May is celiac disease awareness month and food allergy awareness month. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, the learning curve can appear daunting. But you don’t have to learn it all in one day! Take your time digesting and be patient. Read up on what’s most important first (what to eat and avoid). Keep a diary and record your progress. You will look back and laugh! Here are some tips to help you transition to the celiac-hood.
Increase your ingredient intelligence.
The Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) sells a pocket dictionary, which is very handy to refer to. You will gradually become familiar with hidden sources of gluten that may be used as fillers in processed foods such as soups, dressings and sauces. Malt, which is often derived from barley, is also added to numerous foods to add moisture and flavor. At first, try sticking to whole foods such as eggs, poultry, meat and fish, nuts and seeds and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Go-to grains could include buckwheat and quinoa. Avoid processed and packaged foods—they’re not good for you anyway.
Seek out support.
The CCA (mentioned above) offers local support groups and social events. Founded in 1972, the CCA is a volunteer-based, charitable organization that serves people with celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis through 28 chapters and 30 satellite groups. Tell friends and family about your new journey, odds are someone in your circle will be joining you!
Build a blog.
Writing about your new experiences and gluten-free finds can be therapeutic, and can also help you connect with others in the same boat. Blogging can help you connect with brands and products that are gluten free as well.
Cut cross contamination.
Think ‘crumbs’ because anywhere you see crumbs is a potential spot for cross-contamination. Examples include counter tops, cutting boards, microwaves, toaster ovens, margarine containers and containers with other spreads. Get your own toaster and cutting board and designate them gluten-free. Also boil, bake, fry and cook separately. When dining out, ask lots of questions and find out how your food is being prepared separately from foods that contain gluten. Dining cards are also helpful as you can show them to your server and chef.
Relish new recipes.
There are so many delicious, nutritious recipes available from gluten-free food bloggers, chefs and cookbook authors who are kind enough to share. Try out new recipes that look appealing, and have fun with it! For hundreds of healthy gluten-free, grain-free and Paleo recipes, visit GlutenFreeFind.com/recipes
Lisa Cantkier is a holistic nutritionist and lifelong celiac who specializes in food allergies and special diets. For more information, visit LisaCantkier.com