Once you start eating gluten free, you will want to add some specialty gluten-free foods to your diet quite quickly to help fill in some gaps.
If you live in a smaller town, you may want to turn to the Internet to get started. Amazon.com carries a large variety of gluten-free products. So does Glutenfree.com. Both places will deliver the products to your home or office.
As a tip, if you see the words “wheat free” on a label, the product is probably not “gluten free”.
What to buy For your first shopping trip, look for a few basics: crackers or pretzels, pasta, cookies or sweets and cereal if you like that for breakfast,
Crackers or pretzels are useful to add to your lunch or snacks to eat with peanut or nut butter, cheese, jam, and jelly. You can even make mini sandwiches with them.
You will find a few gluten-free cereals in the main cereal aisle, notably a number of Chex cereals that were recently reformulated to make them gluten free. You might expect that rice and corn cereals would be fine, but most of them have barley malt as an ingredient. More gluten-free cereals are available in the specialty aisles and stores.
If you want hot cereal, consider cream of rice, corn meal porridge, or grits. Leave oatmeal out of your diet until you have (1) reviewed the recommendations from various medical advisory panels, and (2) located a source of pure and uncontaminated oats from a specialty supplier. Normal brands of oats are not acceptable for people with celiac disease because they all contain traces of barley or wheat.
There are several good brands of gluten-free pasta. Most are made from rice or brown rice. Others are made from corn, potato, and quinoa. You can use them like regular pasta, although they might be stickier than normal wheat pasta unless you rinse them well after cooking. Follow the cooking instructions on the package.
If you have a sweet tooth, look for cookies or bars labeled gluten-free. There are a variety of flavors available from many different manufacturers.
What about Bread? Whether you tackle gluten-free bread right off the start is an individual choice. Virtually everyone is disappointed when they first try gluten-free bread, rolls, or bagels, because the products do not have the same texture as wheat products. If you are already feeling upset and overwhelmed, leave the bread for a while and try some other products first.
When you are ready to buy bread, buy two other things first: a new toaster – cheap is good for this toaster and a new cutting board. Crumbs matter when you are eating gluten free. If you have celiac disease, your body will be damaged by crumbs from someone else’s toast whether they come from the toaster or from a shared butter dish
The new toaster is to avoid accidentally getting wheat crumbs on your gluten-free bread. If you look inside your current toaster, you will see a big pile of crumbs at the bottom of the toaster and often some buildup on the wires. When you share a toaster with someone eating regular bread, you will contaminate your gluten-free bread with wheat every time you use the toaster.
Gluten-free bread usually works best when it is toasted, even when you are making a sandwich. It might hold together when it is first baked, but after it is frozen, it often crumbles when you eat it, unless it is toasted first.
The new cutting board is to protect you from getting wheat crumbs when you make toast or a sandwich after someone else has done the same thing with wheat bread. You can clean a cutting board so that cross-contamination doesn’t happen, but it becomes very easy to forget to do it over time. Always using your own cutting board just prevents mistakes from happening.
Specialty gluten free foods are expensive and often contain more fat and calories than their regular counterparts. If you consider them a treat instead of building your new gluten free diet around them, both your wallet and your waistline will thank you.