(This is part one of a series of Gluten Free posts. Look for a post on my favorite Gluten Free Resources coming up soon!)
I've been exclusively gluten free for many, many years. In addition to that my mother incorporated gluten free cooking into our lives even before I went gluten free myself because my sister has a pretty serious case of Celiac that manifested itself when she was a teenager.
My own gluten free journey started when I simply could not get well - I had cold after flu after ache after pain after migraine and underwent the same testing in college and got the same diagnosis. My life completely changed for the better after I took the gluten free plunge and living gluten free turned out to be pretty easy, even in the gluten-free stone age before special marked menus at restaurants and bakeries devoted to gluten free products.
1. Focus on Foods that are Already Gluten Free - This is my number one tip for people when I'm approached by people who are starting their gluten free journey, or are even in the middle of it and are finding it tougher and tougher to sustain the level of prep needed to feed a gluten free child or themselves. When you focus on foods that are already gluten free, like veggies, corn tortillas instead of wheat ones, sushi (if you get the right soy sauce!), and many soups you will find that you have a whole cache of foods that are gluten free without even trying. In fact, I generally think in specific cuisine options - I find Mexican, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian Food and Soups to be the ones we make the most often at home because they are easily modified (again, we use a gluten free Soy Sauce) or don't need to be modified at all.
2. Find the Gluten Free Hot Spots in Your Area - You know your neighborhood, city, or town and eating gluten free can be easier or harder where you live. I live in Denver which has been great for gluten free living! Almost every single restaurant has a gluten free option or two and most people here are familiar with this. But, it was not always so easy, both in the days before gluten free was a thing and in more rural ares. I have lived in Detroit (much harder!) and Milwaukee (Fair to middling, on the upswing!) in addition to Denver and have done extensive traveling around the country and internationally. Make sure you know where the gluten free friendly places are, both where you live and where you're going. This includes restaurants that allow you to "create" your own dish out of things on the menu ("Please give me a plate with fries, a side of fruit, and some of those cheeses you put on your hamburgers, but no hamburger...") or ones that do have a gluten free menu. It's also good to know where bakeries and gluten free friendly grocery stores are as well.
3. Celebrate Being Gluten Free - Being gluten free will give you an opportunity to experience things you wouldn't normally have done and meet people you wouldn't normally run into. Embrace this! I've always been a bit of a dessert connoisseur so when I travel I seek out gluten free bakeries and those often are located in interesting neighborhoods off the beaten path of a city or are tucked away in small towns. My mother-in-law has really risen to the challenge of having a gluten free family member and we've gone to some great ones in quaint little towns around Philadelphia and I can remember one memorable moment where I made my husband pull a U-turn on our way out to the beach from their house because the words "gluten free" caught my eyes on a sign. Tucked in among the dunes of New Jersey was a gluten free bakery in an old stone house from the 1700s with the most amazing Angel Food Cake. If I hadn't been gluten free we would have missed out on that awesome side trip!
4. Always Pack a Gluten Free Snack - It's not always easy to be gluten free, especially when you're traveling. Hunger can strike at any moment and you could be somewhere where there simply isn't any food you can eat, like an airport, a gas station rest stop on a road trip, or a conference or work event you can't easily leave. To fix this make sure you've packed snacks. I generally go almost everywhere with an apple (they hold up well!) a zip lock bag of a high protein snack like nuts, and a packet from my favorite snack company graze. Having a snack means I'm not stressing about being hungry and getting cranky while doing so.
5. Only Buy Pre-made Gluten Free Foods When Absolutely Necessary - The most expensive part of being gluten free are the pre-made gluten free foods. You can spend your entire grocery budget on these things if you're not careful! I find that baking mixes, recipe books, and ingredients are much, much cheaper and budget friendly. I've established, over the years, a repertoire of easy baked goods and I keep a lot of staple gluten free ingredients like cocoa powder, almond flour, corn starch, and guar gum on hand so I can get busy cooking when the inspiration strikes. Learning how to bake your own does involve trial and error - I've had to toss entire batches of things many times before - but eventually you get your go-to things down. My one exception to buying pre-made gluten free foods is a loaf of bread that I pick up every week to two weeks. I just don't have time to make a loaf of bread every week and having that on hand makes packing lunches extra easy!
I hope that this was helpful for you! What other questions do you have about gluten free living that I can help answer?
All photos were taken at the incredible Bloom Bake Shop in Middleton, Wisconsin. Can you believe that every single dessert pictured was gluten free? Many of them were vegan, too! We were there for gluten free wedding cake tastings for my sisters upcoming wedding. Annemarie, the proprietor of the bake shop, was an incredible hostess and an outstanding baker. I haven't eaten a donut in almost a decade and yet she created donuts that were so good I went to sleep dreaming of them!