips, sharing stories and getting support.

9. Locate restaurants in your community that can provide you with safe, gluten-free food. Many restaurants have offerings and substitutes that keep in mind this segment of the population. And let’s face it—sometimes you just don’t feel like cooking.

10. Find a friend to support you on your gluten-free journey.  Any journey is easier if you are not alone!—Jen Cafferty

As founder of the Gluten Free Cooking Expo and President of Gluten Free Life with Jen (gfreelife.com), Jen Cafferty is a nationally recognized expert on cooking and living gluten free (GF). She considers it her personal mission to help others who follow a GF diet learn delicious, nutritious and convenient ways to live a happy and healthy GF life. Cafferty, her husband and two children follow a GF diet due to a variety of health concerns, so she has first-hand experience with eating, living and thriving without gluten.

Learn more at our Gluten Free Food Movement page.


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