Posted in The Basics

Gluten Free Shopping

We all know that shopping for gluten free items can really be a time consuming task.  I usually start out in the gluten free aisle, but then venture into the other areas to read labels and determine what else I can add to my cart.

In the Midwest, we have a grocery store called Piggly Wiggly.  There is one right around the corner from my office that I often go into in the morning and pick up a few things for lunch.  When I was there the other day I ran into the owner of the store.  He happily showed me the gluten free product I was looking for and proceeded to tell me that his daughter is gluten intolerant and they had several things in the store that would make shopping easier.  He took me to an aisle to show me how they tag all of the items in he store.  Let me tell you………these are awesome and REALLY help with shopping.  I have actually started doing more of my regular grocery shopping there.

Check out this label in the Antioch,IL store that makes shopping SO much easier.  This shows two different dry taco mixes that are in the regular aisle.  Normally I would read the label for any odd ingredients, scan the label with one of the apps on my phone and possible call the company to see if I could actually use that product.

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Well, lets take a closer look at the Ortega price tag:

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See the GLUTEN FREE logo just above the price?  Piggly Wiggly has their distribution location check to see if the manufacturer has indicated that the products is gluten free.  If they have, the “gluten free” logo is added to the sticker.  The items in the store without this logo on the sticker either are not gluten free OR there is no information from the manufacturer specifically about allergens.

I am sure you can imagine how this can speed up shopping!  I do not know if this is something that all of the Piggly Wiggly’s have done, but the three locations in my neck of the woods (Antioch, IL, Zion, IL and Lake Geneva, WI) all have these tags – if you have a Pig by you, I’d go check it out!!

Live and LOVE Gluten Free!!

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Posted in The Basics

Help! I Don’t Know How To Start A Gluten Free Diet!

Ask questionsYou can do this.  It seems a little overwhelming at first, but don’t think about what you cannot have!  Think about all of the wonderful foods you CAN have and it will be much easier.

To do a gluten free trial or to start eating gluten free you need to start with basics.  Do not overwhelm yourself with all of the “possibilities” that there are.  This is where my blog will come in handy.  I’ve tried to put together what I wish I had known when I first started out, that would have made the process SO much easier.

Please realize that this is a guide, there is so much information, I couldn’t possibly begin to list it all here.  So – I’ve picked out what I think is the important stuff you need to know to do a trial or get started.  As you check labels and become more aware of hidden glutens, the easier it will become!

If you find that a gluten free life IS for you, you can start adding more and more items, especially as you know what ingredients to look for on labels.

If you read my story, I started out with a trial where I would go gluten free for three weeks, note my symptoms and then try to eat something with gluten to see if I would have a reaction.   After seeing a difference in the first week alone and then the disappearance of so many more symptoms in the next two weeks I decided that I would not try to eat gluten again.  Ever.  For me, I knew this was the solution.

Eventually you will find that checking labels will become second nature!  Check all labels, all the time.   What a pain!  I know, but sometimes manufacturers change their recipe and something you bought a couple months ago might now be made with gluten!  😦

What is Gluten?  Gluten is the protein part of the grains: wheat, barley, rye, durum, spelt, farro, graham, kamut, and semolina.  Anything product that has any of these ingredients are no no’s.  Labels can be tricky because when you are checking them they will not say “gluten” as an ingredient.  Look for the grains listed above or malt, malt vinegar, brewers yeast, tricticum, bran, or farina, or any variation of those words.

Words like additives, fillers, spices, caramel color, natural flavors and emulsifier should trigger suspicion.  If the packaging does not say gluten free, then take the time to call the company or check their website to confirm before you try it.  Please see my previous post on how to read food labels.  

Many food labels are now clearly marked on the front as “gluten free”, others have allergy warnings listed by the ingredients.  Many labels have the mandated CONTAINS with a listing of potential allergens.  If you see this type marking and it says CONTAINS:  WHEAT then stay away.  If you see this marking and it does not list wheat you might be ok to eat this product….check the rest of the label for the other grains or suspicious words!

I will repeat that each and EVERY label will need to be checked before you purchase something and consume it.  Better safe than sorry.

Lets start with what you have in your cabinet.  This might take a couple hours, but if you do this it will make things easier.  Have a shelf that is designated GLUTEN FREE ONLY.  Go through all of your foods AND spices in your cabinets and refridgerator.  Check all of the labels, if you can’t tell from the label, check online.  GF OVERFLOW is a great website where you can type in the product name and it will tell you if it is or is not gluten free, when they last checked it AND the link or phone number to the manufacturer.

