I’ve been talking to so many people this past month who want to start a gluten-free lifestyle, but don’t know where to begin. My mantra has always been, “It’s about substitution, NOT elimination.” But, when your hungry and you want to eat a donut, it’s hard to think clearly about what to substitute. That’s why preparation is so important.
Before you go gluten-free, you need to think 2 steps ahead. Not only do you have to think about what to have in your own house to snack on and prepare foods, but you need to think about what is available when you are not at home.
Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to go gluten-free…
Eating at home takes the fear out of cross-contamination. Whenever you can prepare items yourself, you can take ownership of the process and that takes the anxiety out of eating. It’s hard to do, but planning a menu is very helpful to make sure you have ingredients on hand. Most gluten-full recipe ingredients can be substituted with gluten-free ingredients. Taking the time to read the recipe beforehand, will give you time to see what you need to purchase or can substitute. There is nothing worse than standing in the pantry when your hungry trying to figure out what to make.
Snacks needs to be quick, easy and healthy. Portion control is important with snacks, so keep a measuring cup close by for nuts, or read the serving size for each item and stick to it. When in doubt, go fresh and local and eat whatever is in season. Here are some things to consider keeping on hand…
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, sunflower seeds)
- Gluten-free pretzels & humus
- Celery with laughing cow cheese or peanut butter
- Gluten-free corn chips and salsa
- Yogurt with fruit (add nuts & seeds)
- Prepackaged gluten-free cookies (Annie’s, Enjoy Life, Trader Joe’s, etc.)
- Gluten-free Chex mix (make a big batch – it lasts for weeks!)
- Cut-up veggies and ranch dressing
- Gluten-free crackers and cheese
- Gluten-Free bread crumbs (Panko Style and Regular)
- Gluten-Free Bisquick
- Corn Tortillas
- Rice Flour & Corn Starch for breading or thickening
- Quinoa, Wild Rice, Brown Rice, White Rice (Great side dishes)
- Fresh potatoes and sweet potatoes (Great side dish)
- Canned beans (Refried, black, garbanzo, etc.)
- Jarred salsa
- Gluten-Free Pasta (Rice for White Sauce / Corn for Red Sauce)
- Gluten-Free broths (Chicken, Beef & Veggie) – Great for cooking rice & quinoa in!
Eating out takes whole different kind of preparation. It can be very stressful for people and some people would rather stay home than deal with the inconvenience of their diagnosis. I like to be prepared so I don’t have to make a “big deal” about what to order. This is “my” eating problem not everyone at the table. Therefore, I want everyone to enjoy themselves without being concerned about what I’m going to eat. I also want to make sure that what I’m eating isn’t going to make me sick, so I usually do the following…
- Research the restaurants reputation in preparing gluten-free menu items on the internet (Gluten Free Philly is a great Blog locally).
- Review the menu and choose something before I get there.
- Contact the chef before dining to see if they are knowledgable – otherwise…let the eater BEWARE!
- Keep notes and frequent gluten-free friendly establishments.
- Contact local groups to see if they have a list of restaurants they support (Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG).
FOOD ON THE GO
If you are like me, I’m on the go all the time. I’m in one door and out the other. We are a busy family with activities every night and all weekend. My family is not gluten-free, so I need to balance what I can eat in their world. My problem is not their problem, so I make sure I have food with me all the time as a back-up. Here are some things I keep in my backpack or purse, just in case we end up in a facility that cannot accommodate my diet restrictions.
- Protein bars (Kind bars are my favorite and are like a meal replacement)
- Raw nuts
- Peanut butter (snack size)
- Gluten-free crackers, pretzels or rice cakes in plastic containers so they don’t break.
- Gluten-free soy sauce (Tamari)
- Gluten-free salad dressings
- Sliced gluten-free bread
- Cheese sticks
- humus (snack size)
The most important thing I bring when we go on vacation is homemade granola. It’s simple, lasts a long time and is great for breakfast, snacking or as a dessert. It takes the stress out of eating for me at hotels and on the road. I eat it with yogurt or vanilla almond milk in the morning for breakfast. It’s great on fresh fruit, ice-cream or by itself. It makes a large amount, so keep it in an airtight container and enjoy it for weeks.
“Poor planning on your part, doesn’t make an emergency on mine.”