I could spend a whole day mourning the loss of proper croissants. I would also shed tears for crispy baguettes and the act of walking into a restaurant with confidence and full access to the menu. Oh, and eating at other people’s houses without first intensely quizzing them about all ingredients. These are just a few of things I miss about the first gluten-filled 30 years of my life.
The road to embracing a life without gluten is bumpy and full of potholes. It’s helpful to allow yourself the move through all five stages of the grief process. For those who have never had to wrap their heads around a food allergy, associating grief with giving up gluten may sound melodramatic. But this is a major lifestyle change and calls for self care and attention to all of the big feelings that might follow.
For example, I recently encountered a newly diagnosed woman with Celiac who was fighting serious depression related to her dietary restrictions. The more gluten affected people I talk to about this, the more firmly I believe that providing guidance for dealing with the emotions that come with a diagnosis should be a required part of patient support. Because a diagnosis really can feel like a loss and trigger unexpected grief and anxiety.
As you begin the journey toward acceptance, you many even toggle back and forth between the steps. If you are anything like me, I started by living in denial. Then I became completely overwhelmed with a side of anger. I skipped bargaining since at this point I had been living in gastrointestinal hell long enough to know it wasn’t worth it. And I do still have moments of depression and outright jealousy when I observe my wheat-eating friends. It has been helpful to recognize that you never have to pretend that you are happy with your disease, but acceptance will allow happiness to sneak in more often.
And so does another little trick I’ve learned. You really can modify almost any recipe to make it gluten free. The first step is to find a gluten free flour that agrees with you. GF flours can range from gritty to dense to gas producing. It is an expensive game of trial and error that for me ended in a loyalty to Gluten Free Mama’s Almond Blend (available at www.glutenfreemama.com). I use this cup for cup in any recipe and am happy with the results. If you are aiming for fluffy and less crumbly in your baked goods, first lower your expectations (another key to happiness), and then add either some xanthan gum (which I have mixed feelings about) or an additional egg white.
Some other important staples while making the transition to a gluten free life include the following:
- Pasta – I really like GoGo Quinoa’s Red and White Quinoa Macaroni available at Costco. I also think Tinkyada’s Pasta Joy products (available at most all grocers) are decent. It is very important to NOT overcook either of these products and to cool immediately if possible. Failing to do this will cause a mushy, mushy meal.
- Bread – I like Glutino’s sandwich bread best (available at King Soopers, Sprouts, and Vitamin Cottage) because it behaves more like bread, not crumbling when you try to make a sammie or revealing a secret, large, loaf hollowing hole down the center after you’ve opened it.
- Tortillas – I was pleasantly surprised recently to discover Mission’s Gluten Free tortillas because they are way less crumbly than others we have sampled and less expensive. I have found these at King Soopers and at Wal-Mart.
- Pizza – This was an important staple for my family because, well, pizza is delicious and we have three kids. Plus we had enough experiences of restaurants offering gluten free pizzas only to find the risk of cross contamination to be extremely high and the pizzas to be extremely small and extremely expensive. Saved again by Costco and their Sabatasso’s Pizzeria Gluten Free Cheese pizza. We add our own toppings and enjoy it on a regular basis.
With those basics covered, you can eat similarly to the way you did before giving up gluten, but hopefully adding plenty of vegetables and fruit – always gluten free. Oh one more thing, now that I’ve made a healthy eating plug, the most helpful GF cookbook I own is The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten Free by Anne Byrn. If you like to bake or are tasked with bringing a dessert to a gathering, you can’t go wrong here. And it is really easy. Everything has the base of a boxed cake mix (I prefer Betty Crocker’s Gluten Free), and then you add a few things and look like a BOSS! If you ever make the Tres Leches cake in here and feed it to people, they will think you are a domestic god/goddess sent from the heavens!! I get way too much credit for the things I make from this book when all I’m really doing is following directions!
I wish you well in your journey toward acceptance and loving your gluten free life too!