If you or someone else in your household has just been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, Autism or your doctor recommends a Gluten Free diet, the feelings can be completely overwhelming! Even if going Gluten Free is a personal choice, there are certainly challenges along the way. That’s why the G-Free Foodie team has created our Get Started Gluten Free Guide, so the information you need to eat safely and stay healthy is all in one place. Please let us know if we can help you in any other way and search our blogs, restaurant database and recipes for help. When we find another great resource or article, we’ll list it here for you – so check back for guidance & inspiration on your way to a healthy G-Free life!
First, you need to know what Gluten is. Here’s a definition:
What is Gluten?
Gluten (from Latin gluten “glue”) is a composite of the proteins gliadin and glutenin. These exist, conjoined with starch, in the endosperms of some grass-related grains, notably wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten, dried and milled to powder and added to ordinary flour dough, improves rising and increases the bread’s structural stability and chewiness, the added gluten provides supplemental protein to what would otherwise be high-carbohydrate preparations. The protein content of pet foods is also enhanced by adding gluten. When cooked in broth, gluten absorbs some of the surrounding liquid (including the taste) and becomes firm to the bite, so is widely used in vegetarian, vegan and Buddhist cuisines as a meat substitute.
The “Codex Alimentarius” set of international standards for food labeling has a standard relating to the labeling of products as “gluten free”, however this standard does not apply to “foods which in their normal form do not contain gluten”. Gluten is used as a stabilizing agent in products like make-up, ice cream, lunch meats, and ketchup, where it may be unexpected. Products of this kind present a problem because the hidden gluten constitutes a hazard for people with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance: In the United States, at least, gluten might not be listed on the labels of such foods because the U.S Food and Drug Administration has classified gluten as GRAS (Generally recognized as safe). Got that? Yeah, it’s a lot to take in – that’s why we’re here. In short – Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley & rye. It’s cheap, so it gets added into all kinds of products for filler or for stabilization.
Things you need to know:
Our policy for eating foods here at G-Free Foodie is: “If you don’t know, then NO!” It might sound a bit harsh or challenging, but it is FOR SURE better than getting sick or damaging your body. This gets easier, we promise. You will find more & more items that taste good and are good for you, and eating G-Free will become part of life.
Gluten goes by lots of names. Here’s our G-Free Foodie Guide – Ingredient Names for Gluten, so you know what to look for on packages and products.
Gluten hides in other places. Here’s a list of products & ingredients that could contain Gluten. If the product isn’t clearly labeled Gluten Free or you don’t know the source of these products, Don’t eat it! G-Free Foodie Guide – Ingredients that MAY Contain Gluten
Gluten is included in many body care, hair care & make-up products, often as Vitamin E or wheat protein. We have a G-Free Foodie Guide to Gluten-Free Make-Up & Body Care to help guide you, but read the ingredients of all of your personal care supplies.
It isn’t uncommon for people who are Gluten Free to have other allergies or intolerances. You’ll find that many Gluten Free products are soy, nut, egg or dairy free, or that mixes can be made that way. We provide a list of our recipes that are also dairy free (GFCF) and a Guide for Substituting Egg in recipes and Dairy Alternatives too.
We provide a national database of Gluten Free restaurants and a Gluten Free Guide to Fast Food to help you find safe food while you’re out. Your local neighborhood restaurant may be able to help you, as well, but you may have to help them help you! First, you need to become familiar with what you can & can’t eat. Then, have a frank conversation with a head chef or management person at the restaurant where you wish to dine. If you aren’t confident that the staff understands what Gluten is, or that they won’t be making a good-faith effort to keep you & your family safe – leave. If somebody is willing to work with you and wants to make you happy, work with them – or ask them to contact G-Free Foodie, the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America or the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness for more information.
Also, accept that you’re eventually going to get “dosed.” Even well-meaning restaurants make mistakes, and cross contamination happens. Our advice is to inform the restaurant, decide whether or not you’re planning to go back, and dine out again soon. Why go out again soon? Because once you’re feeling better, you’ve got to get back on the horse. No one is happy living in a Gluten-Free bubble.
Establishing a Gluten Free home, or at least a safe home:
First, decide whether your kitchen will be entirely G-Free or “compromised.” A compromised kitchen contains items that are not Gluten Free (this is often the choice for families that haven’t all adopted a G-Free diet.)
Eliminate or Segregate the Gluten in Equipment. If your kitchen is becoming entirely Gluten Free, you’ll need to run everything through the dishwasher, wipe shelves & cupboards clean, run an oven cleaning cycle, and get rid of contaminated small appliances that can’t be thoroughly cleaned (toaster or toaster oven, etc.) If your kitchen is compromised, we recommend all the cleaning steps listed, but then organizing separate drawers and shelves for G-Free items. Some people choose to buy a set of G-Free equipment in another color (all red, etc.) to mark which items are G-Free.
Eliminate or Segregate Gluten in Foods. Now you’ll need to go through you pantry, fridge & freezer to throw out the items that aren’t safe. We recommend keeping a list of Gluten Ingredients and Items that MAY Contain Gluten handy for this project. If your kitchen is compromised, get several permanent markers in a bright color, and mark items that are safe with a large X or other mark so you know they are OK to eat or cook with.
Think about dips, spreads & other condiments. Crumbs like to live in places like peanut butter & mayonnaise jars, jelly & more. If you’re going G-Free, throw them out & start fresh. For compromised kitchens, buy squeeze bottles when possible, and keep a marked container of G-Free spreads that never gets touched by Gluteny hands.
Now check the Bathroom: as we said before, Gluten often lurks in personal care products too. Use your Gluten Ingredients list to eliminate or mark items in the same way you did in your kitchen.
Remember the G-Free Foodie rule: “If you don’t know, then NO!” If you aren’t sure an item is safe, throw it out or don’t mark it.
Here are some links to really helpful information from our friends at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness: