So Your Doctor Says You Should Go Gluten Free

A friend emailed me, she’s going GF and wanted advice. This is something I have given many times before and just realized I should type it all up in one place so I can just refer to it.

How much do you know about Gluten? It is in wheat, barley, rye, and some heritage wheat grains like emmer. Soy sauce is brewed with wheat so you need to avoid it, and beer, too. Tamari is wheat free soy sauce, usually (there is a tamari brand that does have wheat so you have to read the ingredients). I keep a bottle at home and make homemade teriyaki sauce from it. Oh yes, did I mention you can no longer have hoisin, oyster, teriyaki sauces or chinese food in restaurants? Deep fried food is out. You should be careful having fried food that is fried in oil that they fry wheat-laden food in. Reading ingredients will become second hand. Be very careful of frozen foods, lots of hash browns and things you wouldn’t think have wheat in them, do (Pringles). Be prepared for long work meetings where they “feed” you by bringing a backup GF sandwich, or hard boiled egg, or salad. Reach out ahead of time if there is a work restaurant meal and let them know you can’t have gluten.

Oatmeal is technically gluten-free but is almost always grown or produced where there is cross contamination – look for GF brands. Bob’s Red Mill has a ton of GF flours and oatmeal and polenta. There are a couple of GF beers that are ok – although the farther away you are from beer, the better the GF beers taste. Mostly, I stick to wine and cider. Spirits are distilled, so unless some gluten flavoring gets added later (I can’t think of a single instance) you are safe. Same with vinegars, except malt vinegar, that flavoring gets added later. Malt! I totally forgot about that, malt is made from wheat, you can’t have it.

On the other hand, Mexican food in your friend! Potatoes and corn and rice are all starches you can eat. There is a brand of gluten-free bread called Udi’s, it is a total revelation. It changed how I felt about not eating wheat. The bread gets crispy when toasted and is awesome in sandwiches.

Wherever you spend the bulk of your day keep some things that are good snacks. I usually keep an apple and some almonds in the car. You can also make your own beef jerky (very difficult to find w/o wheat) and keep that around as a protein option. Pho is also a great go-to (you can’t have the hoisin sauce but everything else is fair game.)

There is tons of stuff on the web about going GF but here is a good starting point: I already knew a lot about gluten before I had my diagnosis, and I cook a ton so I started a bit ahead as far as cookbooks, recipes, and dealing with what has hidden wheat in it.

The hardest part is the mental part. I really went through some roller coaster emotions about going GF. Cravings and feelings of being left out of “the good stuff” especially when Kevin would eat pizza in front of me or I would go hiking with friends and they would have cookies. With so many options in Seattle, it makes it a lot easier but there will be times when you just want to eat phyllo pastry. These times pass, and it is good to have something to eat that makes you emotionally happy. Weird, I know. It is also very difficult to learn to ask about gluten free options in restaurants, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

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