For those with gluten sensitivity, a condition that ranges from mild symptoms to full blown celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is a necessity of life. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley and spelt. It is what gives breads their light chewiness, and is added to a lot of other products to thicken them (as a stabilizing agent). It can be found in such diverse products as sauces and ice creams, which makes it seem difficult to avoid. However, gluten-free diets can be easier than you think.
Shop in All the Right Places
While it is becoming easier to find gluten-free products on the supermarket shelves, they’re a cinch to spot in stores with a dedicated section. Local, specialist products are easier to make gluten-free as they won’t be contaminated in processing, and they can be found more easily in whole food and organic stores than in chain supermarkets.
Another good option is asking around at your local farmer’s market. Many artisan chefs recognize the market for gluten-free products and will proudly be displaying their certification, or you can ask them directly about it. Shopping online, in specialist stores or through websites which showcase a number of artisans, are also good options and can be excellent sources of unusual items, such as gluten-free lip balm.
Find a Few Good Meals
When you are first starting out in a gluten-free diet, it can be useful to figure out a game plan that you can stick to when life gets in the way. Figure out a few basic meals, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks, that are gluten-free as well as easy to make and healthy. Keep the ingredients for them in the fridge and fall back on them when you are too busy to check every label. A good option is a meal with a basic grilled meat or fish with mashed or boiled potatoes as the starch, along with a selection of fresh vegetables.
Eventually you’ll know by heart which pastas and sauces and cheeses and so forth are gluten free, and will only have to check on the labels occasionally (an important step, as sometimes the ingredients change without notice). Having these easy fall back meals will leave you less likely to blow your diet when you get too busy, or when your partner brings home the wrong pasta.
Make It Fun
When switching to a gluten-free diet, it can be easy to think about all the things you’ll miss out on. However, there are some fantastic gluten free treats out there, like muffins, cookies and cakes. Focus on the many foods that are still available to you and keep a handful of decadent, gluten-free treats on hand for when you feel like you can’t walk past the bread stand any longer.
Gluten-free living has become easier as products become more clearly labeled, and restaurants expand their menus to include gluten-free options. Following a gluten-free diet doesn’t have to be a struggle or a life of deprivation, and with a little planning can be an easy way of life.