Everyone and their mom seems to be going Gluten-Free these days! I am sure you know somebody who has joined the craze, and it all can be quite confusing. Myths and misinformation are swarming while the world is busy banning Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Is Gluten really all that bad? Let’s set the record straight by answering some common questions:
Is going Gluten-Free just a fad?
No. And yes. And kinda.
Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance are true, life-interfering medical conditions that can be insanely frustrating and painful. Those who suffer from these conditions are prone to chronic digestive issues, joint pain, fatigue, canker sores and a whole gamut of other sucky problems. With the tiniest amount of gluten (even just contamination from using a pan that previously had a gluten-filled food!), a person with Celiac or Gluten Intolerance can have instant issues. So no, it is not just a fad.
That being said, people have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon (Hello Paleo craze!) in order to lose or maintain weight, or for overall health. This option can be great for people who are choosing to fill their diets with lean meats, veggies, and fruits. However, surviving on chocolate and corn chips is not going to benefit anybody even though these products are Gluten-Free. Keep in mind: whole-wheat is a fiber rich, healthful food for those who can tolerate it. So yes, maybe this is a fad too…kinda.
My friend eats Gluten-Free. How do I feed him or her?
Simply put: ask!
As somebody who has been Gluten-Free for a few years, I have been so blessed with friends who ask me what I can and cannot eat. Some people even send me their recipes so I can double-check that the ingredients are all safe. Gluten-filled ingredients can be surprising: even soy sauce is a major no-no. Considering a little bite of Gluten can send me into a tailspin, I cannot describe how appreciative I am for the thoughtfulness of my friends and family. Also, keep in mind many restaurants, including popular chains such as California Pizza Kitchen, Olive Garden, P.F. Changs, Red Robin, are offering Gluten-Free menu options. Call a restaurant to confirm that they offer Gluten-Free meals, and let them prepare dinner!
How do I know if I have Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance?
Do your own research and consult your doctor.
Unfortunately, not all doctors are on board with the Gluten-Free lifestyle. If you have researched the symptoms such as chronic diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, joint pain, menstrual irregularity, canker sores, migraines etc. and think you may suffer from Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance, find a doctor who will work with you. If your doctor looks at you like you are crazy when you suggest getting off the bread and pasta, find someone else who will listen and help you try it out.
What do I do once I know I can’t eat Gluten?
Cry. Then realize going Gluten-Free is actually a breeze.
Make the Internet your best friend. Also, there are incredibly helpful apps as well including: ShopWell and Find Me Gluten Free. Google all your favorite food brands and learn if they are certified Gluten-Free or not. You may be surprised just how much you can eat. Spend a few hours going through a grocery store and getting familiar with which products are marked Gluten-Free. In no time, you will begin to learn what is safe for you to eat. Remember that all meat, veggies, and fruits are great options. There are also Gluten-Free breads, pastas, tortillas, and even pastries waiting for you to devour. Try different brands and discover new favorites.
Going Gluten-Free literally changed my life. Along the way, it took some trial and error to learn some of my favorite tips:
- Switch your weekend beers for hard cider.
- Save money (and calories!) by using lettuce as a wrap or “bun”
- Keep fruit or a Gluten-Free protein bar with you at all times. If you are starving and have no Gluten-Free options available, these small snacks can save you.
- Do not be afraid to speak up and talk to a manager or chef at a restaurant to ensure that you are receiving Gluten-Free food.
- Keep in mind how much pain that donut will cause you in about a half hour if you indulge. Stay strong. Do not cheat.
Remember – a Gluten-Free lifestyle may still be a mysterious craze, but it is going to only get bigger and more popular as more people are diagnosed. Learn what you can. And always, feel free to ask your Gluten-Free family members questions about their diet.