Get yourself a sharpie or permanent marker.  On the label of the items you determine to be gluten free, mark a big GF or NOT GF.  This way when you go into the cabinet (or someone in your home does), you can be sure that the item is gluten free.  For me this process advanced into stickers………..I printed avery address labels on my color printer with big bold GLUTEN FREE in green or NOT GLUTEN FREE in red on them.  Now when my husband or son is making food for me, they don’t have to worry or second guess their label checking skills!!

The following are basic ideas to get you through the first few weeks.  Don’t worry!  Once you get the hang of this you will be able to add many, many more foods.

No fast food.  There is basically nothing that you can eat at McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC or Pizza Hut – they have gluten in their meats, coating on fries, and in various other places you would not expect.  Stay away! If you can, for a couple of weeks try not to eat out until you are more familiar with what you can and cannot have.

What Can I Have?

All fresh, basic meat that has not been processed – beef, pork, chicken, fish, shellfish. Get good meat from the fresh meat section or butcher – not frozen stuff or stuff that has been prepared with seasonings or preservatives.  Watch out for “fake” fishes – like “crab sticks” – they are made with wheat.

All fresh fruits and fresh veggies are gluten-free. If you can, for the first few weeks stick to fresh.  Frozen fruits & veggies or canned should not have additives; but the labels will need to be checked to be sure.  Stay away from pie filling for now, often these have flour added.

Rice is gluten free. For now stay away from the boxed, flavored ones.  Get regular white rice or brown rice and flavor it yourself!  Check the label of wild rice carefully before using.

Most dairy products are gluten free (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, good sour cream, cheese) – Always check the labels of your dairy products because sometimes they have additives.  For example cheap sour cream has wheat!  But Daisy or Dean brands do not.  Do not assume that ice cream and sherbert are gluten free!  You will need to check the labels carefully to be sure they are OK.  Obviously any ice cream with cookie dough, brownies, cake etc…..will be off the menu!

Eggs are gluten free.

Corn tortillas are gluten free.

Use butter and olive oil (or corn or veggie) to cook in. NO margarine.

Most bacon is gluten free. Some will actually say gluten free.  The problem with bacon is usually MSG and nitrates – both of these ingredients are gluten free, but can cause other problems.

Speaking of breakfast……frozen hash brown patties (those oval ones) usually are NOT gluten-free.  However, Ore Ida has a bunch of their potatoes that ARE gluten free and are clearly marked.  If you are not sure, make them from scratch, potatoes are naturally gluten free.

Majority of cereals are NOT gluten-free.  Luckily there are several flavors of Chex that are gluten free – rice, corn, honey nut, chocolate, cinnamon and apple cinnamon.  Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles (not Puffs) are gluten free.  There are also gluten free Rice Krispies – but you will need find the ones that are marked gluten free, not all stores carry gluten free Rice Krispies.

If you need pancakes (and who doesn’t?!), check out Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix (pretty bag with sunset) is a VERY good mix.  Bob’s Red Mill makes a gluten free all purpose baking mix that makes great pancakes or waffles too.  There is a gluten free Bisquick mix also, but in my opinion not as good as the two I have mentioned.

Syrup – 100% maple syrup is naturally gluten free.  The labels of other syrups will need to be checked carefully.

For now, stay away from lunch meat and processed foods, sausage, hot dogs, wieners, kielbasa etc…. until you have a handle on how processed foods will affect you and you get better used to finding gluten in the labels.

Most regular, no flavor added, corn tortilla chips or potato chips have no gluten.  Watch out when they add flavors – like most of the BBQ or Sour Cream & Onion flavors have wheat in the seasoning – the wheat makes the seasoning go further like beans in chili…..

Check your seasonings in your cabinet for WHEAT, BARLEY or RYE.

Single seasoning like garlic powder, onion powder etc are usually ok. Lawry’s season salt is gluten free – generic brands of season salt you will have to check.

Seasoning blends – check the label.  A red flag is if you see “spices” with no specific listing.  If it does not have an allergy label (bold words that say contains or allergens) call the company or check the website.

Salad dressing………..gotta read the labels! Start with the Paul Newman ones…….MOST of them are gluten free and very good. They don’t usually say gluten-free, but on the label after the ingredients it usually will say CONTAINS: Soy, dairy, nuts…….if wheat is not listed you are probably OK to eat that item, check the rest of the ingredients first.  Hidden Valley Ranch and Wishbone Italian dressings are gluten free at the time of my writing this – but check the label.  Both companies will clearly state allergens.

If you are a chocolate fiend like me……you can have M&M’s, Hershey bars, Reese’s peanut butter cups (not the minis), York peppermint patties, Hershey kisses, Dove, 3 Musketeers, Snickers…… just to name a few, so YAY!  If you have a favorite candy go on GF OVERFLOW to see if yours is listed.  Sadly, Twizzlers are NOT gluten free, but Skittles and Starburst are!

