You have just found out you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. You’ve been feeling sick all of your life and are ready to start feeling better. But how do you start? How do you completely change your diet to start eating gluten free?
Don’t worry. You aren’t the only one. There are thousands of other people out there who are in the same tough spot. And every person on the gluten-free diet today has been in your situation.
You are definitely going to change your life. But it won’t be for the worse. You can live a happy, normal, gluten-free life. It will get easier as you go along, and changing your diet is a small price to pay for feeling better.
Are you really ready to start feeling better? Are you ready to drop gluten? This isn’t the sort of diet you can cheat on. You’re either all in or you’re not.
Okay. I’ll try to make it as easy as possible. If you have any questions you can totally CONTACT ME or comment below. Either way I’ll get back to you and help you in any way I can. At the end of this post are a bunch of resources on going gluten-free.
So here are some step by step instructions for you to start eating gluten-free.
Part One: Cleaning out Your House
Step One: Get Rid of the Gluten
Your kitchen is full of gluten. First of all, throw out all your packages of wheat and any products containing the tiniest bit of gluten.
Step Two: More Getting Rid of the Gluten
Do a full cleaning of your kitchen. Sweep and mop the floors, clean out the cupboards, wipe the counter-tops, clean the oven, clean the refrigerator. Anything may have gluten on or in it. You have to do a complete purge here.
Step Three: Eating and Cooking Utensils
Pots, pans, plates, forks, knives, spoons, bowls, cups—all must be clean. Drawers usually have crumbs in them, especially silverware and utensil drawers.
And what happens to things like bread-makers and toasters?
Your toaster, sadly, must go. You can’t possible clean it out. However, you can wipe out the inside of your bread-maker and do a thorough cleaning of the bread-maker pan, and the bread-maker is usable. Anything that can be cleaned: Clean it. Anything that can’t: Throw it out.
Step 4: Tackle the House and Car
By now, your kitchen is not only spotlessly clean, but also clear of gluten. Now, clean up any places in your house that might also have gluten in them. And now would be a good time to clean out your gross car with all those leftover sandwich wrappers.
By this point in the process, your house, car, and life is clear of gluten.
Part Two: Changing Your Diet
Step One: Start Small
Meats, vegetables, dairy, and fruits are the way to start eating gluten-free. Yes, bread will come! But you should start with a clean diet. Make sure the meats and vegetables have no sauce and are not marinated in flour. You want to be certain you are eating gluten-free. You should eat this way for about two weeks, just to let your gut clean out.
The gluten-free diet takes effect quickly, so you’ll probably feel improvements within the first few weeks. However, it takes up to two years to completely heal. Children heal more quickly (a few months), but if you’ve been eating gluten for a lifetime it takes some time to recover. But if you’re not feeling at least somewhat better within the first few weeks, then it’s pretty clear that you are either getting contaminated, or that you have other allergies besides/as well as gluten.
So this is what your meals should look like for the first couple weeks of eating gluten-free:
For breakfast: Eggs and bacon/sausage and some milk. You can also quickly fry some spinach or kale on medium heat to add something fresh to your breakfast.
For lunch: Meat, vegetables, fruit
For snacks: Fruit smoothies, apples and peanut butter, glass of milk, a few slices of cheese with nuts and raisins, celery with peanut butter and raisins (ants on a log).
For supper: Meat, vegetables (cook some potatoes or squash in the oven and enjoy with butter if you’re still eating dairy!). Just don’t be buying any processed foods, because many of those contain gluten.
For dessert: Most people feel hungry again at around nine o’clock. The foods you eat now, however, don’t have to be high in grains or sugar. You might be satisfied with a square of extra dark chocolate, an apple or a banana, strawberries with cream, or yogurt with fruit. If you are having a sweet dessert, you can still eat things like ice cream (just so long as it’s not cookies n’ cream or some other ice cream that contains gluten. Check the ingredient list carefully).
Make sure to eat a balanced diet. With fewer things that you can eat, you might end up eating one thing quite often (for example, you eat apples and peanut butter several times a day or you eat nothing but eggs for breakfast). Obviously, if your diet isn’t varied, you’ll end up missing out on important nutrients.
Note: By cutting out gluten, you will not miss out on essential nutrients. Any nutrients found in gluten can be found elsewhere in fruits, meats, vegetables, and other grains.
