Finding ways to eat gluten free is hard enough for one person.
There are so many things you can no longer eat, from bread and tortillas to salad dressings and spreads. Eating out is even more tricky, since you have to know what to eliminate, as well as buzzwords to look for (gravy, fried, sauce, or wrapped in are all words that will key you in to if it has gluten in/on it!). Even if you order from the gluten free menu, you aren’t guaranteed that it will arrive gluten free. There have been a number of times that my gluten free dish has been served with gravy (which has flour in it), or even with a side of garlic bread.
Garlic bread…seriously. I talked with 3 waiters about this, and they all insisted that the salad I ordered was gluten free, and the garlic bread was “just a garnish.”
“Here is your lovely gluten free salad with a side of death. Enjoy!!” (for the record, the manager saw all of this and didn’t charge us for the salad, which was very nice of her)
What happens when you try eating gluten free for the whole family??
From eating out to grocery shopping to cooking it yourself, this can be a difficult journey to grasp…but I promise it is easier than it seems! But it also takes a good amount of diligence, so let’s break this down:
1. Bye-Bye BBB: Assume that anything that is Boxed, Bottled or Bagged has gluten in it. It might not, but unless you check, assume the worst. I discovered the gluten in Potato Buds when I was in college, and Rice a Roni has pasta in it (I really didn’t know this. I just knew that I didn’t know how to cook rice when I was 20. Anyone else raised on Uncle Ben’s? Anyone?) The key is to check every single ingredient list. Twizzlers? Wheat. Soy Sauce? Wheat. Salad dressings? If you can decipher the chemically-long ingredients they have in there, there is probably gluten in there somewhere. Check every bag of chips, every box of cereal and every bottle of whatever.
2. Learn to Cook From Scratch: I know this is kind of extreme, but it will save you so much time in the end. Learn how to cook rice. Learn how to cook the foods you love without using pre-packaged ingredients. Use as many whole foods as you can without drinking the “whole food” kool-aid. I just think life is complicated enough without adding in volumes of encyclopedias of philosophies, so keep it simple. Just cook.
3. Learn How To Order Out: This will also save you a world of hurt…literally. Make no exceptions. You cannot scrape gravy off, you cannot pick all the bread crumbs off. Be diligent with what you order and how you order it. Bunless hamburgers are great, salads are generally always safe, and whole food dishes are pretty easy to order. But say goodbye to pasta, lasagna, fried chicken, doughnuts, and pizza. Also, look for funny wording: My husband let me know about Mountain Mike’s pizza offering “gluten free crust,” which is a very specific order. That is not a gluten free pizza, that is just a gluten free crust…so we went in to check it out, and it was the most worthless gluten free offer I have ever seen.
“Please be aware that our gluten-free crust is prepared in a non-gluten free environment. During normal kitchen operations involving shared cooking and preparation areas there is a possibility that our gluten-free crust will come into contact with wheat flour and/ or other non-gluten free items. We cannot guarantee that any menu item is completely gluten-free. Customers with gluten sensitivities should therefore exercise judgment in consuming such items.” (link)
Just consider that pointless.
4. For Heaven’s Sake, Stop Contaminating Yourself: I’m speaking from experience on this one, and I will say that contamination is the worst. Because you don’t expect it. You cannot use the same pan for gluten free pancakes that you just used for regular pancakes. You cannot stir a gluten free pot with a spoon you just used for something else. Every bread crumb, every pot, every cupcake tin will be contaminated. This week I have been contaminated by using the toaster, because I’m stupid. I know it’s contaminated, but I was in a rush: I also spent over two hours with symptoms, and it wasn’t worth it. So, you gotta be diligent with gluten free environments.
5. Peer pressure is tough. Learn to toughen up and say no: I haven’t met one unsympathetic person when it comes to gluten intolerance. Just about everyone thinks it’s awful, and although I can’t say it’s the worst thing in the world…I mean, it’s not freaking cancer…it’s a challenge to get the hang of it. But there will be very good friends or family who want to make you gluten free dishes, and it is normally safer to not eat them unless you know that they know how to do it right. No white bread, no spelt bread, no crumbs, no cross-contamination, no flour, no dusting, no breadcrumbs, and seriously no cream of whatever soup. Peer pressure is probably the hardest because generally, you want to make people happy. Generally. Even when you’re eating out, you need to be very firm and not allow gluten on your plate. Some of us have trouble when comments like, “it’s just a little flour,” or “it’s just white bread” are used, because that little bit is horrible. Absolutely horrible. And you will be in pain for hours, if not days. Learn how to stand your ground and not eat food you are even a little iffy about. It’s tough, and you have to learn how to do it without hurting people’s feelings, but you gotta do it.
Conclusion: Eating gluten free can be a tricky journey, but it can also open the culinary doors to things you’ve never tried before! Like seafood, or vegetables you’ve never tried. Heck, you might even figure out how to pronounce quinoa right.