Nuts are naturally gluten free……….BUT you have to watch out because the seasonings/coatings often contain gluten. For the time being, I would stay away from nuts.  Add them later if you continue with gluten free – but do your research.

Coffee is naturally gluten free, so you are good to go with any brewed coffee.  I am not sure about the “cappuccino powder” that they sell in the gas station. You would need to ask them to look at the label.

Tea is also naturally gluten free – be aware that the bags that are stapled are no problem, BUT some of the tea bags are glued together with stuff that has gluten. Most tea will say right on it “gluten free”.  Celestial Seasonings and Stash tea use no gluten in the bags or sealing of them.  Be careful of Lipton tea – they have not made a statement saying they are gluten free and suggest you read all labels carefully.

Flavored liquid creamers like coffee-mate or International house are both gluten free.

Most of the liquid flavors like Torani or DaVinci French vanilla…….are gluten free as well, but you will need to check for your favorite flavor.  Look on their website – Torani shows that French Vanilla is gluten free but the Sugar Free French Vanilla is NOT.  They have a couple others listed too.  For the DaVinci they show all flavors are gluten free except for Dulce de Leche Sugar Free Syrup.

This leads me to one more point to make – the Dulce de Leche is basically caramel.  ANYTHING that is caramel or caramel flavored you need to thoroughly check the label.  If it does not say gluten free CALL.  Caramel is often made using BARLEY for flavor!  So this can be a huge problem. If you want that caramel flavor, go with liquid creamer.

Basic booze – gin, vodka, rum, brandy etc…..all gluten-free! Holla!! Wine too. Be sure to check labels on flavored liquors. Lately there are a lot of flavored vodkas – steer clear of this for now, most of the companies I have contacted so far say the flavoring added may not be gluten free…..so they may no claims on those. You cannot have Malt beverages, so no beer or those Smirnoff cooler things.  There are quite a few brands of gluten-free beer out there.  As far as coolers go, you will have to read labels, for instance Mikes Hard Lemonade is NOT gluten-free………but their light version is and should say gluten free on the label.  Check into Ciders…….most are gluten free and should be marked.  

Most sodas are gluten free.  Double check your favorite.

I have found it a bit easier to make a batch of food I can eat (for example soup, stew, chili or enchiladas) and then freeze single serving sizes for later.  This works out great for me during the week for lunch, I don’t have to spend a lot of time making things each day and I can rest assured that I am eating gluten free.

There……….whew………that wasn’t so bad!  I think I have provided a decent list of items to get you through a couple of weeks eating.  Remember to keep your focus on all of the great things that you CAN have! Good luck!  You can do this!!

Live and LOVE gluten free!!

Posted in GREAT articles to check out

Gluten free a weight loss diet? NO. Check out this article for valuable info!

I saw this awesome article this morning on the Gluten Free Cooking School website.  This was one of the first websites I found when going gluten free and have gotten a wealth of information from Mary Frances and her husband John.  When I read this article, it really sums up so many things that I have wanted to tell people!  So instead of my version – check out what John has to say about gluten free diets!  I’ve left in all of the links so you can research further on your own.  When you are done, head over to their website and check out all of the fabulous information and recipes available and sign up for her cooking school!

LIVE AND LOVE THE GLUTEN FREE LIFE!  😀

Lose Weight, Improve Energy Levels, and Feel Great: Three Variations On The Standard Gluten Free Diet

July 19, 2012 By John

There’s often a lot of confusion about starting a gluten free diet. Most people, when they’re interested in eating gluten free, look up “gluten”, find out that’s it’s contained in wheat, and they figure all they need to do is avoid wheat in their diet. Then they hear that gluten might be in other grains as well, and that it can be a “hidden” ingredient in some foods, so they end up confused as to what they can and cannot eat.

Compounding the issue is the prevalence of gluten free food products that are starting to appear in grocery stores more and more frequently. Are these boxed flour mixes and frozen dinners healthier than a whole foods diet that happens to contain gluten?

So if you’ve heard about the gluten free diet in the news, or a friend mentioned that they’re trying it out, or you read that Miley Cyrus is now gluten free, where do you start? Do you just avoid wheat and eat everything else like normal? Are processed foods bad? Are there any other ingredients that you need to look out for besides wheat?

I think the answer to these questions is contained in the reason that you’re thinking about going gluten free. Let’s take a look at 4 different ways to eat gluten free, and see which one will work for you.

(Quick note: For the purposes of this article, “diet” doesn’t necessarily refer to a weight loss diet. It simply means an overall way of eating.)

