A couple of months ago, I wrote to you all and shared how our daughter just got diagnosed with celiac disease, and how we were starting a new gluten-free journey.
For those that don’t know what celiac disease is, it’s an autoimmune, genetic disorder where ingesting gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.
Gluten is safe for most of us (despite what many current fad diets say – stating you should give up gluten to lose weight). Unless you have a true gluten sensitivity or allergy, eating gluten is entirely safe (and recommended for good health).
Now, with that out of the way, I wanted to share what I’ve learned since starting our gluten-free journey.
If you’re someone who also has to give up gluten – or has an allergy to a specific type of food, I hope that this email helps you today.
Lesson 1: Find Alternatives ASAP (don’t get deprived)
As you know, my motto as a nutrition coach is #NoBannedFoods. When we ban foods in our diet, we often find ourselves on the binge-deprive cycle soon after.
I didn’t want that happening to our daughter (or us). Right away, we were starting working to find alternatives to all the foods we loved. That meant even cookies, cupcakes, crackers, and other treats. Yes, we always like to focus on nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, but having alternatives for the occasional treat is just as important.
We found most grocery stores have a gluten-free section, and many larger chains such as Whole Foods and Wegmans have even more choices. Besides, you can find many gluten-free foods online.
No matter what allergy you may have, don’t get deprived thinking of what you can’t eat. Find something similar as an alternative.
Lesson 2: Stick With It – Cheats Cause Discomfort
We learned from our daughter’s dietitian that the amount of gluten that would cause her to react is equivalent to 3 grains of sand. While mistakes happen, we have tried our best to stick to a gluten-free lifestyle 100% of the time, which has eased her discomfort.
Lesson 3: Use Apps!
No matter what allergy you may have, there’s an app for that!
For restaurants, we use “Find Me Gluten Free,” which is an app that uses our location to find gluten-free friendly restaurants in our area. This is great for travel as well.
We also use “The Gluten Free Scanner,” which is an app that scans the barcodes on our food packages and lets us know if the food is gluten-free.
Upon searching for my gluten-free apps, I found apps for other common allergies as well. Check out the app store!
Lesson 4: Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions When Eating Out
Eating out has been the most challenging part of this experience, but it’s still manageable. First, look up restaurants online to see if they have gluten-free friendly choices (or whatever food you are trying to avoid). I also use the apps mentioned above to help with my search.
Don’t be afraid to ask the server or the cook about how they prepare their food.
Lesson 5: Change Gloves, Clean Surfaces & Beware of Cross-Contamination
We were unaware of how easy it can be to cross-contaminate our food. Be sure to clean surfaces, request restaurant employees change gloves when preparing your food, and have a toaster just for gluten-free foods.
Lesson 6: Find Support
The support we’ve found has been so helpful. Our doctor and dietitian have been excellent. We’ve also joined online support groups on Facebook and connected with people in our community who are on a similar journey. You’ll find you aren’t as alone as you think.
The best news of all is that after only a couple of months it’s been worth it. Our daughter is feeling so much better, and her doctor feels confident she will continue to improve from here.
If you’ve learned your own lessons from a similar experience, I encourage you to respond to this blog post and let me know about it. Let’s connect.