(If you are reading this in Chrome, you will probably see the pictures upside down. The pictures are right side up on any other browser.)
You've just come from your doctor's office, and she's told you that you need to be on a gluten-free diet (you have a confirmed case of celiac disease, you are going to be tested for celiac disease, you have a wheat allergy, or any other reason). Your head is spinning because you still don't quite understand what gluten is, what it's doing to your body, or even how to avoid it.
Hopefully your doctor told you that you need to avoid wheat, barley, and rye. A really good doctor will tell you to read ingredients labels because gluten is hidden in all sorts of processed food (Did you know some brands of soy sauce are made with wheat? Yes, it's ridiculous, and it's the reason you have to be diligent about reading labels.).
Did your doctor give you any other information though? Because it's 4:30, you're hungry, and you have to make dinner.
Take a deep breath. I promise you that this is not the end of the world as you know it.
The good news is that you probably have lots of gluten-free food in your house right now.
Most unprocessed foods (fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, meat, chicken, fish) and several processed foods (like cheese, corn meal, peanut butter, and cooking oils) are gluten-free. If you were planning a dinner of steak, baked potatoes, and broccoli, you hit the gluten-free newbie jackpot.
More good news: you might have many other foods in your house that are also gluten-free.
There are a lot of breakfast cereals that are gluten-free. Cheerios has five flavors, malt-o-meal's fruity and cocoa dyno-bites, several types of Chex and Chex knock-offs, and others are all ok. Dried and canned beans, rice, some corn taco shells, and grits are probably in your pantry somewhere too.
You can still eat bread. You're lucky to be living in a time when more companies, mainstream ones even, are making gluten-free foods.
OK. Now that you are less panicked by this whole thing, you probably need to go to the grocery store. Many grocery stores have gluten-free sections where all of the food should be gluten-free and labeled as such. You should be safe buying anything from this section.
But if your store doesn't have a dedicated section for their gluten-free food, you'll still be OK. You need to buy gluten-free bread, so go to the bread aisle. There will probably be a small section in the bread aisle marked gluten-free. At most grocery stores, the brands you're looking for are Udi's, Rudi's (Rudi's also has an organic line that is not gluten-free. Make sure you're getting the right kind.), Schar, Glutino, and Canyon Bakery. If you have an Aldi, they have their own line of gluten-free foods, Live G-Free, that are just as tasty and cost less than other brands (Go to Aldi first. Trust me. Not only is it all well-labeled, all the Live G-free packaging is blue. Easy peasy.). You can do the same thing for pasta too. If you're unsure about a product, read the ingredients. If it has wheat, rye, or barley listed anywhere, you can't have it. If it has rice, corn, quinoa, spelt, millet, potato starch, tapioca, or arrowroot, you can have it.
Here's our collection of kid-tested and approved gluten-free food:
Yes. We still have bread, pasta, crackers, pizza, brownies, pancakes, waffles, and homemade items. And it's all gluten-free.
This is a major life change you are embarking on. It's OK to not know what you're doing right now, because you'll learn. Checking labels for the words "gluten-free" and ingredient lists for wheat, rye, and barley will become second nature. While I'm not the gluten-free person in the family, I'm the one who does most of the cooking. I've tasted most of these items and can tell you that while they taste a little different or have a slightly different texture, they also taste good. There's a bit of a learning curve for cooking with gluten-free food, so follow the directions closely until you have some experience.
I've been making gluten-free food for about seven years now. I don't consider myself an expert, but I can answer most questions you might have. If I can't, I know people who can answer your questions. There are plenty of blogs and books dedicated to gluten-free cooking, and I'll share some of my favorites in another post.
Please share this post with anyone you know who might be making this dietary change. If you have questions or suggestions for other posts about gluten-free living, please comment below. Thanks!