Going completely gluten-free in 2011, (and doing it cold turkey), was both one of the hardest things, and most rewarding things I've ever done. Food, for many of us, is more than just a means of survival. Even if we have a healthy relationship with food. It can be a social aspect of our lives, or a true lifestyle if it's a career for us or if we spend time in the kitchen baking or cooking for our families or guests on a regular basis.
So when you have to make a major diet change, of any kind for any reason, whether it be medical or for diet, it's going to take some getting used to.
It was hard for me in the sense that, in the beginning, I had no idea what was safe. What I could and couldn't eat. I did a lot of research and learned quickly, but those early months brought upon a lot of panic and uneasiness about shopping, dining out, attending events and travel.
If you have any questions, I'm always here to help. However, this post isn't going to be focusing on the how or the what's of what to eat, it's to focus on some of the mistakes or challenges that many new gluten-free foodies and clients of mine face that I wanted to address today. (P.S. I dislike the word mistake, as all of this advice comes out of love and we are all navigating these waters one day at a time, in our own way.) This is just here to serve as a helper along the journey.
Mistake #1 - The Processed Food Trap
This one is number one because it is the one I see most often when I am helping my readers through the gluten and wheat removal process. They find comfort in the boxes emblazoned with a "now gluten-free" label on it. Now while some of these items are fine, most boxed and processed foods lack real nutrition of any kind. Developing an intolerance to gluten can come about for many reasons, but for me and many of my clients, it was a breakdown in our gut health. Gut health cannot be restored through processed grains from another family, or through nutrient-lacking, sugar laden products that are so readily available today.
The best thing you can do when making your transition, is stick to whole, natural, healthy foods such as tolerated vegetables, fruit, healthy meats and fish, opting for gluten-free packaged goods in very low moderation so that you don't feel deprived.
Mistake #2 - The In-Home Contamination Issue
Many of my readers and clients say, "I have to go gluten-free, but my (husband, parents, kids, etc.) don't want to or don't have too. How can we co-exist?" Or the unfortunate instance to where they say they've gone gluten-free but continuously feel sick after eating at home with family members who aren't gluten-free.
One of the tasks I took on when I switched over, was claiming "my" safe spaces in the kitchen. Mr. Charming for the most part is gluten-free, out of support, for his health and because I cook most of the meals, haha, but he isn't 100% and does have his own snacks, occasional bread or waffles, etc.
I purchased my own toaster (this one is key because it's not cleaned like other dishes, such as pans, plates, etc are.) for starters because of waffles and other morning goods I need to heat up after a weekend of baking. I also have my own Ninja, which I know is pricey to own two, but we don't like to dishwasher clean them after each use, and it makes it easier for him to be able to use his milk-based proteins if he wants too and I don't have to worry about residual powder in my smoothie. I also have my very own shelves in the pantry. Crumbs are evasive little buggers, and those with Celiac or an allergy know they can't have even just a sprinkle of gluten, so your own shelves, preferably at the top are best. That way all of our food stays separate and his cookie crumbles don't touch my packages.
Other precautions we take are no double dipping in condiment jars. I have my own almond butter and mayonnaise. We also don't share off of plates, drink from each others glasses, etc. It may seem like a lot at first, but once it becomes a habit it will become second nature. It feels like a normal routine to us now and isn't seen as an inconvenience at all.
Mistake #3 - The Dining Out Question Conundrum
Being prepared and doing research ahead of time can make dining out a pleasurable experience. This one took some learning and trusting for me, but once I had my tools ready at my disposable I found dining out enjoyable again and actually became a professional gluten-free food reviewer nation wide.
Find Me Gluten Free is an amazing app that allows you to find gluten-free places in your area and read reviews. The reviews are number one to me when choosing a new restaurant in a new city. Also, visiting restaurants websites and reading their menus, and even calling, can be a huge help in booking.
Mistake #4 - The Unprepared Traveler
This one I see a lot, I get many people telling me they were stuck at "the airport, hotel lobby, amusement park... etc.) with NOTHING to eat. My biggest tip for you, SNACKS, SNACKS, SNACKS. Always have a snack for every two hours you'll be gone and then an extra emergency one if there is a delay or it turns out the place you planned to go doesn't have safe food.
Using the Find Me Gluten Free App is always a God send in this situation too. I always map out where the closest markets are and the closest gluten-free or vegan eateries are in the area I'll be traveling too so I can make a plan to go straight there and stock up on food. Not without a stash of protein bars, fruit, veggies or nuts in my purse, just in case.
Mistake #5 - Not Speaking Up
Having a food intolerance or allergy isn't the time to be shy. Whether it's at a restaurant or a friends or families home, it's always better to ask questions, ask for a list of ingredients or ask to bring your own dish. Asking in certain situations may be uncomfortable, but better to be uncomfortable for a few moments than sick for days, or worse.
This one was especially hard for me in the beginning because I always like to be a "good guest". So I ended up starving at most social events, haha. Then as I started to open up and take back my life as an "out of home diner" I learned that most people DO care and would RATHER you ask than starve or risk getting sick at their event.
Mistake #6 - Not Embracing The Versatility
This one took the longest for me in my process. I stayed really safe with a bland rotation of the same foods for many months. It was when I started exploring my kitchen with a fresh, healthier perspective that I got to learn about God's amazing food supply and the creations I could make that could still satisfy that "home cooked meal" desire we all have inside.
Cooking delicious GF/DF meals for family and friends is a challenge I love taking on. When I see their faces light up over my lasagna (you can't even tell there's no cheese in here!") or my banana bread french toast (best. thing. ever.) it warms my heart to know that there is purpose in this journey. There is purpose in your journey too, find the blessings in it and get creative.
All of these are learning curve moments, and I was victim to a couple of them myself in the beginning. As we grow in the change, it becomes easier to handle and we begin to learn to love to cook again. Finding new ways, new recipes and holding a new appreciation for just how powerful food can be to our bodies. Either as poison or as a life-giving, nutrient dense experience.
The question I get asked the most is, "how do you live without (insert food here)?"
I simply answer, "I live healthier, happier and easier without that in my life."
Plain and simple.