1. To notice any difference you have to go GF 100%, as even a small amount can throw things off. Have a Last Supper if you must, but once I found out I was gluten intolerant, I picked a day and said, this is the day I will no longer (intentionally) eat gluten. And I haven't looked back since. Some people think they can "cheat" but if you are truly gluten intolerant, cheating is like intentionally feeding yourself motor oil. Not good.
2. Start simple. Eat whole, real foods and stay away from packaged items or ingredients you can't pronounce. Remember, gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats (except certified GF oats) and can be hidden in many ingredients such as, natural flavoring, modified food starch, hydrolyzed wheat protein, malt, etc. Most brands will list if wheat is found in their product (especially now that going GF is becoming "popular") and many list "Gluten Free" on the package to make things simple. I have a 3 page list someone gave me of "safe" and "non safe" ingredients and if you search online you can find something similar.
3. Yes, you can substitute regular crackers/bread/cereal for gluten free versions, but this gets expensive. I make my own GF bread (in the machine or oven) and Amazon Subscribe and Save offers bulk bread mixes for super cheap. Our favorite: Bob's Red Mill (or you can try Pamela's Bread Mix but this gave me a super-upset stomach because they add inulin (chicory root) to bulk it up and this extra fiber can be tricky for some people...why can't companies just use real food? OK, off my soapbox.) We don't buy GF snack items (kids eat fruit and veggies instead) and things like GF waffles, cereal, bread, hamburger buns have become more of a treat and less of a staple.
4. Tip to make your own super cheap and easy GF flour blend (which I have used for pancakes, bread, cupcakes, cookies):
- 3 parts white rice flour to 2 parts cornstarch. Mix it up, store in a container.
- You can use Xanthan Gum as a binder and here are the rules:
- Bread and pizza dough recipes: Add 1 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum per cup of gluten-free flour used in bread and pizza dough recipes
- Cake, muffin and quick bread recipes: Add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum per one cup of gluten-free flour used
- Cookie and bar recipes: Add 1/2 teaspoon (or less) xanthan gum or guar gum per one cup gluten-free flour used
- You can then substitute this flour blend and xanthan gum in just about any recipe that uses wheat flour
5. Something to watch out for if others in your family are not going GF: cross-contamination. Gluten can stick to sponges, on cutting boards, in pans, in toasters, in the peanut-butter jar and on and on. Before all of us went GF at home, I had separate PB/jelly/mayo jars, separate toaster, and wheat was limited to the bottom shelf in the fridge.
6. Another hidden place: lotion, shampoo, and hygiene products. For example, I was 24 weeks pregnant with Levi and still nauseous. I noticed that my LOTION had hydrolyzed wheat protein as an ingredient and once I stopped using it, I felt better. Also, we stay away from Aveeno Baby Products because they are made with oats. But, nice thing about Cotsco: they label EVERYTHING! Even their Shampoo/Conditioner is labeled GF!
7. Eating out in restaurants and other people's homes: This is where it can get tricky. And this is where I remind myself that going GF can sometimes be my cross I need to bear. (We all have one, right?) When eating at other's homes, I hate being high maintenance so I never ask them to prepare something special. If in doubt of anything, I simply pass (I'm not being rude, I promise!!) and I make sure to bring a snack along if I'm gone for too long. Many restaurants are now offering GF menus and, while cross-contamination can still be an issue (I threaten death and a lawsuit to my server just to make sure this doesn't happen....no j/k!) I have eaten out recently and had no problems! A simple online search can tell you which restaurants offer GF items. If they don't, I simply order an expensive glass of wine to make up for it :) Which brings me to my next point.....
8. Going GF has reminded me that life and our experiences aren't all about food. When I go to Thanksgiving dinner, for example, I focus on relationships and catching up with family instead of turkey and gravy (or I host and make everything GF!!). When I go out to eat with a friend, I focus on them instead of the Red Robin burger I can't have. And in having to focus so much on food, it has taught me that life isn't all about it - rather than enjoying something I now can't have, I enjoy the company with me and the relationship we are building.
9. Last point: going GF and the budget. One big concern we had before pulling the trigger and going GF for the whole family was how much more is this going to cost? Because I don't use a lot a expensive GF substitutes, it's not as much more as it could be. For us, approximately $50-$100 more a month. Yes, this seems like a lot, but then I remind myself that I'm not paying co-pays for that random rash Max kept getting or the upset stomach that Avila kept complaining about. And I remind myself that, as a culture, we have been conditioned to spend as little as possible on food (sacrificing health as a result) and that I perhaps need to cut out other luxury items (bye bye, cable TV) to make up for the cost. I have become pretty efficient at making low-cost, easy meals that we all love and the kids have hardly noticed the switch. Plus, I figure that the earlier in their life we do this, the less hard it will be. So far, so good. (Also, it is an awesome thing that the Paleo Movement (no dairy or grains) has picked up steam because this fits so well with the GF lifestyle. Many of the recipes I use are not only GF, but dairy free as well, and this actually helps the budget! Instead of 4 gallons of milk a week, we go through one. Instead of 3 lbs. of cheese gone in a week, we go through 1 lb.
10. Meal ideas!
- gluten free oatmeal - can be found on Amazon for cheap compared to the store (mix in PB and brown sugar for a special treat!)
- GF pancakes (just search online for an easy recipe. I always make extra, freeze individually, and toast for subsequent mornings)
- Eggs. And if you want them to taste amazing cook them in coconut oil. The kids beg for more when I do this.
- Baked Oatmeal. Amazing. Easy. And lots of different flavors.
- GF waffles - I found Trader Joe's to have a great price, and I stock up when they're on sale at Freddy's On sale they are only .50 a box more than regular waffles.
- Corn Tortilla Quesadillas
- PB/J on GF bread (but I only do this occasionally to save bread)
- Eggs (if not eaten for Breakfast)
- Greek yogurt with mix-ins
- Leftovers from dinner
- Too many recipes to list! A great cookbook I use is Everyday Paleo.
- Simply search online for GF recipes and you can find a ba-gillion.
- Side dish ideas: quinoa, sweet potatoes, baked "french fries," salad, cooked/steamed veggies, the ideas are endless, really!
Snacks - interesting note: because the kids eat filling foods for breakfast and lunch I notice they rarely ask for a snack! And I rarely offer one...but when I do, here are some great options:
- Smoothies. We invested in a Blendtec Blender (like a Vita-mix) and I use it twice a day. Love, love, love it. Our current favorite smoothie recipe:
- 1/2 C coconut milk
- 1/2 C water
- Handful Kale (or spinach)
- frozen strawberries (about 1C)
- OR, omit the strawberries, up the banana, and add some cocoa powder and PB for a great milkshake!
- Fruit: apples with cinnamon, grapes, whatever is on sale.
- Carrots and broccoli - I actually serve this an an "appetizer" before dinner. Apparently if you call something an appetizer the kids will eat it. Go figure.
- Nuts and dried fruit
- Breakfast Cookies - these are AMAZING!! And GF, dairy free, vegan, oil free, sugar-free and the best tasting thing ever. I make probably 2 batches a week. Our fav add-ins: dates and almonds.
- Peanut Butter Balls : 1/2 c. PB, 1/2 c. gf oats, a little bit of sugar or stevia if you want. Combine, roll into balls, freeze. And then eat them all.
- Homemade Luna Bars
- Chocolate Meatballs (as Avila renamed them...)
Other Favorite Recipe Links: