Aug 22, 2016

11 Tips for Going Gluten Free

I went gluten free recently. It sucked. I literally mourned the loss of wheat in my life.

Then time moved ever onwards as it has the tendency of doing, and I kind of got it over it (sort of). On days when I’m not over it, on days when I would like to visit the grave of my gluten-filled life, I will gluten myself with something like onion rings (because onion rings mmmm).

Then my stomach bloats out to twice its size, and as run to the bathroom for the fifth time to poop my brains out, I think to myself: “Oh yeah, this why I gave up gluten in the first place!”

Also: “I should invest in toilet paper stock because eating gluten sure makes me use a lot of it.”

Clearly, even with the very compelling reason of not wanting to spend my life sitting on the toilet (it makes my legs go numb), going gluten free is still hard. Anyone that tells you differently is selling something.

Going gluten free is difficult, frustrating, and unfair but there are a few tips that can make the process a little less terrible.
11 Tips for Going Gluten Free | Hot Pink Crunch

Why I Had to Go Gluten Free

You may ask: “Lindsay, what lead you to the devastating decision of breaking off your steamy hot relationship with gluten? You two made such a cute couple!”

It’s true; we were pretty tight. We definitely hooked up every morning for breakfast. Sometimes, I would see wheat at lunch, and we were always together for dinner.

Then I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease.

Suddenly, a lot of stuff made sense: the bloating, the serious weight gain over the last three years no matter what I ate (or didn’t eat), the feeling like I was drifting through fog all day every day. The doctors had ruled out Celiac’s a long time ago, so I just assumed that feeling lousy was my normal and continued to shove bread into my mouth.

It made me feel good. It made me happy.

It was also slowly destroying my thyroid.

Within two weeks of eliminating gluten from my life (and doing a gut detox with my naturopathic doctor), my brain fog was finally dissipating. My stomach wasn’t so bloated. I felt pretty good!

I went from, “I guess I’ll try this really insane ‘gluten free’ nonsense out for a little while and then go back to my regularly scheduled nomming” to being determined to stick with my new, gluten-free life no matter how difficult it might be or how good that grandma’s pizza looks.

Tip #1 Do Your Homework

Doing my homework was indispensable to going gluten free. I didn’t really even know what gluten was or where it liked to hide. This is kind of a given. You need to know what gluten is in order to avoid it.

Even more important for me was understanding why gluten was terrible for me. In order to really give up gluten and the many products it lurks in, I had to be convinced that it was actually, seriously harmful to my body. There was no way I was going to give up pizza and bagels for a lesser reason!

Some things you absolutely need to research:

  • What gluten is doing to your body (be firm in your gluten-free conviction!)
  • Other names for gluten or ingredients that have gluten in them (*coughDEXTROSEcough*)
  • Common products that gluten hides in (looking at you soy sauce!)
  • Products that are always gluten free (these will become your go-to food items)

Research wherever you want: online, at the library, with a doctor. Knowledge is power!

Tip #2 Focus on What You CAN Eat

Yeah. You can’t eat pizza. You can’t eat bread. You can’t eat pasta.

You can’t eat delicious pita bread at that Turkish restaurant that you are absolutely in LOVE with.

It can be really depressing if you start focusing on all the things you can’t eat. Instead, focus on what you can eat!

I can eat bacon. I can eat Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream. I can eat BACON! All is right in the world.
Ditch the Bread 11 Tips to Go Gluten Free | Hot Pink Crunch

Tip #3 Find New Places to Eat

You can still go out to your old favorite restaurants. Many places have gluten free items on their menu these days. Just know this:
There is a HUGE a difference between eating a meal that was altered to fit a gluten free diet and eating a meal intended to be gluten free from the start.

If you keep going to your old favorite nom spots, you may get tired of salads, soggy gluten free pasta, and gluten free hamburger buns that taste like cardboard and look like biscuits. You may get tired of meals that are poor imitations of your old favorites. This is especially true when your husband sits next to you, still enjoying his old favorite (don’t those chicken fingers look good?). Going to our old favorite restaurants made me want to cheat. A LOT.

Only, it’s not really cheating when you went gluten free because of a medical reason. It’s slow suicide. This is your health, not a fad diet.

Do yourself a favor: find a few places that specialize in gluten free meals or have a dedicated gluten free menu (with gluten free safe kitchen space). These are places where gluten free isn’t just a side thought or a way to appease guests with special dietary issues. These places make delicious, yummy meals with intention. They don’t just leave the gluten out or substitute it, they craft food without ever a thought of gluten.

