Before I tell our tale, let me just state that I am in no way, fashion or form, a substitute for professional advice.  This is just our story and how we dealt with a major lifestyle change for the sake of health. Please consult your physician or dietician for medical guidance.

You’ve just learned that you or someone you love needs to avoid gluten, where do you go from here?

First of all, what the heck is gluten, exactly? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, malt and rye. Back in 2007, my husband, Doug, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and we were a bit overwhelmed. To learn exactly what this diagnosis means, click here.  At some point, you have to pull up the proverbial big girl panties and deal with it and that’s exactly what we did.

We had a wonderful trip of a lifetime planned to Hawaii that year and his diagnosis came just a week or so before we were scheduled to leave; Doug decided to wait until we returned and knew that this wasn’t our typical New Year’s resolution, but it would be something he’d have to adhere to for life.  The long flights did provide time to really get our plan of action in place and once we got back to the mainland, it was on.

We started by looking at the ingredients of each item of our fridge and pantry- looking for the words wheat, barley, malt, or rye and using a sharpie, we marked the ones that didn’t contain those culprits with a big “GF”.  I also did this at the grocery store and would mark items as I unpacked them, so that he would know what was “safe” for him to eat. We quickly learned the typical suspects- soy sauce (or anything containing soy sauce), salad dressing, seasoning packets, and cereal- and of course, the obvious ones, like breads.

This was also a time of learning the hard way that many specifically gluten free mixes and packaged goods were barely, if at all, edible. I still bought them, mostly to squelch the guilt of having something way more appetizing for myself. (More on this to come!)

We were a busy family and had eaten out WAAAAY too often and initially this curbed those convenient runs to the nearest fast food restaurant to grab a quick bite. Then, slowly but surely we learned which restaurants were safe and accommodating and became loyal customers.

As time has gone by, the gluten free fad has brought awareness to the need and now, more often than not, most establishments offer a pretty decent selection. We still have to be diligent and ask questions like 1) are the chips/fries cooked in a dedicated fryer? 2) do you take precautions with utensils and gloves? 3) are the steaks/chops/burgers cooked on a shared grill? 4) can you please leave the croutons/bread/french fried onions off the salad? This was definitely awkward, especially for Doug, who was raised to make every attempt not to inconvenience anyone!

After years of practically apologizing for having an autoimmune disease, we’ve finally come to the conclusion that yes, we know we’re needy and yes, we know it’s a pain, but can you please bear with us? All our friends know that if we’re going out, this is to be expected and to just. deal. with. it. We’ll cover more on dining out in near future posts, today is just meant to cover the basics of getting started.

The next post is about setting up a gluten free kitchen and keeping it that way!