I have shared a little about the why of gluten free living for our family and as we become more accustomed to it, I have discovered a few things that have been so important to making it successful. I don’t really have an order to them, just kind of a list as I thought of things over the past month or so.
1. Expect to mess up. While I try really hard to read up and know all the things to look for that could have gluten or some wheat by product, sometimes I miss things.
2. Listen to others who have been doing gluten free for some time, as they are valuable sources of information.
3. At the same time make sure to verify information given; it may save from eating something that has hidden gluten. I actually call companies on a regular basis to ask about their products and many have been very informative and helpful (if they aren’t, we don’t take the chance of eating the product.)
4. If one family member can’t have gluten, the whole family goes gluten free, especially at home. For us, it is too challenging to have to cook separate food, to make sure that there is no contamination or that Aneliese doesn’t eat anything she shouldn’t. I also don’t want to always be eating things that I have to say that she can’t have.
5. Having said the above, we do tend to eat things with gluten when we go out, especially if we brought food for Aneliese, unless it is something that we know will be really hard for Aneliese to watch us eat.
6. Always have snacks on hand when going anywhere. I try to make sure that if we are going to be with other kids that I have food that will be just as appealing as what they are eating. I also go prepared to share.
7. Make sure that the child understands that they are avoiding gluten and why. With Aneliese, she knows that she can’t eat anything with gluten and she remembers how it makes her feel. Sometimes, she tries to convince me that maybe things won’t have gluten in them or that it will be gluten that won’t hurt her, but for the most part she understands. If I am leaving her, I always remind her to only eat what I have brought for her and she always gives her snack to whoever will be taking care of her.
8. Be matter of fact about it. I do acknowledge to Aneliese that it is hard sometimes not to be able to eat things but mostly I just try to treat it as part of life without making a big deal now that we have it more established.
9. Don’t slip into the mind that trace amounts won’t hurt especially at the beginning. There may be room for this later but especially in the recovery period, which can take as much as a year, even small amounts can result in unwellness.
10. Be wary of any recipes that only call for one flour, especially if it is white rice flour. With only one or two exceptions for specific recipes, I have found that a mix is absolutely needed. I prefer my own mixes because that avoids the additives that seem to be very prevalent in many mixes. Mixes also tend to be very high in rice flour and tapioca flour, which really has no nutritional value.
11. Purchase a quality kitchen scale; you will use it a lot. Thanks to gluten free girl I am discovering that weighing the flours is key to having recipes turn out well. A cup of rice flour does not equal a cup of all-purpose flour, it has a different weight and that makes all the difference. With this discovery, I have been able to start using regular recipes again.
12. Make things from scratch, that way you know exactly what has gone into it. It is really healthier anyways but especially with gluten free I am finding because so much sugar and other additives are added to “improve” the taste.
13. Replace guar or xanthan gum with flax or psyllium husk. The gums are very chemically processed and more people are realizing that they are having an adverse reaction to them. Replace the amount of the gum called for with the same of flax seed and add twice the amount of boiling water and mix. Then just add it to your recipe.
14. When eating in other’s homes, make sure that you let them know ahead of time and offer to bring food along (okay, maybe I always have some anyways). I have discovered that it makes people feel really bad if they don’t know ahead and I am telling Aneliese that she can’t have things.
15. Don’t be fooled into thinking that gluten free equals healthy. Much of the packaged foods are still very processed, have lots of additives and not a lot in terms of nutritional value. I appreciate having packaged foods for traveling or going to some ones house but they don’t belong in our regular diet any more than they did before gluten free.
16. Be prepared to give a little in other areas. I have started letting Aneliese have some juice or a special treat like frozen yogurt more often when we go somewhere. I think that this will change but right now I feel like I am saying no a lot anyways.
17. If something isn’t available at your grocery store, suggest it, they are usually very open to hearing a suggestion and I have found most managers to be very helpful.
18. Find at least one good source who is willing to share tried and true recipes with you.
19. Beware of deceptive packaging. Lots of packaging is starting to say that the product is gluten free, but then the small print will say that it has been processed on the same equipment. I kind of think of it as using the same bowl and utensils after I just made something with gluten in it.
20. Think of it as learning to cook all over again and it might not be so frustrating when things don’t turn out well (although with the combination of #11, success is much greater than failure). I am starting to see it as an exciting challenge.
This isn’t really a tip, but I wanted to include this last thought. We have been really blessed by family and friends who really want to provide food that Aneliese can eat and that they have thought about it and tried makes us feel so loved. Especially at the beginning, it felt really overwhelming and it made such a difference to have that support.