SAD minus gluten – This diet doesn’t have a particular name, but it’s what most people try at first when they go gluten free. The SAD, or Standard American Diet, generally consists of 50% carbohydrate, 15% protein, and 35% fat. When people decide to go gluten free, they often unconsciously stick to these amounts, and simply replace gluten-containing carbs with new gluten free carb sources.

Is this a healthy diet? Well, the answer is “It depends.” It depends on your particular situation and your health.

If you’ve just been diagnosed with celiac disease or a similar gluten intolerance, removing gluten from your diet is, hands down, the best (and first) thing that you can do is to improve your diet and overall health. In this case, eating the “SAD minus gluten” diet is not a bad choice, especially as you’re getting your feet under you on the whole GF thing.

(That’s not to say that you should try to eat tons of carbs and nothing else when you go GF. Check out our guide to your first week of eating gluten free to get some ideas of healthy, whole food meal ideas to try out.)

Once you’ve been gluten free for a while, and seen improvements in your health, you may be inspired to continue to improve your health through other dietary changes. Removing common allergens such as milk, soy, and corn are often a reasonable next step. Some of the diets mentioned below may be good choices too.

Can I Lose Weight On A Gluten Free Diet?

If you’re trying a gluten free diet to lose weight, and you keep eating the same number of calories, and the same amounts of carbs, fat, and protein that you ate before, you’re almost certainly not going to lose weight. Removing gluten from your diet is not a magical potion for weight-loss. In fact, we can attest that you can gain quite a bit of weight if you have daily access to delicious home-made gluten free biscuits, pizza, cakes, etc.

That being said, there are weight-loss diets that are gluten free. If you’re looking to increase your energy levels, lose weight, or generally improve your health, then I recommend starting with one of the three diets below.

Slow Carb Diet – Popularized by Tim Ferris in The 4-Hour Body
, the Slow Carb Diet is designed to help you lose weight. The rules of the diet are pretty simple:

Rule #1: Avoid “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains. If you have to ask, don’t eat it.

Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You already do this; you’re just picking new default meals.

Rule #3: Don’t drink calories. Exception: 1-2 glasses of dry red wine per night is allowed.

Rule #4: Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose –> glycerol phosphate –> more bodyfat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are excepted.

Rule #5: Take one day off per week and go nuts. Eat anything that you want (except gluten, if you have a medical reason to avoid it). I choose and recommend Saturday.

Mary and I did the Slow Carb Diet for several months last year and had great results. We both lost significant amounts of weight, and actually enjoyed the diet. The thing that I love most about the SCD is that it is naturally gluten free six days of the week, and the only time you have to watch what you eat (in terms of gluten) is Cheat Day.

If you’ve been wondering why our Cooking School has so many “not good for your” recipes, Cheat Day is the explanation =)

Primal/Paleo Diet – Mary and I are currently on a 30-day trial of the Primal diet, and things are going great. I have a lot more energy when I eat low-carb, and I don’t crave more food a few hours after eating like I used to.

The rules of the Primal diet are somewhat more complicated than the SCD, as it encompasses more than just the diet. Sleep, exercise, and play are also addressed. As far as what you eat, the Primal diet focuses on meat, vegetables, moderate amounts of fruit, and nuts. All grains, dairy, legumes, and refined carbs are out. If you’re interested in reading more about this diet and why it works (which is really, really interesting), then this book
would be a good place to start.

The Warrior Diet – The Warrior Diet is similar to the Primal diet, but with one major change: You only eat once a day. You fast all day (although you can eat some fruit during the day if you’re really hungry), and then eat a huge meal at night.

Ori Hofmekler, the man behind the Warrior Diet, recommends a Paleo diet approach to the foods that you eat – i.e., meats, veggies, and fruit. He also says to focus on protein and fat for your big meal, and finish up with carbs if you’re still hungry.

I wouldn’t recommend that you go straight from the Standard American Diet to this one. Fasting for most of the day is very hard and painful if your body is used to receiving grain and sugar based meals on a regular basis. Now that we’ve been eating Slow Carb/Paleo for 20 months, we can comfortably fast long enough to do the Warrior Diet, and we do follow that plan on days where we are not terribly hungry or when it’s just not convenient to eat gluten free.

Summing It All Up

A gluten free diet, though it can improve your health if you have celiac or some other wheat/gluten allergy or intolerance, will not necessarily result in weight-loss. Some people will lose weight; others will not.

However, there are weight-loss diets that are inherently gluten free. These weight-loss diets are ideal for those who need to be gluten free and lose weight. There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that these diets will improve other aspects of your health. To make it even better, these diets are all enjoyable and do not focus on calorie restrictions. You’ll probably experience carb cravings, but you shouldn’t actually be hungry. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?