Just joining the world of the gluten-free? Your head is probably spinning with thoughts like what is gluten anyway? Do I have to give up bread? And how am I ever going to be able to go out to dinner again? Take a deep breath and know that you are not alone.
Whether you have been officially diagnosed or just figured out on your own that avoiding gluten helps you feel better, the result will be the same. If not eating gluten helps you feel better, and you don’t eat gluten, then you will feel better. This sounds simple, yet in our society here in the U.S. converting to a gluten-free lifestyle can be anything but simple. So if you are new to the gluten-free arena, here are a few things you should know.
What is gluten?
In simple terms, gluten is essentially a protein or a group of proteins that can be difficult for some people to digest. When you see definitions of Celiac Disease or the words gluten intolerant, or gluten-free, it is commonly understood that the references are to gluten derived from Wheat, Rye, Barley or Spelt.
Gluten actually exists in a variety of grains including rice and corn. While there are people who have allergies or sensitivities to rice or corn, the gluten in these products is somehow different and does not affect most people. When you start reading labels for ingredients in processed foods, this can be a confusing issue.
How do you start a gluten-free diet?
Read labels particularly on all processed foods, like baked goods, crackers, canned and pre-packaged foods and sauces. On the first few trips to the grocery store, allow extra time. Plan to read every ingredient on every label. While it sounds tedious, if you miss an ingredient that has gluten, you won’t know what is making you sick.
You are looking for and want to avoid foods with the following key words: Gluten (not associated directly with rice or corn), Wheat, Rye, Barley or Spelt. In addition, Oats and oatmeal do not normally contain the type of gluten that causes damage or makes people ill; however, Oats are often planted in fields next to Wheat and due to wind and nature can easily become cross contaminated.
Unless they are labeled gluten-free, you will want to avoid Oats until you know your level of tolerance. Most grocery stores either have gluten-free sections or gluten-free products mixed in on the shelves but clearly labeled. You may want to go to a specialty store that carries a lot of gluten-free products to help get you started.
Here is a list and links to several stores in the Plano, Frisco area that carry a lot of GF products. If you stop at customer service most can provide you with a pre-printed list of gluten-free foods.
- Whole Foods Market: (NW Corner of Preston Rd and Park Blvd.)
- Sprouts: (SW corner of Legacy and Coit Rd.)
- Family Health Market in Frisco: (SW corner of Lebanon and Preston Rd.) www.fhmfrisco.com
- Market Street: SW corner of Preston RD and Park Blvd.) www.marketstreetdfw.com
- Target:(NE corner of Dallas North Tollway and Park Blvd.)
- Kroger: (Coit and 121.)
How do I cook for my family?
While you may feel frustrated or even sad that you are giving up certain foods, especially comfort foods like bread, this is only temporary. Fresh vegetables and fruits are gluten-free. Meats without added spices and that aren’t marinated are gluten-free.
Many spices and sauces are gluten-free but if you have celiac or are very sensitive, you will want to check the labels and if you are unsure, check with the manufacturer directly.
All of the stores listed above carry a variety of gluten-free baked goods, snacks, sauces and even soups and pastas on the shelf and in the freezer section. And soon you too will be an expert at cooking and eating gluten-free.
And the rewards?
Think of going gluten-free as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to learn a new found respect for your body, and make healthy choices. There is a whole new world of culinary treats to explore and the words gluten-free will inevitably help you develop an integral connection with a large and growing group of passionate and mostly health conscious people. Oh yes, and the biggest reward, you might actually feel better.