Starting a gluten-free diet can be stressful and overwhelming. The majority of food in your typical grocery store contains gluten, which means adjusting to a gluten-free lifestyle can be particularly difficult.
If you have a gluten allergy, going gluten-free can provide a number of benefits. It can improve energy levels, promote healthy weight gain, and help reduce joint pain. However, eating gluten successfully requires planning and strategy.
Here are a few Tips for Transitioning to a Gluten-Free Diet
1. Organize Your Kitchen
Once you make the decision to go gluten-free, it’s time to scour through your cabinets and pantry and eliminate all your gluten-free items. Think of it as a Spring Cleaning for your kitchen. Have an empty cardboard box on hand so you can toss items that haven’t expired but contain gluten, and donate them to a local food bank.
You should also have a list of ingredients to avoid, which allows you to continue cross-referencing your food against this list until you become comfortable and familiar enough to know which items aren’t gluten-friendly off the top of your head.
2. Replace Some Kitchen Equipment
If you want a truly fresh start, it’s time to get rid of some of your kitchen equipment and start anew. For example, your toaster can harbor plenty of wheat that will get in the way of your new diet. Worn out pans and utensils can also harbor gluten—even after you’ve washed them.
If you live with others who aren’t gluten-free, dedicate specific items as gluten-free only and mark them appropriately so they aren’t mixed up together. If you cannot dedicate kitchenware to gluten-free use at all, always wash and put in the dishwasher to ensure the gluten is removed properly.
3. Become a Food Detective
When you go gluten-free, you’ll need to adjust to a new way of grocery shopping—one where you’re constantly playing food detective and reading product labels. Although this may seem time-consuming at first, it can help you learn a lot about the food you’re consuming on a much broader scale.
However, it’s not always easy to determine which products do not contain gluten, as companies aren’t required to disclose whether their products contain gluten specifically. Wheat, malt, barley, rye, and oats are keywords you should look out for. If you see an ingredient you aren’t familiar with, do some research before you make a purchase.
4. Research Compounding Pharmacies
Believe it or not, your medicine can contain gluten, too. That’s where compounding pharmacies come in. Compounding pharmacies create custom medication for unique individuals, whose needs may not be met by traditional drugs. These custom medications are made using the core compounds of already-existing drugs, with slight modifications for the patient.
For example, a specific drug might not be available in a specific dosage, or perhaps the patient is allergic to gluten or other ingredients in a drug that might be helpful for them. These patients can’t use mass-produced medications and require a unique healthcare solution. If you’re visiting another country for a long period of time, do your due diligence to ensure you’re able to get the same medication you’d get stateside.
5. Plan Ahead
When you’re on a gluten-free diet, you need to plan your meals much more carefully. When you don’t plan in advance, you’re much more likely to simply throw food together out of hunger and ignore your gluten-free rules. Planning ahead also means doing your research. Invest in a gluten-free cookbook, search for online recipes, and buy gluten-free basics.
Use a weekly meal planner template to create a schedule for your meals, noting the ingredients that each recipe requires. Meal prepping will also help you avoid going against the grain (pun intended) of your diet. Lastly, gluten-free snacks can help you get through the day between meals, but be careful: some gluten-free packaged foods are high in sugar and not very good for you.