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 Just Plain Good Info......., The Basics

Label Reading 101: How The Heck Do I Find Gluten On Labels?

Head scratcher…………. hmmm, I know I can’t have gluten, so how do I figure out what’s in this?

There are several ways to find out if a product has gluten in it.  Look at the label, check the manufacturer website or call the manufacturer directly.  This post will deal with checking labels.  Many food labels are now clearly marked on the front “gluten free” while others have allergy warnings listed by the ingredients. 

Effective January 1, 2006, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) mandates that the labels of foods containing major food allergens (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soy) declare the allergen in plain language, either in the ingredient list or via:

  • the word “Contains” followed by the name of the major food allergen – for example, “Contains milk, wheat” – or
  • a parenthetical statement in the list of ingredients – for example, “albumin (egg)”

Such ingredients must be listed if they are present in any amount, even in colors, flavors, or spice blends. Additionally, manufacturers must list the specific nut (e.g., almond, walnut, cashew) or seafood (e.g., tuna, salmon, shrimp, lobster) that is used.

Please note that the allergen label law does not cover rye and barley. Fortunately, rye is not used that often in foods, and when it is the label usually says so.  A more common problem is barley and it can be more difficult to recognize on a food label. Sometimes it is listed as barley, barley malt or just malt.  So when checking your labels, make sure you are looking for not only wheat, but rye and barley as well.

Many labels have the mandated CONTAINS with a listing of potential allergens.  If you see CONTAINS:  WHEAT, RYE, BARLEY or GLUTEN then do not eat/use this product.  If you see CONTAINS and it does not list wheat, rye, barley or gluten it is usually ok to eat this product, but check the ingredients to be sure.

Check out this clearly marked label.  The ingredients section says Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat flour…….) then below it also says in bold CONTAINS:  WHEAT, SOY.

It is very clear that you should NOT eat this product if you are gluten free…. it sure would be nice if all products were labeled this way!!

Here are a couple more to give you an idea of what some ingredient labels look like. On the last label  the first obvious allergen is wheat flour, but take a look at the second to the last ingredient – Malted Barley Flour – this is gluten even thought it does not mention it on the CONTAINS marking.

          

The next two show you what a label might look like that does not have the CONTAINS marking.  You can see that there are no specific allergens indicated, both have wheat flour. therefore you cannot have either.

  

Now for the next confusing part to reading labels……what ingredient you are actually looking for.  Not everything will be easily identified as wheat, rye, barley or gluten.  The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network has a great chart I am sharing with you on how to read a label for a Wheat-Free Diet:

Some of the ingredients are obvious to look for but others are a little trickier.  The above chart is for a wheat-free diet.  Don’t forget that gluten free is more than just wheat free!  You should also look for barley (malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley), oats, rye and triticale which is a cross between wheat and rye.  For anything that is caramel or caramel flavored, check ingredients very carefully as many of these items use barley for flavor.

The lower section of the chart lists items that wheat is sometimes found in.  These items should be triggers for you to look further into the ingredients to be certain it is gluten free.  For instance, just about anything you find that has soy sauce as an ingredient will NOT be gluten free unless it is specifically marked GLUTEN FREE.  Why?  Because regular soy sauce is made with wheat.  Many products list starch, but don’t list what kind of starch, it could be corn, rice, wheat or something else.  As a rule of thumb, if the product has one of these trigger ingredients – CALL THE COMPANY TO VERIFY.

Another trigger is natural flavor.  This needs to be explained, call the company to verify that one of these natural flavors does not come from wheat, barley or rye.

This brings me to another point.  When calling companies for gluten free information you will often come upon a person who has no clue as to what they are talking about.  You can quickly tell that they are not at all familiar with allergens, in specific gluten.  Thank them and hang up.  Call back and try to get someone else that is a little more knowledgeable about allergens.  If this happens to you, I would do a little more research on the product before you actually eat it.  

When checking online for gluten information, make sure you look at the date it was updated.  If it is an old date, you might want to call the company instead of relying on just that information so you can be positive the product is gluten free, manufacturers are always changing formulas!  Have the product with you when you call because they might ask for the UPC code.  Sometimes I actually call from the store before I buy certain items.

Instead of going directly to the manufacturer’s site, you can check different online gluten free product searches.  There are a few out there, but here are a few to try:

Gluten Free Overflow has an extensive product listing (over 9,000) and is easy to use.

Celiaccess has a nice search with the ability for people to add notes.

Celiac Society had a good search and a neat bonus – it will show you what is safe and/or forbidden in one list.

I will repeat that each and EVERY label will need to be checked before you purchase something and consume it!  When in doubt, do without.  Better safe than sorry.

Live and Love Gluten Free!!

