So there you are, you’ve just been told you’re Gluten Intolerant or Coeliac and you now need to eat a gluten free lifestyle. Other than the fact that it actually makes a lot of sense, you’re in complete shock. What are you going to do? You love brownies, doughnuts, cake and… wait for it… BREAD! There’s no way you’re going to be eating cardboard for the rest of your life!! Enter the denial. “Maybe if I just cut the gluten down….. instead of completely out…”
Yeah no, sorry but that’s not going to work. Not if you genuinely want to feel better. Yes it can come as some what of a shock, finding out you’ll need to be careful about what you eat for the rest of your life. But no, you wont be eating cardboard, trust me on this one. With a few simple ingredients you’ll be able to stock a cupboard and fridge full of your favourite foods and not feel like you’re missing out. Well most of the time anyway.
I remember finding out I that I had to go gluten free and the number one thing I was surprised at was just how many things I had to avoid. It was hard work trying to memorize the ingredients I could and couldn’t eat. And don’t even get me started on the number of different gluten free brands that were on the market that tasted like c*%p! (excuse my language). Throw in contamination risks, trying to eat out or even knowing where to look for gluten free products and some days it all just ended up being too hard. I figured there had to be more people like me out there, who just needed an easy, informative place to go.
So whether you’re newly diagnosed or an old hat at this gluten free stuff. Maybe you’re just looking for some great recipe and brand inspiration. Or maybe you’re seriously sick of explaining to your family and friends that it’s not a fad diet. Either way, here are my top 7 tips for surviving gluten freedom!!
Grieve & Then Understand You Are Better Off!
I’m not even kidding right now. Gluten is actually a really big part of our lives and if you’re like me and you’ve connected a lot of memories with food. So finding out you’ll never be able to eat certain things again can be a killer. The one thing you should know is that it is truly worth it. Once you start to eliminate gluten from your diet you’ll realize just how good you feel (or rather just how bad you felt before!).
I suffered nasty migraines, permanent bloating, stomach cramps and horrid skin prior to going gluten free (and that’s only the tip of the iceberg!!). It’s all in the past and I realize now just how much of an impact gluten had on my life. So go ahead and grieve the loss of pizza, pasta and fresh white bread, then get up, dust yourself off and move on. There is a whole, pretty amazing, world of gluten free-ness out there for you to discover.
Understand the Nitty Gritty of WHAT IS GLUTEN!
This is fairly easy to do once you’ve been gluten free for a while, but to start with it can seem very overwhelming. Gluten is not as simple as just wheat or wheat based products. It can include things like:
– Malt extract
– Flavourings. Just to name a few.
There’s also the problem of contamination, which I’ll get into more down below. Simply put, a lot of items can be gluten free by ingredient. However they are often produced in a factory that makes food that is choc full of gluten which it can come into contact with. This unfortunately means that it will most likely make you sick. For a fully comprehensive list of gluten free brands and foods check out Coeliac Australia.The best thing though is to think simple. Most vegetables, fruits and meats (provided they’re in their natural state) are entirely gluten free. You don’t need to understand crazy food labels to know that they’re safe to eat!
Know Where To Shop.
This is a little bit of trial and error and can very much depend on the retailers you have access to. For example, here in the country, there are only certain things I can get at certain places and I have to shop across all 3 big supermarkets to be able to keep my cupboards stocked. (Woolworths, Coles & IGA). If I was living in Perth again, it would be a different story. With Gluten Intolerancy and Coeliac disease on the rise though you now have access to a huge array of gluten free products in standard supermarkets. Even in the last 5 years that I’ve been gluten free, the changes I’ve seen within the two big retail giants make have been mind blowing. Instead of the standard small shelf of products, you now have whole aisles! It’s pretty darn impressive.
I also suggest making friends with the owner/manager of your local Health food store. This is the place to go for some of your more, shall we say ‘advanced’ ingredients. This is for when you need a particular, and sometimes weird, ingredient for baking and such. Think brown rice flour or Sorghum and Xanthan Gum. Getting in good with the manager is always helpful and they can even source some fantastic products that you might not otherwise be able to get!
And if all else fails, shop online! You’d actually be surprised by how many online stores now specialize in Gluten free products alone. One of my favourites is The Sunnybrook Health Store for all those standard pantry items that you can’t find elsewhere.
Spring Clean & Get Organised!!
Now it’s time to clean out and start fresh! If you hit your home and pantry in one fowl swoop you’ll be less likely to consume something that might make you sick. So clean out your pantry! Donate all those tins of non-gluten free baked beans to a charity drive, ditch all those bags of chips and start to get organized. Why not get the whole family involved as well so they can learn about living gluten free.
My favourite way to do this is to pull everything out of the pantry and give it a thorough cleaning. We all know how flour has a tendency to get everywhere and even the smallest part can contaminate your food. Now go through your pantry staples. What can you keep? What can you throw out? And what do you need to do some research on to ensure it’s safe to eat? In my house, ALL of our basic staples are gluten free. It just makes life so much simpler. But my son and husband aren’t glutards like me. Any snacks they eat that can be safely stored, are kept in a big tub separate from my food. Or why not try having a big tub of gluten free safe food just for you?!
