Tips for Going Gluten Free

It seems like everyone and their mother is going gluten free, whenever I tell someone that I’m gluten free it’s usually met with an eye roll or annoyed scuff of their breath. This pisses me right off to be honest, I’m not trying to be trendy or annoying, it’s an actual health issue. I would prefer to be able to eat whatever the hell I feel like.

I first found out that gluten caused me issues when I was in Grade 10 (so like 8 years ago), I had been sick for months, I had a nasty rash that wouldn’t go away, I was severely anemic and everyone time I ate bread I would be doubled over in pain for at least two days. I tried an elimination diet to narrow down what exactly was making me sick and gluten was the winner. Figuring out that I couldn’t eat gluten was like finding out my best friend had died, ok maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I REALLY loved bread.

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Source: Giphy

I never got tested for Celiac Disease because by the time my Doctor had suggested it I had already cut out gluten and was feeling great. The test requires that you have gluten in your system and I just really didn’t want to start eating it again. I thought at first that gluten was only in bread and bread like products but I was very wrong and very sad to find out that gluten was in pretty much everything from sauces to salad dressings to chocolate. It was a huge adjustment to make in my lifestyle because I ate a lot of pasta and sandwiches. I had to start reading every single label of every single food that I wanted to buy because gluten free labels were not common 8 years ago. Also gluten has like 100 different names and I had to cross reference ingredients to a list of different names for gluten that I carried around with me in my pocket. I soon learned that gluten free bread tastes horrible (it’s gotten much tastier over the years, or maybe I’m just used to it?) and eating gluten free products is pretty darn expensive.

Eating gluten free has become so much easier in the past 8 years, it’s amazing to see more options in restaurants and grocery stores. When I first started out, I would go to restaurants and basically only be able to eat a salad with no dressing, I’m not joking. I remember going out with my family and just wanting to cry because I had no options and I am very passionate about eating. I’ve survived (and thrived) the past 8 years and I like to consider myself an expert on this topic so I’ve made up a list of tips that I wish I had when I first started out.

  1. Most Gluten free breads, pastas and muffins contain a higher carb content than regular bread so be cautious about eating it at every meal, especially if you’re looking to lose weight. If you’re not concerned about weight gain or weight loss then eat away friends!
  2. If you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease you can actually get a tax break for buying gluten free products because it’s considered a medical expense (this is in Canada, I don’t know about the rest of the world). All you need is a Doctor’s note with the diagnosis, a summary of purchases and all of the receipts.
  3. Sweet Potatoes make a great substitute for bread, slice one thin and pop it in the toaster and voila! Weird fact: a lot of people will assume that potatoes contain gluten, they don’t so eat all the potatoes you want.
  4. Always check out a restaurant’s menu online or call ahead, nothing is worse than showing up to a restaurant only to find out that you can’t eat anything. Most Vegan restaurants will have amazing gluten free options!
  5. Read labels and familiarize yourself with the different names for gluten or carry a list with you, pretty soon you’ll probably have it memorized. Here are a few popular ingredients to look out for:
    • Rye bread and flour
    • Seitan
    • Semolina
    • Spelt (type of wheat)
    • Triticale
    • Wheat bran, Wheat flour, Wheat germ, Wheat starch
    • Bulgur
    • Durum (type of wheat)
    • Farro/faro (type of wheat)
    • Graham flour
    • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
    • Kamut (type of wheat)
    • Malt, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring
    • Malt vinegar
    • Malted milk
    • Matzo, matzo meal
    • Modified wheat starch
    • Barley
  6. Watch out for soy sauce, for some reason most soy sauces contain gluten. Look for a gluten free one or coconut aminos are a delicious substitute!
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most restaurant staff should be knowledgeable on menu items and cross contamination so just ask away and be polite because a lot of jerks have given gluten free people a bad rep.
  8. Talk with a Registered Dietitian or Holistic Nutritionist for recipe ideas and meal plans to make sure that you feel prepared and satisfied on a gluten free diet.
  9. Watch out for gluten in alcohol, beer is definitely off limits unless it’s gluten free, some ciders contain gluten as well. Most hard liquors are gluten free so that’s really all that matters.
  10. If you’re unsure about what food will be served at parties or a friend’s house, then bring your own. Or if you’re like me just bring food everywhere you go.

If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me!