The first time you go to a place with a good gluten free menu? It’s totally the best day ever!
Stop Explosive Poop Tips for Going Gluten Free | Hot Pink Crunch

Tip #4 Forget Old Recipes

Similar to tip #3, just changing your old favorite recipes into gluten free ones can be kind of disappointing and depressing.

Gluten free bread crumbs on chicken breasts aren’t the same (though a few brands are even better!).

Gluten free flour in cookies makes them taste a little different.

Gluten free pancakes can be the worst thing EVER.

Don’t get stuck eating poor imitations of all your old favorite foods. There are plenty of gluten free substitutes that aren’t bad (some are even good!), but most of your recipes will never taste quite the same again and it can be really disheartening.

I’ll never get the image out of my head of my mother standing over a big pot of meatballs. All the meatballs had dissolved into the sauce because of the gluten free bread crumbs. I thought they still tasted pretty good, but she was devastated!

Tip #5 Discover New Recipes

Since you’re ditching some of your old gluten-y favorites, try some new recipes!

Pinterest is a GOLD MINE for gluten free recipes. Life without gluten doesn’t have to be sad when there are things like Eggplant Pizza, Shredded Chicken Hard Tacos, Korean Beef Lettuce Wraps, Slow Cooker Thai Chicken, and Coconut Chicken Curry in your life.

You don’t need to eat mushy gluten free pasta all the time. Have you tried spaghetti squash or zoodles? So good!

Tip #6 Find Gluten Free Friends

Find some gluten free friends to chat with about this life transition because #thestruggleisreal

Someone who has never had to eat gluten free pizza just cannot understand the travesty and the despair you feel at going gluten free on beer and pizza night. They just can’t!

Follow some gluten free blogs. Join a few groups on Facebook. You’re welcome to join my Natural Living Essentials group! A bunch of people in the group are gluten free, so we talk about that and so much more. It’s a great place to share recipes and talk about the struggles we go through.

Tip #7 Respect Word of Mouth Suggestions

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here. If someone recommends a gluten free frozen pizza to you? Don’t stubbornly insist on trying all the other frozen gluten free pizzas to find “a good one”.

Word of mouth suggestions will save your life!

Take these with a grain of salt though. Anyone that tells you that, “[Brand] gluten free pizza is better than regular pizza” or “tastes just like regular pizza” is a liar and should be shunned.

With that said, try Udi’s Gluten Free Pizza. It’s much better than the gluten free pizzas I’ve had at many local restaurants. Also, Namaste’s gluten free pancake mix isn’t terrible.

Tip #8 The ShopWell App

My one friend (who had gone gluten free months before I had to) suggested the ShopWell App to me.

It’s awesome!

You can use your smart phone to scan the barcodes of products in the supermarket and it will tell you if there’s gluten in it or not. No more reading through paragraphs of size 2 font to find hidden gluten!

You can also search for product and brand suggestions in the app.
Tip 8 for Going Gluten Free | Hot Pink Crunch

Tip #9 The Find Me Gluten Free Website/App

The Find Me Gluten Free app and website is also a must for anyone who doesn’t want to become a recluse who cooks all of their own meals all of the time.

This app helps you find local restaurants (using GPS or an address) that are gluten free friendly. People even leave reviews so you can make sure the restaurant is really safe for you!

This app was a lifesaver when my husband and I traveled to Salt Lake City this summer. I was able to use it to search the area around our hotel in advance to find restaurants we could go to once there. It was nice to know our options beforehand instead of having to troll menus on my phone (when I was already hungry) to see if any place locally wouldn’t make me sick.

Tip #10 Talk to People

Don’t just talk to gluten free friends. Talk to waitresses, bartenders, shop owners.

These people will be your greatest allies!

Talking to a bartender at the local BBQ place was how I found out I could drink mead. Such a fantastic discovery! Visiting one local Thai place that is gluten free friendly was how I found out about another local restaurant that I should try.

Tip #11 Remember: Your Life Isn’t Over

Although it may feel like you’re alone, I promise you that you’re not. Your life isn’t over either. It just has a little less fluffy bread in it.

There will be temptation. There will be setbacks. There will be days when your well-intentioned family glutens you by accident. There will even be days when you gluten yourself and then regret it for the next several days as your stomach revolts.

These are all just momentary setbacks. Stay strong!