Are you new to the gluten-free diet? Wondering what to do or how to start? Want access to quick information? I have you covered in this article. Before reading, however, please download my FREE Quick Start Guide to Gluten Free. This guide will help you get started quickly. Please note this post contains affiliate links, and no information in this article should be construed as medical advice. Please discuss your health concerns with your doctor. Please see my disclosures and disclaimers.
Imagine that your favorite foods are suddenly off-limits.
You can no longer eat pizza, pasta or bread.
Going out to dinner at a restaurant feels like such a chore.
You feel lost and alone.
These are very real emotions for those of us diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
When you’re diagnosed with a gluten disorder, you are not only dealing with this shocking diagnosis, but also you are dealing with the realization that you will never get to eat the same way again.
Most of us are emotionally attached to our food, and there is, no doubt, an emotional burden to the diet even after many years of following it.
I’m eight years into this autoimmune disease and I’m just starting to understand the reality of the fact that I will have to deal with eating gluten free for the rest of my life.
It’s never easy being gluten free. But after awhile, gets easier.
You’ll soon figure out what products and restaurants you like best, and you’ll learn to eat in a way that keeps you healthy and satisfied.
I hope that this beginner’s guide to eating gluten free – and the entire Good For You Gluten Free blog – will be a resource to you throughout your gluten-free journey.
Don’t forget to DOWNLOAD my free Quick Start Guide to Gluten Free to get started.
How to Be Gluten Free
(1) Clean Your Pantry
Sort through your pantry and identify foods that contain gluten. If you live alone or will have a dedicated gluten-free kitchen, donate any foods you can no longer eat.
If you live with gluten eaters, place all foods containing gluten on the bottom shelves of your pantry and reserve the top shelves for your gluten-free foods. Label shelves and food you don’t want others to touch.
(2) Organize Supplies
Store gluten-free flours, grains and cereals in airtight containers, like these, to ensure they last longer. Some flours last longer when stored in the fridge.
Keep separate baking ingredients to be used just for baking gluten-free foods. You don’t want to use a sugar that someone may have used the same measuring cup that they first dipped in the wheat flour and then dipped in the sugar, for example.
Read more about how to set up your gluten-free kitchen.
(3) Check All Medications for Gluten
Check all medications – including cold, allergy, birth control, thyroid medication, etc. – for gluten. There is a lot of information – and misinformation – abound on the Internet, and manufacturers notoriously change their ingredient lists, so check labels for the most up-to-date disclosures and/or email or call the manufacturer to inquire on items you’re unsure of.
For the latest information on how to identify gluten in medications, read, Is There Gluten in Medications?
(4) Check Beauty Products for Gluten
Gluten cannot be absorbed by the skin and harm your body (so it’s okay to touch gluten unless you have a wheat allergy), but you should be careful before slathering products containing gluten on your skin. Avoid putting lotions near your mouth or eyes and wash your hands after applying.
The one beauty product you need to be most aware of for hidden gluten (besides toothpaste) is lip care products like lip balms and lipsticks. Your lip care products must be gluten free. I highly recommend Red Apple Lipstick for all your lipstick and lip balm needs.
This list of gluten-free lip balm brands can help you identify other brands to try, and I also include a list of the best certified gluten-free beauty brands in this article.
(5) Plan Your Meals
The safest place to eat will always be your home. I encourage you to come up with a list of recipes that you can still make. Scroll through my gluten-free recipe gallery for some ideas too.
You can find a free sample celiac disease meal plan here.
(6) Know What You Can Eat
The best foods will always be naturally gluten-free foods, like lean proteins, eggs, fresh vegetables and fruits, seeds and nuts, gluten-free whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, gluten-free oats, etc.) and a bar of dark chocolate (for dessert, of course!). Avoid buying anything in the bulk bins due to cross contamination.
There are also plenty of packaged foods that can help you survive the GF diet. Here are a few brands I enjoy:
- Gluten-Free Bread – try Canyon Bakehouse, Schar or Three Baker’s Bread
- Gluten-Free Crackers – try Crunchmasters
- Gluten-Free Flour – try Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour Blend
- Gluten-Free Pasta – try Tinkyada brown rice pasta
- Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs – try Aleia’s Gluten-Free or Ian’s Gluten-Free
- Gluten-Free Cereal – try Love Grown Foods
A great way to try different brands before committing to buying them is via a gluten-free food monthly subscription box. You’ll get sample-sized gluten-free products sent to you each month. If you use my link, you’ll get 40% off your first tasting box.