Posted in Appetizers

DIY Gluten Free Doritos

Today I found a great recipe on the Ditch the Wheat website that I want to share with you.  She calls them Low Carb Doritos.  When you get a chance, check out Carol’s site, she has lots of great info and recipes!!

Ingredients
¾ cup almond meal
¼ cup of flax seed
¼ cup of coconut flour
¼ cup of unsalted butter (can use salted but the chip will be more salty)
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp of chili pepper spice (use more if you like it extra spicy)
1 tsp of onion powder
½ tsp of cumin
½ tsp of paprika
½ tsp of salt

Instructions
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line a large flat baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Mix all of the ingredients in a food processor.
4. Divide the dough into 2 balls.
5. Place one ball between two large sheets of parchment paper. On a flat surface use a rolling pin to flatten the dough.  Flatten the dough to the thickness of a thin cracker.
6. Lift off the top of the parchment paper.
7. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into triangles.
8. Take off any dough leftover from cutting. Place it with the other ball.
9. Gently lift the parchment paper with the cut dough, and invert it onto the baking sheet with the parchment paper.
10. Gently pull the parchment paper off leaving the dough on the baking sheet.
11. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 7 ½-10 minutes. The chips are done when the dough is crispy and light brown.
12. Repeat for the second ball of dough.

Live and LOVE gluten free!

Posted in Gluten Free Recipes, Side dishes

Gluten Free Onion Soup Mix

3/4 cup instant minced onion
1/3 cup Herb-Ox beef bouillon powder
4 teaspoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed celery seed
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Directions:
Combine all ingredients well and store in an airtight container.

Approximately 5 tablespoons of mix are equal to 1 1¼-ounce package of onion soup mix.

To make onion dip: Mix 5 tablespoons with one pint of sour cream.  Great served with some Snyders gluten free pretzels!

This makes approximately 1 1/4 cups.  

Since Lipton Onion Soup Mix changed their formulation and now has barley (gluten) I found this recipe on food.com and adapted it to make your own gluten free version!  I bet this will be much more economical too!!

Herb-Ox bouillon is gluten free and you can find it at your local Walmart!  If you want to reduce your salt intake, I believe they have a reduced sodium version as well.  Your onions, onion powder and celery seed should all be gluten free…..double check your labels to be safe.

Live and LOVE Gluten free!!

Posted in The Basics

OMG! I’ve Been Glutened!! Now What?

It’s gonna happen, no matter how safe you’ve tried to be.  You have accidentally ingested something with hidden gluten or has been cross contaminated and now you are sick.  Ugggh!  Woulda, coulda, shoulda……………yeah………we know……..but it’s done…….now what?

We all have different rituals to heal and feel better and you will have to figure out what works best for you.  Also, don’t forget everyone is different as to how long it takes to get back up and running.  One time I was been better after a day of yuck, another time it took me more than a week!  Depending on what your symptoms are, here are a few ideas to help deal until you can get back to “normal”:

First off, don’t beat yourself up about this.  It happens to all of us and probably won’t be the last time.  It is important to figure out where the gluten came from and make a mental note so that you can steer clear of whatever it is in the future.

Drink lots of water.   It is important to stay hydrated.

Sooth your tummy with some tea.  Pick one or a combo of:  Ginger, peppermint, fennel or chamomile.  Fresh is great, if not dried/teabags will work too.  All of these are great for calming the tummy, relaxing you and helping to relieve spasms, aches and gas.

Ginger – I keep candied ginger around just because and just in case.  Ginger is a wonderful little root that has all sorts of benefits like relief from inflammation, heart burn, nausea, stomach spasms and aids in digestion. Of course if you have fresh ginger and want to use that for your tea or in your food that is even better! 

Eat less and be bland! Sick to foods that are easy to digest, mashed potatoes, rice, soup, smoothies…….  Your tummy is already fighting the gluten, don’t make it work harder by trying to digest dairy, spicy or high fiber foods too.  Give it a day or three of feeling good before you start your regular eating again.

Get in a little exercise.  Key word here…….a little.  Don’t go crazy, but do some stretching or yoga.  Exercise will give you a little more energy and actually helps to detoxify your body.

Activated charcoal can help to alleviate diarrhea, bloating, gas, constipation, abdominal pain, etc.  When ingested, the activated charcoal adsorbs toxins and takes them out of the body before they can be absorbed.  Keep in mind that charcoal will absorb EVERYTHING, including medicines and vitamins you take and move it out before it gets a chance to absorb.  So you do not want to take this for days on end because while you are eliminating the toxins you are also eliminating all of the good stuff too!

Probiotics.  If you are not taking them already, now is the time to take some.  You gut is out of balance.  The “good bacteria” will help to get things back in order.  If you are not on them regularly, then take them till you feel better and keep them on hand.  If you are already taking them, up your dose for a few days.  Personally, I use FLORAJEN which for me works much better than the other ones I’ve tried.

