How To Transition To A Gluten-Free Diet
Updated: Apr 2, 2019
If you're anything like I was 7 years ago, I didn't even know what gluten was, much less why I shouldn't be eating it, and I certainly didn't know what I should be eating instead! The thought had never occurred to me.
I was the queen of Taco Bell and fast food. I loved Mac and cheese and my weekly grocery list as a single person was Tillamook Cheese, Mac and cheese, hot dogs, milk and cereal. Not exactly balanced and certainly not gluten free. Fast forward to marriage and one kid later, and my husband was breaking out in blisters all over his hands and feet. Tiny, almost invisible, itchy blisters. He had gone to his doctor who told him that he should be using a steroid cream, but basically it was a form of eczema that was genetic and wouldn't go away. These blisters would sometimes get infected, and become super painful, limiting his ability to walk and use his hands- which was not an option for his line of work.
I began to do some research (surprise surprise), and found that it was called dermatitis herpetiformis, which according to the National Institute of Health, is a manifestation of gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, and can sometimes be a reaction to dairy. He refused to give up dairy, but we as a family eliminated gluten. So many of my first borns behavior issues mellowed out, I was sleeping better and less foggy, and my husbands itchy hands went away.
YAY for all those benefits! But boy was I overwhelmed when I first began to understand how much of our diet contained gluten. I was shocked at how expensive gluten free foods were, and unsure how to navigate those changes. What once was a short and sweet trip to the grocery store became LONG and painful as I learned how to read every label. Most experts say that you should shop the perimeter of the store where the vegetables, fruits, and meats are- lets just say the perimeter and I were not well acquainted.
In order to make this overwhelming switch as simple and stress-free as possible, here is what I recommend:
Have someone watch your kids or go to the grocery store after bedtime so you aren't in a rush and can focus on getting familiar with reading labels without little people screaming in your ear or demanding snacks. Soon you will be able to easily identify which brands are gluten free and it will be much easier.
Buy yourself a treat- a warm coffee or tea, to reward yourself for the task ahead (I know this sounds crazy, but it really does help!)
It is easier if you focus on purchasing gluten-free replacements for your favorite gluten items like bread, waffles, pasta before moving to a more Whole Foods diet that tends to be a little cheaper. It gives everyone time to adjust and you are likely to be more successful if you let yourself have the things you are used to first.
Pick a few staples that you can't live without and swap them for gluten free options. For example, swap a box of waffles for Vans or Trader Joe's gluten free waffles and your kids wont likely even notice. There are so many awesome gluten free options out there! Franz makes an amazing gluten free white bread, Vans makes some delicious gluten free waffles, Simple Mills makes excellent cookies, etc...
Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk in general will save you money because you aren't paying as much for packaging, but this is especially true when you are switching to a gluten free diet. Costco or Sams Club has great wholesale prices on bulk items.
Know that it may be an adjustment to your budget, and that may mean having to cut out some non necessities like Cable TV, your daily coffee run, etc. But it will pay off in the health benefits you receive, getting sick less often due to your immune system not being constantly triggered, less money spent on doctors visits or missed work due to sickness, etc.
Make friends with Pinterest. Seriously. Gluten free diets are so common now that there are literally THOUSANDS of recipes being shared! Pick one new recipe a week to try for your family. Know that adjusting to new foods may not be pleasant or welcome, especially for littles, but they will eventually adjust.
In a nutshell- give yourself LOTS of grace to feel all the feels associated with making such a huge dietary adjustment. It takes approximately 6 weeks to feel the difference once you have cut out gluten, but many people experience those benefits sooner.
Happy Grocery Shopping and make sure to subscribe to my blog here so you don't miss my up-coming post all about WHAT to eat when you've cut out gluten!