(7) Understand Labels
You’ll want to avoid anything with wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats. However, gluten goes by many names and is found in many ingredients and products. I encourage you to download my free guide, 100 Alternative Names for Gluten, to decode where hidden gluten may be lurking.
The FDA says that products must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten to be labeled gluten free. The FDA adds that a product cannot contain a gluten ingredient unless the gluten is removed and the final product contains less than 20 ppm of gluten.
Please note that an alcoholic beverage, however, cannot be labeled as gluten free if the gluten has been removed. Read my post about the top questions asked about gluten-free alcoholic beverages to understand why.
Many dressings, gravies and imitation seafood products have gluten in them. So many surprise products that contain gluten.
(8) Get New Gadgets
Peek inside your toaster and you’ll easily see gluten crumbs lurking about. Examine your colander and you’ll find leftover gluten bits. Look at the top of your standing mixer; yep, that’s old wheat flour stuck up in the crevices.
If you’re new to eating gluten free, I recommend purchasing the following kitchen tools and using them only for gluten-free cooking and baking:
- Electric mixer
- Cutting board
You can label or color code these items so everyone in your kitchen knows that red items, for example, are gluten-free and off-limits to anyone cooking with gluten.
I have discussed how to setup your kitchen in length in this article titled, What You Need to Set Up Your Gluten-Free Kitchen. I know this article will help you immensely in transitioning your kitchen into a safe gluten-free workspace.
(9) Eating Out Gluten Free
Restaurant staff must take great care when preparing your food – including using separate pots, utensils, cooking oils and clean hands/gloves. Restaurants may say they can make a gluten-free dish, but can they really?
Here are a few resources to help you eat out safely and gluten free:
(a) The Ultimate Guide to Eating Out Gluten Free book. This book includes everything you need to know about eating out safely while on a gluten-free diet. It’s required reading for anyone who likes to eat out while following a strict gluten-free diet.
(b) Eating Out Library. I share all my experiences at various restaurants on my blog and encourage you to scroll through my Eating Out library.
Here is a list of fast casual and fast food restaurants that I’ve tried. I also tested 20+ restaurants with my Nima Sensor. You can see the full report in this post, How Did 20 Restaurants Fare Against the Nima Sensor?
(c) Eating at Friend’s Houses. I get a lot of questions about how to safely eat at a friend’s house. I wrote this article that features 10 tips to hosting your gluten-free friend for a meal and encourage you to share it with your friends.
(d) Handling Special Occasions. Special occasions, like weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, can be difficult when you eat gluten free. I wrote about how to navigate special events when you’re on a gluten-free diet.
(10) Traveling While Gluten Free
Traveling presents a whole other set of woes for the gluten-free traveler. A few tips to make your life easier when you travel include:
- Bring lots of non-perishable foods with you, just in case. Dried meats, granola bars, oatmeal cups, and peanut butter will ensure you have food in case you can’t find any.
- Stay in a hotel that has a fridge, microwave and stove top or at a vacation rental (search VRBO to find a good rental home). This way you can shop for and prepare fresh foods at your hotel and not be dependent on restaurants for all your meals.
- If going on a cruise, read The Ultimate Gluten Free Cruise Guide. This article has helped a lot of people to navigate the gluten-free life while cruising.
- If you’re traveling internationally, you can request a gluten-free (or gluten-friendly) meal from the airline. You must do it well ahead of time (not when you get on the flight). Call the airline and make sure they note it on your flight information.
- You can find restaurants to try using the Find Me Gluten-Free App.
You Got This
Remember, eating gluten free is life changing. It’s not easy. At times you’ll want to throw in the towel and give up.
You don’t have to do it alone. Hire a certified integrative nutrition coach, particularly one who specializes in gluten disorders, to help you get started.
It’s okay to feel this way sometimes. Just take solace in knowing that your celiac disease diagnosis was/is truly one of the best things that happened to you. It may have just been the exact thing that saved your life.