Have you just been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance? Are you feeling overwhelmed? It can be hard to know where to start. After reading my Start Here page, the first thing to learn is how to eat gluten free at home. Then you can concentrate on how to safely eat out gluten free.
It's usually difficult to accept that we must completely eliminate gluten. Although celiac disease and gluten-intolerance are not technically allergies, they are similar in that the body will react to a very tiny amount. There's no such thing as eating gluten in "moderation" or "cutting back" on gluten if you've already developed an autoimmune response to it. We wouldn't be careless with peanuts around someone with a peanut allergy, now would we?
Let's start by eliminating gluten at home. Your home should be your haven, the place where you feel safe and comfortable. If cooking at home is new to you, with practice you'll learn some time-saving tips.
On the other hand, I realize that you may share your home with others who don't need to eliminate gluten. There are three ways you may choose to navigate this.
1. Completely Gluten Free Home
Some people completely eliminate all gluten from the home. Other family members agree to eat gluten free while they are at home. They only eat gluten when they go out. No gluten ever comes into the house. This is the most comfortable situation for the gluten free person. They can be relaxed and free to eat whatever they like within their own home. However, this may be too much to ask of those who don't follow a gluten free diet.
2. The Segregated Home
Many people approach their gluten free diet by getting a separate set of clean new utensils to be used only in gluten free food preparation. This would include a second set of skillets, cutting boards, wooden spoons, rolling pin and a separate toaster. One cupboard is dedicated to the purely gluten free food and baking supplies. Ideally, there is a special area of the kitchen dedicated to gluten free food preparation. If food containing gluten is prepared in the kitchen, it's very difficult to keep it from affecting the gluten free person. Flour dust could land in the tea kettle!
3. The Gluten Free Kitchen
The third option is basically what I follow in my house. Two of us live there. I am gluten free, and my husband is not. Only gluten free food is prepared in my kitchen. When we entertain, I serve everyone gluten free food.
My husband will bring home some prepared, packaged foods that contain gluten. It's easier to keep this separate than it would be to keep gluten food preparation from contaminating the kitchen. He has learned to be careful not to open the outside food up near my food. He only inserts a clean knife into butter, peanut butter, and any other condiments. I wash the racks of our toaster oven before I allow any of my food to touch them. We carefully clean any area where he has opened and eaten his glutenous food.
There are little toaster bags that you can use to contain your food in non-dedicated toasters. I keep one with me when I travel, so I can use it in other people's toasters.
Once you've decided which method you will use to keep your food safe, you'll need to sort through what's already in your kitchen. Throw out or give away anything that contains gluten, or at least move it to a separate place, so that gluten free food is not stored side by side with gluten containing things.
Of course, single, fresh fruits and vegetables are gluten free. So is plain meat. It's the packaged food that you'll need to be wary of. Go through all packaged foods and read the labels. Many different big words on ingredient lists can indicate the presence of gluten. It can be confusing and a lot to learn. That's why I created the Gluten List for you. It's a free downloadable list of alphabetically-arranged names of ingredients that might indicate gluten is lurking. When in doubt about something you see on a label, you can look it up on the list.
Gluten Free Flours
Once you've cleaned out your pantry, it's time to start exploring the world of gluten free flours. Choose two or three to start with. Gluten free baking works best with specific combinations of flours rather than simply replacing wheat flour with only one gluten free flour. Some flours are better for some jobs than others. That's why I name specific flours to use in my recipes.
Gluten Free Travel
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How is your journey going?
How do you handle eating gluten free at home? What are your biggest challenges?