Finally you need to thoroughly clean all of your bowls, chopping boards and counter spaces. Pretty much everything in your kitchen. For more details on why this is important check out the contamination paragraph below.
Stock Those Cupboards Like It’s Armageddon!
Now what you want to do is create an easy to keep stocked, base of ingredients that can be used in most recipes. Think things like:
– Traditionally made Soy Sauces
– Fish Sauce
– Fresh Ginger
– Chilli powder/flakes
You’ll also want a solid selection of dried herbs and spice basics like:
– Smoked Paprika
I also suggest keeping a basic Gluten Free Plain Flour like White Wings on hand, this can be used in white sauces and basic baking.
WARNING! CROSS CONTAMINATION!!
Contamination is a very real problem with gluten intolerancy (especially when eating out), but taking the time to not only educate yourself and your family is vital. Something as simple as a few crumbs from a normal loaf of bread left on a chopping board or knife can lead to one very upset stomach, hours (or days!) of discomfort and sickness for yourself.
If everyone else in your household is eating gluten (and they certainly can if you’re careful!) they need to be aware of what effect it will have on you. If you can, I suggest having two tubs of butter to avoid crumbs. Use separate chopping boards and knives at all times and replace or thoroughly clean out your toaster.I also suggest teaching kids early about any food intolerance’s too. It can be hard, I know. My two year old son tries to share his crackers with me all the time as he’s just too young to understand that they’re ‘poison’ to mummy. But making your kids aware of all food allergies can be vital in this day and age. Especially with the number of kids with peanut and dairy allergies at school!
Get Researching & Cooking.
Now that you know what you can and can’t eat, have learnt about and educated others about contamination, stocked your cupboards and found some new ingredients to try, it’s time to start cooking! Adjusting to a gluten free lifestyle can be hard, but don’t let it put you off trying the same old foods you love. Most recipes can be easily converted over to gluten free by just switching out the problem ingredient/s. (Soy sauce for example). When used in a stir fry it’s often the only problem ingredient, the rest doesn’t need to change. You could also use rice noodles rather than your standard noodles and now you’ve got a tasty gluten free meal!
The only area that can really become difficult is when it comes to breaded foods. So anything you bake, like cookies, cakes and bread. These all need careful consideration when changing them over. Sadly it isn’t as simple as using a gluten free self raising flour. But with some trial and error (and some great recipes like what you’ll find here on my blog!) you’ll be baking up a storm again in no time.
If you really love to bake, don’t stress! I have two excellent posts that you’ll be sure to find useful. Head on over and check out my 7 Tips To Nailing Gluten Free Baking and my Complete Guide to Gluten Free Flour.
GLUTEN FREE RECIPES
The big thing is if you make it too hard you’ll be less likely to stick with it. So to really get you started I’ve linked up some of my favourite gluten free recipes for you to try! Why not have a browse and give something a go this weekend? Oh and if you haven’t already figured it out, I might have a bit of a sweet tooth haha.
- Golden & Crunchy Gluten Free Sausage Rolls
- Classic Melting Moments just like your Nan used to make
- Chocoholics rejoice with my Easy Caramel Slice
- Decadent Gluten Free White Chocolate Mud Cake
- As Aussie as you can get Gluten Free Lamingtons
WHAT TO SHOP
So now that you’ve got a heap of fantastic recipes to start on, you need to know what are the best gluten free ingredients you can buy! Over the years I have tried them all. I can tell you some packet mixes and pastas are by far better than others. So here is a quick and dirty list of my favourite pantry staples and what brand to keep an eye out for next time you go shopping!
- Bob’s Red Mill for different flour blends like Coconut Flour
- Orgran Brand Bread mixes – especially the multi-grain with Quinoa & Chia
- Green’s Baking (formally known as Basco) for packet cake mixes
- Schar for ready-made Pizza Bases, Foccacia’s and awesome biscuits (I’ve only ever seen this range in its entirety in some health food shops and IGA)
- Barilla for pasta – my little one loves their elbow shapes!
- San Remo for lasagne sheets and couscous
- Freedom Foods for muesli and cereal
- White Wings for pre-mixed Plain & Self Raising Flour, custard powder & corn flour
- Abbott’s Village Bakery for the best store bought gluten free bread I’ve eaten
- Woolworths Free From range of bread – Seeds & Grains is the best.
- Simply Wize for frozen puff pastry that is actually workable and delicious!
Well I hope this little piece helps you find your way and inspires you to get back into the kitchen. It can be a hard road to navigate and you will cop criticism along the way for sure. My best suggestion is be as educated as possible and stand your ground. When it comes down to it you know what’s best for you and your body.
Welcome to the Glutard Club!
Before you go be sure to grab your free Downloadable Guide to Gluten Free Flours! Perfect for all those moments when you’re just not sure which flour to use where!