Tips for those New to Gluten-Free Living
By: Lisa Cantkier, Founder of Gluten Free Find
May is national celiac disease awareness month in the United States. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, we’re here to help make your transition to a delicious and enjoyable gluten-free life seamless. Remember to be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to digest your new diet and the learning curve. Take note of your progress and how amazing you feel each day. You’ll soon discover that the gluten-free ride has improved your life and is worth every second!
1. Consider joining a local support group.
There are several non-profit organizations that can provide you with direction, guidance and support. In Canada, you can turn to the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA). Founded in 1972, the CCA is a volunteer-based, charitable organization that serves people with celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis through 28 chapters and 30 satellite groups across the country.
A CCA membership will provide you with:
- A New Member’s Kit with material about celiac disease and coping with the gluten-free diet
- A Pocket Dictionary listing: Acceptability of Food Ingredients for the Gluten-Free Diet
- A subscription to the CCA’s national newsletter
- Membership to the chapter closest to where you live
- Although not posted on their website, the CCA also provides new members a copy of the book “Celiac Disease for Dummies.”
For more information about the Canadian Celiac Association, you can visit: www.Celiac.ca
Also founded in the 70’s, the US Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) operates similarly to the CCA. Both associations are leaders in their respective countries in terms of the work they do. They can each help you stay in the know about celiac disease and gluten-free living and provide opportunities for you to meet others who are going through what you are.
A CSA membership will provide you with:
- A quarterly CSA newsletter
- Updates on research, legislative concerns, gluten-free product news and labeling
- Educational opportunities and local chapter meetings
- Membership discounts
- Accessibility to the members-only section of the CSA website for savings
For more information about the Celiac Sprue Association, you can visit: www.CSACeliacs.info
2. Learn about gluten-free foods that are safe and which ingredients you’ll want to avoid.
You can obtain useful lists of ingredients that are safe and unsafe from the non-profit organizations indicated above. A pocket dictionary is very handy to refer to. Become aware of any hidden sources of gluten that may be used as fillers in processed foods such as soups, dressings and sauces. Malt, which is mainly derived from barley, is also added to numerous foods to add moisture and flavor. Try sticking to whole foods such as eggs, meat and fish, rather than those that are processed and packaged, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
3. Learn how to prevent cross contamination at home and when dining out.
Play detective in your own home and think ‘crumbs.’ According to the Canadian Celiac Association, “Anywhere you see crumbs is a potential place for cross-contamination.” For example, counter tops, cutting boards, microwaves, toaster ovens and margarine containers and containers with other spreads can be major culprits. Get your own toaster and cutting board. This will help with crumby situations! You should also boil, bake, fry and cook separately. When dining out, do not be shy; ask lots of questions and find out if and how your food is being prepared separately from foods that contain gluten. Flour is airborne, so you need to keep that in mind. Dining cards are also very helpful, and you can conveniently show them to your server and chef.
4. Experiment with new recipes.
There are so many wonderful, healthy recipes available online, thanks to gluten-free food bloggers, chefs and cookbook authors that take the time to share their wisdom and talents. Take the time to try out new recipes that look appealing, and have fun with it!
5. Learn about baking and cooking substitutions.
When baking gluten-free, we recommend replacing all-purpose flour with more than one type of gluten-free flour alone. Try a gluten-free flour, starch flour, and gum combination! A few additional quick tips:
- Flour blends that are high in starch produce better quality baked goods.
- Flour blends that include bean flours produce baked goods that are moist and less crumbly than other gluten-free flour combinations.
- It’s easy to over-bake or under-cook gluten free foods so always keep a close eye on your oven!
- If your gluten-free flour falls apart when you roll it out for cookies or other baked goods, simply pinch it back together.
Lisa Cantkier has been living gluten-free since her diagnosis of celiac disease as a toddler. As a health and wellness writer with a special interest in holistic nutrition, she enjoys researching and educating others about celiac disease and gluten-free living. Lisa is the founder of GlutenFreeFind.com and a co-founder of GlutenFreeSmartStore.com.