I recently had a friend diagnosed as gluten-intolerant ask for a list of foods she can eat. Happy to oblige, I thought I'd make my list readily available to all of my friends and readers! I would first like to share a quick story of my history and what lead me to a gluten-free lifestyle.
I have battled with my weight since puberty. Summer of 2007 I was severely overweight, and was diagnosed with severe acid reflux and sludge in my gall bladder. I was told to change my diet, and there would be a chance of my gall bladder clearing itself out. I stopped eating fast food, red meat, and anything fried. I also cut out as much processed sugar as possible. By way of elimination, I discovered that I was lactose intolerant. The severe gas pains I experienced nightly went away when I stopped eating my traditional after-work bowl of cereal. That summer I switched to soy milk and cut out ice cream, cheese, and yogurt completely. I was able to avoid having my gall bladder removed, as well as lose about 50 lbs that summer, and mostly maintained that for several years.
Spring of 2012 I was working out and eating a healthy, whole gain diet, but started packing on the pounds again. I had been put on pain management medication for undiagnosed pain and gained 20 lbs in 2 months. After weaning myself off the meds, I continued to gain weight, despite working out several times a week and being extremely conscious of my diet. I gained a total of 50 lbs in less than 6 months. When I suddenly became so exhausted I couldn't stay awake even after 12 hours of sleep, I had my thyroid tested and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
Once I was put on the right level of thyroid medication, my weight plateaued. I continued to eat as healthily as I could and exercise regularly (I was able to run and enjoy doing so for the first time in my life!), but I was not losing any weight.
February of 2013, I was complaining to a friend about how I was sick and tired of always being sick and tired. I told him I always felt run-down regardless of how much I slept; how I always felt like there was a rock in my stomach; how my acid reflux was worse than ever; how I was never hungry because it felt like my body wasn't digesting any food; how I rarely went a day without throwing up; how I was always bloated and passing the worst kind of gas ever. This particular friend has Celiac's, and told me that was precisely how he felt before he was diagnosed. Because I could not afford medical testing at that time, I did an elimination diet again, this time cutting out all gluten. Within a week, my energy levels rebounded, I felt like my food was digesting, my acid reflex had all but disappeared, I was always hungry, I hadn’t thrown up in several days, and I was no longer bloated! Because gluten was the only thing I eliminated that week, I knew it was the culprit, and so am self-diagnosed as gluten intolerant, and have been gluten-free ever since.**
For me, it took the right combination of thyroid medication, diet, and exercise to become healthy again. Last summer I lost 25 lbs in less than 2 months. I was able to have my thyroid medication lowered, and immediately thereafter became pregnant after trying for several years!
For my family and me, being gluten-free does not mean a lot of the "specialty" gluten-free items, although I am thrilled to see so many more options available than there were when I started my gluten-free lifestyle nearly two years ago. What it does mean is a lot of whole foods and preparing our food at home. We avoid fast food, since there is a huge risk of cross-contamination, and we are very careful of what we order at sit-down restaurants.
I also do not believe that a gluten-free lifestyle is necessary for everyone. I have not done much research into the fad of gluten-free, but I have known a few people to try it that it had no effect on whatsoever. However, if you feel it is beneficial, absolutely make the change!
A typical shopping trip for my family consists mostly of fresh produce, eggs, chicken breast, ground turkey, olive oil, coconut oil, rice, and beans. There are two things about this list - one is that all of these things are whole foods and so naturally gluten-free; that is, none of them contain rye, barley, or wheat, which are natural sources of gluten. Second, most of these things can be found by shopping around the perimeter of the store. The aisles are what contain the most processed foods, which are more likely to contain gluten or have a chance of cross contamination during processing. The less processed = the least likelihood of gluten in naturally gluten-free foods.
Other items on my shopping list sometimes include:
Simple condiments, such as mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup, do not generally contain gluten, although I do still check under the ingredients list to make sure. Many other condiments, such as soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, BBQ sauces, marinades, and salad dressings DO contain gluten, or are processed in plants that also process gluten, so be diligent to check under the ingredients list. Even if it does not say that the product contains wheat, I do not purchase unless it specifically says “GLUTEN FREE” or has the Certified Gluten-Free logo of Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). Our local grocery store chain has even started labeling gluten-free food items on the price tag, making them easier to locate throughout the store! I still recommend checking the labels, however, as I recently found several mislabeled items in my store (they were all natural, but not gluten-free).
Living gluten-free does not have to be expensive – most of the above brands are not much more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts – or difficult, though it can take some getting used to. I find the easiest way to stay gluten-free is to meal plan and grocery shop specifically for that. Pinterest has been a lifesaver for me, especially for simple, easy, gluten-free dinners. I plan to share these recipes and a brand-new Pinterest board with you all soon, so stay tuned!
*The author has not been compensated by any of these brands in any way, and all opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the author’s.
**I am not a doctor, or a nutritionalist, and so none of this should be taken as medical advice. This is simply my experience with food and going gluten-free. Please consult your doctor if you are considering making any dietary changes.
Mama Bear of one Baby Bear, Bean, who both love Papa Bear, and live in a crafty, gluten-free cozy den.