Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Survival Guide: Starting the Gluten Free Diet

You just found out that you have to give up Gluten. Your first reaction is to weep for all the pizza and beer you can't have anymore. It's ok, let it out. It's important to grieve, then you can start to heal. Literally. Everyone has a different opinion on the best way to handle going gluten free. Some say it's best to cut your diet down to very basic foods, fresh fruits and veggies and lean meats, potatoes, rice. Keep it simple. But let's be realistic here, you are dying inside because you feel like you're never going to be able to walk into Dunkin Donuts and grab a bacon egg and cheese bagel sandwich anymore. For me, the easiest way to transition to the Gluten Free Diet was to find alternatives to my favorite foods so I didn't feel deprived. When I started out, over 3 years ago, the quality of products was not even close to what's out there now. I'll never forget my first gluten free bread. It looked like normal bread, I put it in the toaster and it came out the same as it went in. White and cardboard like. No toaster marks, no crumbs, and the taste? Simply awful.

I tried all kinds of breads and bagels and wraps trying to find bread that would take the place of the real stuff and it was very frustrating. Now that gluten intolerance has become such a major issue, there are a ton of new products out there and many of them are really great. But I'll be honest with you, be prepared, it's not going to be exactly the same as what you ate before. The good news is you will feel SO much better.

Start simple. Go get yourself a loaf of Udi's bread. They have white or multi-grain and both are great. Most GF breads must be kept frozen and then toasted. Udi's products can be left on the counter and eaten without toasting first. It's a little more dry than traditional bread, but it's by far the best GF bread on the market. Other great GF breads are Canyon Bakehouse and Rudi's

Roast Beef Sandwich

If you're a bagel fan, pick up some Udi's bagels as well. These are big and fluffy and delicious. I use these for burger buns as well!



If you love to bake and are finding tons of GF recipes with crazy lists of random flours, sorghum, white rice, brown rice, teff, amaranth, almond... so overwhelming! Order yourself a box of Better Batter. It's the best 1:1 gluten free flour mix. Use it as a substitute for all purpose flour in any recipe. It might not work perfectly every time, but for the most part, it does!

If you prefer boxed mixes, Betty Crocker and King Arthur have full lines of gluten free mixes that are awesome. I've not tried all the King Arthur mixes but I hear they are great. I find these right in my regular grocery store baking isle.

Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookies:
BC Cookies 004

Don't forget that there are lots of items other than obvious flour/bread products that are not gluten free. Be sure to check labels of everything, salad dressings, soy sauce, marinades, seasonings, sauces. Gluten hides in many places! I know it's overwhelming, but it will get easier. I promise. Just stick with it!

I was going to add a list here of all of my favorite products, but then I looked at my Product Reviews page and discovered that most of these products are great. Take a look at that list for some great product recommendations! It will take a while to find products that you love and become a regular part of your diet, there will be good days and there will be bad, bad days. Don't worry, it will get better and you will feel great. Eventually it will become second nature. Good luck in your gluten free journey!

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