Step Two: Gluten Free Grains
So far, you should be feeling great! You are on a clean, healthy diet with no contamination. Now you are ready to add a few grains back into your diet. Not those gluten grains (wheat, rye, and barley). You are going to have mostly oats, rice, and corn for grains. For now just rice and corn.
Your grocery store should have some Gluten Free products. They will be clearly labeled as gluten-free. There are pre-made gluten-free breads and other things in grocery stores that you can buy. If you want to bake things yourself (which is much less expensive, not to mention that they taste so much better homemade), most grocery stores have Bob’s Red Mill products (which you can also order online here), including all of the flours you’ll need. For rice flour we usually buy Bob’s Red Mill flour in 25-lb bags (it’s cheapest that way, at less than $1 a pound–you can order here). Most grocery stores have cornstarch. Look for “gluten-free” on the label. If you prefer to use tapioca starch (or flour–they’re the same), which is considered healthier, you can sub tapioca flour for cornstarch in any of my recipes (except sauces). Bob’s Red Mill has tapioca flour available as well, which you can find here. Xanthan gum is available on Amazon and in most grocery stores (Bob’s Red Mill brand–you can also order online here). I know xanthan gum is expensive, but you’ll only use little bits. We usually go through just one 8 oz bag per year.
By this point, your diet consists of many different foods:
Breakfast: Eggs, sausage/bacon, gluten-free cereal, gluten free bread, gluten-free pancakes/waffles, muffins, greens (such as spinach or kale).
Lunch: Meat, vegetables, sandwich, fruits, salads.
Snacks: Fruit smoothies, apples and peanut butter, glass of milk, sandwich, other gluten-free baked goods, gluten-free chips and salsa (chips are still unhealthy no matter what grains they have in them, so eat in moderation).
Supper: Meat, vegetables, gluten free baked goods.
Dessert: cakes, cookies, cupcakes, anything you ate when eating wheat. Again, however, no matter which grains they have in them, desserts are still unhealthy, so eat in moderation.
By now, you can eat almost anything you ate before, only this time gluten-free.
Note: Be careful not to eat too many grains, even if they are gluten free. It’s very important to maintain a balance, so keep on eating a majority of meat and vegetables.
Step Three: Oats
You’ve been eating gluten-free for about three months. You eat plenty of fruits, meats, dairy products, and vegetables. You have been eating gluten-free grains. You are feeling pretty good. Now you can go ahead and see if oats will work for you.
They are not labeled gluten-free, but Quaker does not produce wheat products. Their oats have no effect on my family (and we consider ourselves pretty sensitive to contamination). Try adding some Quaker oats to your diet and see how you feel. If they make you feel sick, then you are probably very sensitive. Instead, buy gluten-free oats on Amazon. Or you might not want to eat oats and all and just substitute rice flour for oat flour in recipes.
Check out The Oat Issue for more on oats and whether or not you should eat them gluten free.
Step Four: It Gets Better
I figured I’d make a note of this. If you are gluten intolerant and not celiac, after a couple years of eating gluten-free, you may be able to handle small bits of contamination without getting sick. You can’t ever go back to eating gluten, but you may not be as ‘intolerant’ as you were. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should purposely eat gluten or that you should ever start to “cheat” on the diet. It does mean that you probably won’t get as sick as you used to. This is just another point to show that it does get easier as you go along.
Here’s the pinterest friendly version of my four-step plan:
Scroll below it to see resources!
PART THREE: Resources
MORE INFO ON EATING GLUTEN FREE: Check out this post from The Happy Mixer.