Bentyl.  Before I realized that I was gluten intolerant, Bentyl was prescribed to me for stomach spasms.  Since being gluten free, I keep it on hand and take it when I’ve been glutened and my tummy is not cooperating.  It does not take away spasms 100%, but makes them MUCH more tolerable.

GlutenAid – This is a product at CVS that claims “CVS/pharmacy GlutenAid is specially formulated for individuals who feel unwell after eating wheat or grain and thus may have an intolerance to gluten.”  I HAVE NOT TRIED THIS.  But if you CLICK HERE there is another gluten free blogger that tried it and you can read what she experienced.  Please know that there is no cure for celiac or gluten intolerance.  The only way you can be symptom free is to completely avoid gluten.  This pill may or may not help with symptoms if you’ve been accidentally glutened and is absolutely NOT a pill to take so that you can purposely ingest gluten.  You will need to determine for yourself if you think this is worth it.

Digestive enzymes.  These help to breakdown different foods so that they can be absorbed/processed by the body.  Different enzymes help with different foods.  Some people have found this helps when they have been glutened.  Personally I have not tried this so I cannot say yay or nay.  But I will say again – if you are celiac or even gluten intolerant, this is not something that will “allow” you to eat gluten.

Ibuprofen. This can help to reduce the inflammation.  Please be sure that your brand of ibuprofen is gluten free!

I hope something in this list will help you!  Keep in mind, this too shall pass…….

Live and LOVE Gluten Free!!

Posted in Books and Websites

Gluten Free Product Resources – Part 1

In my never-ending quest for new gluten-free information, I have found two great websites for GF products and or services.  Check these both out (and don’t forget to bookmark them if you like them!), I am sure they will be very helpful.

The first one is Gluten Free Find.

Your most comprehensive gluten-free directory, with “everything gluten-free from A to Z”

Healthy living focused, free and easy to navigate, no registration required.  You’ll find it all here – accessibility, gluten-free style!

Simply click on a city, and then click on a category!

NOTE:  The city area is limited if you are in a rural area like I am, but this is perfect if I should need to make a day trip to Chicago.  Bakeries, spas, manufacturers and more.

The second one is GF Overflow.

GF Overflow is a searchable database of gluten-free products that at the time of this post lists over 9,000 gluten-free products across a broad range of mainstream brands and categories.

You can use our search box to find relevant gluten-free products, or browse our full listings organized by food category or brand.

Results will only show you product matches that have been stated by the manufacturer to be gluten-free. They also provide you with the manufacturer’s gluten policy, website information and contact info.

NOTE:  This is a pretty good site.  Very basic, no pictures or summaries, but information you need.  Once you have found the product, click further to get more details.

Live and LOVE the gluten-free life!

Posted in Product Reviews, Snacks

Glutino – Gluten-free Pretzel Twists

http://www.glutino.com/our-products/snacks/pretzels/pretzels-twists-8oz-us/

This brand was the first brand of gluten-free pretzel that I found.  Because I was a huge pretzel fan I was really happy to have an alternative but there were several unusual things about this pretzel that I wish I could change.  My product review is for their plain pretzels.  Recently these have come in flavors – sesame,  chocolate covered and yogurt covered – I have not tried these.

I am rating it ♥♥ with a score of 12 out of 20.  In all fairness, if I could take the price scores out of this, it would end up being 3 hearts but because this product is so expensive, it reduced its overall rating.

Appearance/size:  These pretzels come in two different sizes, sticks and mini-twists.  They look good although the mini-twists seems to be smaller in size than a regular mini-twist pretzel.  They also look a bit lighter and at a glance appear to be soft.

Flavor:  These pretzels have an odd flavor at first with a definite aftertaste.  They took me quite a while to get used to.  I was never able to pass these pretzels off at a gathering as “regular” pretzels.  A year and a half ago, there was only one other pretzel option that I could find by me (Ener-G)  so instead of going without I “got used to” the flavor of these.

Texture: While they are firm, they are not really crunchy or crisp.  They hold up very well to any dip you wanted to use them for.  But tended to be a bit chewy.   Again for me, something I got used to because I did not have options.

Price:  These pretzels are EXPENSIVE.  For the longest time the only size that was available (in my area) was the family size (about 14 oz I think) and I paid between $6.99 and $8.99 for them.  Wowsa.  Cut back on my pretzel addiction really quick!

Over all, this would be my second choice in pretzels.  The taste will take some getting used to and in my opinion do not look or taste like the ones I was “used to”.  For the price, for me, I often chose chips instead of these particular pretzels.  😦  My suggestion to you would be to check out my review for my favorite pretzel – Snyders of Hanover – Gluten Free Pretzels and see if you can find them instead.

Live and LOVE gluten-free!