Have you been instructed to follow a gluten free diet but you just feel lost reading all those ingredient labels when you get to a grocery store?
Your first step in this transition to a gluten free diet is accepting your new lifestyle. Yes, you are going to be angry and wish to deny the whole thing as if it’s just some bad dream. You will try to second guess your doctor and go through a denial stage because you believe he has to be wrong. During this stage of denial, you will be feeling grief over the fact there is nothing left in your world you are allowed to eat still. But gradually, with a little bit of time and support, some education and soul searching, soon you will come to realize you have probably gained more than you just lost.
What Do I Buy First
As traumatic as it is, the first thing you must do is go through your cabinets, refrigerator and drawers and pull out all products which contain gluten. Your doctor’s office will give you a general list and usually you will be informed, if it’s not considered fresh foods, throw it out. Almost everything you used to eat in today’s marketplace does contain gluten if it was processed at a factory. After your cleaning session, now you get to go grocery shopping.
So what do I buy first? The answer is start very simple. If it does not have a label on it already, it means it is probably not processed. Therefore at first, learn to start enjoying real foods again. No more food from a box, a can, a bag or shrink -wrapped at the bakery or deli case. Use these real foods in your new diet until you get a little more comfortable with your new diet. So when you arrive at the store, find the following sections for the safety of your new healthy eating plan.
- Produce department and pick up any kind of fresh fruit or vegetables
- Meats/Seafood department – again pick out any kind of fresh meats with no processing. This includes roasts, steaks, chops, whole chickens, or fresh seafood such as salmon steaks. For now, avoid all processed meat such as ground beef, sausage, hot dogs crab cakes, etc..
- Dairy products are gluten free but many gluten intolerant patients initially have problems ingesting the dairy proteins because of the poor condition of their intestines. You may have to wait a while and give your digestive system some healing time before you can start eating dairy again.
- Seasonings which are safe and can be used for flavorings include olive oil, fresh spices from the produce department, salt and pepper plus lemon and lime juice. You may combine these in any combinations to add flavor to your new diet.
- fresh corn or rice tortillas, rice itself, dried beans, eggs and potatoes are all 100% gluten free.
Now that you realize you are comfortable with the basics and you realize you still have plenty of food to eat, it is time to start adding back in the “labeled foods.”
The easiest way to get accustomed to this is grab yourself a notebook. Do not ever make the mistake of going to a store and trying to check everything at once. There is not enough hours in a day plus it will be way to overwhelming for a first trip.
When you arrive, pick one type of food group for today’s investigation. Say today you decide on pasta. Read some labels (you should have been practicing and learning daily while eating from your fresh foods menu) and mark down some varieties you think are safe. Mark down any words you do not recognize so you can follow up with research at home.
Continue this pattern each time you visit a grocery store. Soon you will have a notebook filled with alternatives you may purchase with your new diet.
Two words of caution though for when you do go to a store. “Wheat-Free” on a package does not necessarily mean gluten free. Wheat is only one of the grains which contain gluten so this must be avoided on a gluten free diet. The item in question though may have used one of the alternate grains such as rye, barley or spelt. Always read the ingredient label to be sure. Never ever trust a manufacturer’s label on the front of their packaging.