Thursday, September 22, 2011

Still Gluten-Free!

Well it's been almost two months and I am still moseying along with a gluten-free diet! I must say it's made a dramatic difference in my life. I'll spare you most of the details, but my bloated belly is gone and I'm no longer getting sick to my stomach multiple times a day. It's pretty liberating.

I met with a dietitian last week and she confirmed that she believes I am doing the correct thing with my diet. I was able to ask her about my concerns, such as any possible deficiencies my diet may have due to lack of gluten-containing foods and the possibility of Krew inheriting my gastrointestinal problems. She was incredibly supportive, and I left feeling all the more certain that I have made the right choice.

I can't lie, avoiding gluten is still sometimes difficult and frustrating, but it's getting much, much easier. I have had very few times where I've been in a situation where there's nothing I can eat to feel satiated. Would I rather have that whole wheat pasta? Do I wish I could chow down on that garlic bread appetizer? Do I want to whine and complain when my husband orders delicious takeout from the local Mexican restaurant? Yes. Most definitely. But I know that withstanding the pressure is not only keeping me healthy, but it's also growing in me an ability to overcome my food cravings, which is something I've seriously struggled with my whole life. (This girl loves to eat!!)

In case there are any readers who are thinking about starting up a gluten-free diet, I thought I'd fill you in on some of my tips and tricks.

1) Find support.
An old friend of mine, Nicole, noticed on Facebook that I was going gluten-free and jumped right in to help. I don't know what I would have done without her. She suggested books, talked through my symptoms with me, and helped me out with restaurant recommendations when I was back in our hometown and had no idea where to eat. I also had another old friend, Sarah, who talked through things with me and offered great support. You can find support through a friend as I did, through Facebook, through blogs, through forums, etc. But definitely find someone who can share in your experiences. It will help you immensely, both emotionally and logistically.

2) Be strict and strong.
You may feel impolite or uncomfortable sometimes, but remember that this is your health (and standard of living, if you get sick like I do) that you are talking about. It is not rude to ask questions to protect your body. Ask what ingredients are in your food when eating out. I know that most of Starbucks' drinks are gluten-free, but when I go to other coffee shops I ask to see their syrup bottles so I can check if they are safe. When in a sit-down restaurant, tell the waiter that you are gluten-intolerant. If they are not sure what food at their restaurant is gluten-free, then order a salad with a vinaigrette dressing (which is typically gluten-free) to be safe (no croutons!). If someone is cooking for you, make sure they are aware of your limitations ahead of time and don't be afraid to tell them that you can't eat something they've prepared. If they act offended, tell them you can get really sick from even a tiny, tiny piece of gluten.

4) Read read read.
I have read books, blogs, forums, etc. A lot. I'm feeling somewhat knowledgeable at this point, but there's always more to learn. I read the book The Gluten Connection and have also done a lot of online reading.

5) Download apps.
There are some GREAT iPhone apps for those who need to follow a gluten-free diet. My favorites are 1) Is That Gluten Free?, 2) Is That Gluten Free? - Eating Out, 3) and Find Me Gluten Free. Between those three apps and Google internet search on my phone, I've found that I'm able to either find a restaurant with food I can eat or determine if a certain food is safe usually within just a couple minutes.

6) Search your local stores.
You'll have to learn what's available at the stores around you. Trader Joe's has a GREAT assortment of gluten-free foods. If you ask someone at the store, they can provide you with the (5-page!) list. (Hint: Products that have a little "g*" on the front are guaranteed to be gluten-free, but not all items on the 5-page list have the "g*". So even if an item doesn't have the "g*", still check the list.) Whole Foods and Fresh Market are other great places to shop. Kroger has many items in the organic section of the store, and Target has many items spread throughout their normal aisles.

7) Search your local restaurants.
Check your local restaurants online or call the venue. Many restaurants are beginning to offer gluten-free options or even provide entire gluten-free menus. If you live in the Triangle area, you can eat at Daniel's, Carrabbas, Biaggi's, Chipotle, Jason's Deli, Bonefish Grill, Brixx Pizza, California Pizza Kitchen, Z-Pizza, and I'm sure many others. As I mentioned earlier, most (but not all) of Starbucks' drinks are gluten-free. (Yay!)

8) Figure out what you can eat and find replacements for your favorite foods that are on the no-go list.
I found substitutions for Oreos (KinniToos, found at Target and Kroger), brownie mix, refrigerated cookie dough, canned soup, penne and spaghetti pasta, egg noodles, and bread (Udi is the best). I also discovered that I can still eat most Baked Lay's, Tostitos (just not the new flavored kind), Chex, Butterfinger, and Snickers, to name a few of my indulgences. There are so many options and work-arounds, you just have to do a little digging and researching until you get your menu established.

So those are my main suggestions for anyone considering or struggling with a gluten free diet. Please feel free to chime in if you have any more advice. :)

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