Whether you’ve been diagnosed with Celiac, allergy or are starting an elimination diet to see if gluten is a problem, you need to keep in mind- no matter if you’re sensitive or intolerant, gluten is all or nothing. You either eat a normal diet or eliminate ALL gluten. Just like dairy, there is gluten hidden in a lot of foods and in medications.
It typically takes 1-3 months eliminating to fully test out how the food specifically makes you feel.
Going off gluten means cutting ALL wheat, rye and barley. With barley comes eliminating “malt” anything as well. The concept of eliminating wheat alone tends to feel overwhelming at first, but there are many options on the market to replace what you normally love eating. There are also tons of online resources and gluten free groups on Facebook.
I first eliminated gluten from my diet in June of 2017. I stayed off until November, re-added then couldn’t deal with being sick so much and have been strict since January 2018.
What can you eat?
I’ll start easy
You can eat fruits, vegetables, meats,
most grains (amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, nut flours like almond meal/almond flour, coconut flour, etc), most dairy products (and most chocolate brands have a gluten free label- but be careful. Hershey’s bars with almonds are safe but Hershey’s kisses with almonds aren’t, so it can get tricky at times- Hershey’s typically labels their candy if its gluten free)
You can also eat a lot of other stuff but I would recommend looking for the “gluten free” label. It’s typically safe to assume that you will get sick if you eat something labeled “no gluten containing ingredients but may contain traces of gluten” or any other way of saying “may contain traces.” It depends on your sensitivity (if you’re allergic or have Celiac you may want to fully avoid to be safe).
The “May contain traces” is a warning that it may or may not be cross contaminated, even if they make it without gluten ingredients. If it’s processed on the same belt or in the same space as gluten containing ingredients it could have residual gluten. If you’re not celiac but have an intolerance, it could be hit or miss.
Foods that aren’t labeled gluten free may or may not be safe. My best recommendation is to stick with the people who label until you really know what you’re doing.
There are also some very good resources (and I’m working on adding a page with different candies and other foods that are fact checked as gluten free on this site for a resource)
One of the main sites I visit is Celiac.org.They also have a forum that has been so beneficial to me personally, I’m not a member but most products have been asked about at some point.
What can I not eat?
You can’t eat anything with wheat, rye, barley (so anything with the word “malt” is also out) or spelt. The main well known parts are wheat, rye and barley but since spelt is very closely related to wheat, it reacts to people a lot like wheat does.
Just because it’s only three grains, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear to stay away from pasta, bread and other items made with grains. Gluten is kind of the glue that holds breads and baked foods together so it is used in many other things- gravy mixes, processed foods and meals, soups and soup mixes, even a lot of pasta sauces and condiments can be hidden sources. That’s why it’s usually safer to buy substitutes that are specifically made to be gluten free versions until you get the diet change down and learn what unlabeled foods are safe.
Also- stay away from oatmeal unless it’s specifically labeled “gluten free.” A lot of the rolled oats are rolled in wheat (or whole grain)
Avoid anything labeled as “whole grain” because that includes wheat
Be careful when it comes to “no gluten containing products but may contain trace amounts”
That warning is usually about cross contamination. It depends on your severity- if you’re Celiac, it’s best to avoid. If you have a serious intolerance, it’s also best to avoid. If it’s a minor sensitivity the choice is yours.
What if I’m on a Budget?
If you’re on a tight budget, going with frozen vegatables and fruits help. They last longer than normal produce and one bag is only .84 and can be a good side dish for a whole family of four.
Buying meats on clearance, some clearance produce also work. I mentioned this in the Paleo on a budget post, but I hardly ever buy meat at normal price. I always buy Manager Special then freeze it as soon as I get home.
If you’re a baker, like I am, you’ll miss baked foods more than anything. If you look hard enough, you can find gluten free all purpose baking flours cheaper than buying a bunch of white rice, brown rice, almond, coconut and other special flours.
I use Walmart’s Equate brand all purpose baking flour- it’s the closest to normal flour I have found and is only 3.00 in stores.
Stick with mostly foods naturally free of gluten at first. If you’re on a budget, the specialty replacement items are the budget killers. A buggy full of produce, meats and (if you do dairy) dairy products won’t kill your budget as fast as filling it up with empty calorie replacements.
Make your own broth, stock and bone broth
Batch cook meals
Eating gluten free on a budget is very similar to eating paleo (or any other way) on a budget- the best way is to go with sales, buy natural, shop weekly and prepare a shopping list with a full meal plan including snacks.
Other Tips to Starting this Journey
Join online support groups- you can find so much help in Facebook groups. There are people who have been eating that way for years, decades, months and days. All you have to do is post and you will have tons of tips for whatever you’re trying to do.
Follow Gluten free magazines and blogs on Facebook or follow the actual websites
Pinterest has pins for everything. They are a great source of gluten free substitutes and recipes
Remember- there is no such thing as “just a little gluten” this is all or nothing.
Following a traditional gluten free diet is not a good way to lose weight, in fact, there is so much sugar and other bad added to traditional subs that healthy people tend to gain. On one hand, gluten free causes wider awareness of what you’re eating BUT if you stick with highly processed, you may end up gaining (good thing if you’re Celiac or have other underweight issues, but if you’re condition is causing you to hold weight- it’s not a good thing)
I’ll be doing more posts about gluten free, dairy free, paleo and other diets along the same path.