Introduction: Tips for Living a Gluten Free Lifestyle

As a disclaimer for my first post, I have only been gluten free for about 14 months, but in that time I have already learned so much about what goes into this lifestyle.  For example, reading labels is key, as is knowing what to do and say when eating out or going to a friend’s house or social event.  It is hard being celiac, but things are getting so much better everywhere. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to be celiac even just a few years ago, before gluten free became a “fad” and grocery stores and restaurants started offering gluten free items.  For my first post, I will share some tips that I have learned about being and eating gluten free.

Don’t be afraid to speak up about it.

I think that a common thing for many people when they first become gluten free is that they don’t want to burden people or make a big deal out of it. I know that I experienced a lot of feelings when I was first diagnosed, like anger, sadness and frustration.  I didn’t want to draw anymore attention to the fact that I had a major eating restriction, but since then I have mostly overcome those emotions and learned to cope with it (somewhat by writing this blog).  It is so important for your health and safety and general well-being to speak up about being gluten free, at restaurants, social events, work parties, holiday parties, dinners, etc.  If you are invited to someone else’s home, inform them right away of your eating restriction and make it clear that you don’t expect them to provide you with food, but that you are happy to bring your own or even help them learn about gluten free cooking if they really want to. If they don’t eat gluten free or have a gluten free family member, it may be harder for them to understand and take proper safety precautions, even if they have good intentions. This is why I often offer to bring a dish or my own food, unless what they are cooking is naturally gluten free, like plain meat, salad, etc. – which sometimes does happen!

Bring your own food to barbecues and holiday parties.

Being gluten free absolutely does not mean that you have to miss out! I had my first holiday season last year being gluten free, but I made do with finding many products at the store.  I had gluten free stuffing and gravy for Thanksgiving. I labeled things gluten free next to the dishes because for most of my family members it was their first time dealing with it. Sometimes people can’t even tell that something is gluten free so you don’t even have to draw attention to it!

Invest in some of your own kitchen appliances and supplies.

Any gluten free person knows that cross contamination, especially in a kitchen, is serious and hard to avoid, especially when living with people that aren’t gluten free. Unless you live alone or have people who also eat gluten free, you probably have to accept that you will always be cross contaminated in some way, unfortunately.  I have my own toaster and also purchased a toaster cover so that I can cover it when I’m not using it and don’t run the risk of someone accidentally using it or crumbs from non-gluten free items falling in.  I also keep some of my kitchen stuff separate, like my colander for gluten free pasta.  I wipe down the counters a lot and make sure the stove top is clean.

Check ingredients in alcohol.

Probably one of the hardest things I had to adjust to was realizing how much alcohol does contain gluten and learning about which kinds don’t.  It was hard at first in a social environment, but I have since learned that there are a ton of gluten free beers and hard cider is gluten free, as is rum, wine, spiked seltzer (certain brands), and certain vodkas and tequilas.  It is not that bad, just a hard adjustment especially when people ask, “Why aren’t you drinking a beer?”

So for anyone that has been (or has a family member or friend who has been) recently diagnosed, follow some of these tips! I know how overwhelming it can feel to delve into this completely new dietary lifestyle, but know that you are not alone and that more and more people are being diagnosed with celiac or becoming gluten intolerant every day.  Although it can be annoying to have a dietary restriction that is considered a fad diet, I am also grateful for those fad dieters that have made gluten free as big as it is.

Chloe Dyer

About Chloe Dyer

Chloe is a senior at University of Maine Orono studying Mass Communication and Political Science. In addition to writing for BDN, she is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus UMaine. She has known about her Celiac Disease for a little over a year and has been eating gluten free as well as sometimes dairy-free. She is from Chebeague Island, Maine, where she grew up, but has also lived in Cleveland, Ohio and Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria in addition to Orono.