COOKING UTENSILS I don’t use anything fancy, but here are a few tools that are good to have: Bread Maker—This has always been worth the cash we spent on it. It has given us so many delicious, beautiful sandwiches and slices of fresh bread. The Bread-Maker is very simple and easy to use, and it really does make your breads rise. Electric Mixer—This isn’t just a gluten-free necessity, it is a necessity in every kitchen. Blender—Makes delicious smoothies, grinds things like carrots and zucchini for cakes and breads, makes mayonnaise, salad dressings, and much more. It has always been worth having. Various pots and pans—Glass pyrex pans, baking sheets, saucepans, etc. I use them all and you will often need them in recipes. Of course, you should already have these in your kitchen. Ramekins—I rarely use these, except for soufflés and single serving dishes. They are one of those weird kitchen things that you probably don’t have. You don’t need this. You can’t make a soufflé without them, but you don’t need them otherwise. Toaster—I don’t actually have one. But I want one. It would make our bread even better, and if I ever succeed in bagels I will certainly want one. We threw our old one out long ago because toasters can’t be salvaged from contamination. You can check out the Products I Use page Here for links and further suggestions. TRAVELING: Traveling can be difficult. Here’s a link to my “traveling gluten-free” page. Gluten Free Traveling GLUTEN-FREE FLOURS: My page all about gluten-free flours. Gluten Free Flours and How to Use Them Products I use: Rice flour: Bob’s Red Mill/Lundberg Potato Starch: Bob’s Red Mill/Ener-G Tapioca Starch: Bob’s Red Mill/Ener-G Cornstarch: Anything at the grocery store labelled gluten-free. Oats/Oat flour: Quaker oats. They work for us and don’t seem to contaminate us. Of course, I wouldn’t advise it until you have been on the gf diet for quite a while (see above), but you could try it and make sure you aren’t affected. I grind the oats up in our blender or coffee grinder to make flours, because GF oat flour is really expensive. These oats may not work for you…If they don’t, you can always sub rice flour instead of oat flour. I try to make recipes that are easy to substitute and will usually clearly state that you can’t sub this recipe if it’s a sensitive recipe or whatever. Xanthan Gum: Bob’s Red Mill. And that’s about it. If you have any questions about where to find other products or where they are available, go ahead and contact me or comment below. Usually you can find most of these on Amazon, in your regular Good Food Store or Co-Op, or in another “healthy eating” company. I find most Bob’s Red Mill products in your average grocery store. See more on Products Here RECIPES: Here’s a shortcut to my “gluten-free recipe” page. My Gluten Free Recipe Page CHECKING FOR GLUTEN: This page lists everything that you want to watch out for when checking for gluten on a label. Checking Labels for Gluten ABOUT CELIAC DISEASE/GLUTEN INTOLERANCE: For those of you who want to know more about what exactly celiac disease and gluten intolerance are, and the differences between the two, here’s a good article: http://americanceliac.org/celiac-disease/. For those of you who like to know all about everything, here’s a post on what exactly gluten intolerance is: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-gluten-intolerance.htm And here is a post on what exactly celiac disease is: http://glutenfreenetwork.com/articles-and-news/what-exactly-is-celiac-disease/ Anyway, if you have any questions you can contact me (button on sidebar), or connect with me on facebook (sidebar).
Billie Ries says
I found out I was gluten intolerant at 68+ and have been eating gluten free for almost two years now. I think the toughest item to give up was wheat bread. I tried all (and I do mean all) of the commercially available GF breads. Not a one of them was worth eating. I found your blog a month or so ago and tried your multi-grain bread. WOW!! Finally a bread I could make at home that tasted good – no, make that great! Keep the recipes coming. It is really wonderful to be able to replace some old favorites with their GF counterparts. You are an amazing young woman.
It’s GREAT to hear this! I’m never quite sure if a recipe is good until I get real feedback, so thank you very much for your comment.
Do you know if it is okay to keep a refrigerator that once had gluten? I am not sure if it would continue to circulate through the filter, etc.
No, you can keep your refrigerator. I think a thorough cleaning would do the trick.
Callum Palmer says
This was a really interesting read, I never would have imagine how intense switching over to a gluten-free diet would be. I think the easiest part for me would be switching over to just eating meats, vegetables, and dairy. Of course, it would take a little while to adjust to the gluten-free breads, but it does seem like it would definitely be.
Hi Callum, glad you found the article helpful. And yes, it is a big switch but it can actually be great to just eat simple meats, vegetables, and dairy for a while. You do end up craving carbs and sugars for the first few weeks, but eventually your body adjusts and you don’t crave bread so much anymore. I personally also feel so much better with a low carb, primarily veggies & meat diet! Now I eat mostly low-carb foods with the occasional gluten-free bread or dessert…even though carbs are convenient and delicious, it’s nice to not have to rely on them.
Abigail Cachia says
I a a 18 year old coeliac, however I keep feeling sick despite my precautions. I live with my family, none of which are coeliac, I have tried everything to try and clean my insides and feel well again. However all I do ends up in vein, and I still constantly feel bloated and sick. I have no clue how I can cleanse the house of gluten when I am the only one with this requirement.
That’s a really tough situation, and I’m so sorry you have to deal with that. You may have tried this, but one possibility is to have a separate corner of the kitchen completely devoted to your food: Your own cupboards, kitchen utensils, fridge shelf, and counterspace that no one else uses. It’s not ideal, but at least you can cook your own food without worrying about contamination.