My No. 1 Tip for Navigating a New Gluten-Free Lifestyle

by in Gluten-Free, May 1, 2014

Navigating a Gluten-Free LifestyleLast month I shared here on Healthy Eats that we discovered my daughter is gluten intolerant, and so for nearly a year I have been navigating the new waters of gluten-free living in our house. Since then I have been asked many questions by gluten-free folks wondering everything from whether going gluten-free has made a difference in my daughter’s life (answer is yes, like night and day) to wanting tips on going gluten-free or accommodating gluten-free guests.

I’ll back up and tell you that my initial response to gluten-free cooking was to head straight into my arsenal of recipes (and luckily, I have a lot of them) and start the swapping — corn starch for dredging, gluten-free flour blends for baking flour, tamari instead of soy sauce. While this wasn’t a bad start, it was ignoring an obvious solution, which is my number No. 1 tip for gluten-free neophytes: Start out making foods that are just naturally gluten-free.

If you focus on whole foods that you are in charge of cooking, this is surprisingly easy: think fresh vegetables, fresh fish and meats, herbs, fruit, quinoa and brown rice. Stick with foods you already know how to make (don’t get me started on how many batches of gluten-free pasta I’ve botched — a tutorial for another day). If you need to read a label, maybe just skip the ingredient altogether until you get your gluten-free sea legs, because gluten is hidden in so many non-suspicious-sounding ingredients (malt, yeasts) and foods (rice cereal — who would guess it has gluten?). Keep it simple. You don’t need to re-create your famous angel food cake recipe in a gluten-free version today. Serve an easy gluten-free dessert instead, like poached pears and chocolate.

To get you started, here are meal and dessert ideas for your debut gluten-free meal.

In the comments below, let me know if there are any new gluten-free folks out there. What are your favorite “starter” dishes?

Burrito Bowl, Carnitas, Claypot Fish and Potatoes, Fish Skewers with Basil Chimichurri (pictured above), Fish en Papillote, Flattened Pan-Roasted Chicken, Grilled Chicken Fajita Platter with Grilled Tomato Salsa (serve with corn tortillas or rice), Italian-Marinated Chicken and Potatoes, Picnic in a Jar, Roasted Chicken and Potatoes, Roasted Salmon Greek Salad, Salade Nicoise, Shrimp with Cilantro Pesto, and Sirloin Steak with Chimichurri

Cafe au Lait Pots de Creme, Caramelized Banana Shake, Chocolate Sundae Ice Pops, Fun Fruit Sushi, Honey-Glazed Grilled Pineapple, Orange Supreme Gratinee, Poached Pears with Quick Chocolate Sauce, Sauteed Bananas with Tangy Cream, and Watermelon with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup

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Comments (16)

  1. Eileen says:

    I just fell upon your Gluten free site and I am so excited! I recently found out my 24 yr. daughter is intolerant to Gluten and anything with corn/corn syrup in it. After many doctor, ER visits, and extended time in bed. She went from a vibrant, extremely active and competitive girl to a lethargic, sickly, waif. Now, she is back to her old self rock climbing, snowboarding, running, and whatever else she can find. Going gluten free wasn't as hard as she thought it would be. It is a lifestyle now. Thank you again for sharing your recipes and knowledge!

  2. Pattie says:

    We are new to gluten free… Just found out that our son is severely narcoleptic and the Dr wants us to try Gluten Free for 2 months to see if it helps before putting him on lots of medication. The Dr thinks the sugars in the Gluten are making him crash like an energy drink. He is only 10 years old so the whole family has decided to go gluten free with him so he does not feel alone. All of your information is going to be extremely helpful. Thank you so much for what you are doing.

  3. Shirley Webb says:

    we are having a hard time with gluten free my husband just found out about a month or two ago he has a severe case we are in our sixties please help!!! We will buy something thinking it is gluten free and then figure out its not

  4. Lori says:

    For anyone who is new to gluten free like I am (just started about two weeks ago) try and read the book Wheat Belly by William Davis MD. My body doesn't know how to process the toxins in wheat and I found that book to be very helpful. Also just start googling stuff about gluten-free on the internet.

    The best starter dishes eat lots of fruits and vegetables I love eating salads every day from iceburg lettuce.

    Hope this helps.

  5. frazzieam says:

    Welcome to the gluten free club. I encourage you to use your celebrity and voice through the Food Network to advocate for people with Celiac and Gluten Intolerance. People do not realize how serious cross contamination is and how even just a little bit of flour dust can really hurt the most sensitive of us. The more awareness there is, the better and healthier we will all be. This article is great–I hope you can share information like this on air–not just online.

  6. says:

    Congratulations to you for discovering your daughter's intolerance. This really is good news for her, even though it seems difficult in the beginning. She is really lucky to be diagnosed so early in life. Our family has been gluten-free for over two years. My daughter was 8 when we were all diagnosed (including my husband, parents and myself). The doctors told us it is genetic, and our family is certainly the example. Life is so much better for us! It is astonishing how many health problems we all had, and now, they are gone. All from cutting out gluten.

    I am so glad to hear you suggest eating naturally gluten-free foods, especially in the beginning. I am a culinary grad, was a personal chef, and pastry chef and couldn't agree more. Our first meal after diagnosis was grilled steak, baked potato, and broccoli.

    You have a wonderful way connecting with your viewers and are an inspiration to mothers. Others can learn from your daughter's diagnosis. Best to you.

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