Thursday, February 13, 2014

Living Gluten Free: Getting Started

Several people have contacted me or approached me after my recent blog post about what I eat and how to start a gluten free lifestyle.

I figured it was easiest to share a few tips on the blog so those people can refer back to it if need be : )

First off I would just like to say that going gluten free is not for everyone. It is not a cure all and it is not a magical weight loss solution.

For me, it was a means to improve certain ailments I was suffering from. For me stiff joints, digestive issues, and headaches were all things that were eliminated by cutting out gluten. Some other unexpected benefits have been clearer vision, clearer mind, less moodiness, and fewer cravings for carbs/sugar. So with that being said, it has been more than worth it for me and if you feel like you may benefit from this lifestyle change I say go for it!

If you think there is a possibility you may have celiac disease, please get tested by your doctor before eliminating anything from your diet. You want to be eating it when you get tested for it for the results to be accurate.

I do not have celiac disease and have been tested twice. The first few times I attempted to go gluten free (2 years ago), the negative test result gave me permission (in my mind) to slowly start eating gluten again. And even though I felt ok at first, it didn't take long for the old symptoms to return and for more problems to be added.

In June of 2013, I finally started listening to my body. I was having pretty severe joint pain and headaches and I knew that wasn't normal. I noticed that after just a week of eliminating gluten, all my pain was gone. I found this shocking, scary, and awesome all at the same time. This time around, eliminating gluten was not about losing weight and being disciplined enough to avoid bread but rather it was about improving my overall health and eliminating some pretty scary symptoms.

I have to be honest, it's not an easy road at first. Depending on the amount of carbs/gluten you currently eat, chances are good that you'll have some pretty serious cravings for bread products initially. This will go away after a week or two, I promise. You just have to get through will pass! It is easy in the beginning to miss all those delicious bready items you once indulged in regularly. I have found that focusing on all the wonderful things I can still eat has been key for me. If I get caught up on feeling bad that I can't eat Papa John's pizza dough anymore or a burger with a bun, it would send me into a negative spiral. I have been there before when I tried eating gluten free previously and it is not helpful at all. There are so many healthy, delicious, and incredibly filling things you can still eat and if you focus on those you will soon forget about those things you used to love. Eventually, after you've been eating gluten free for a few months, you'll find if you get a bite of something you used to indulge in, you'll be surprised that it doesn't really taste all that great after's just what you were used to and comfortable with.

I also have cut out most processed foods. I will occasionally eat tortilla chips, pre-made pizza crusts etc. but for the most part I try to avoid anything processed and eat whole foods. In the beginning of this journey, I was all about the gluten free packaged products and that was a great way to wean myself off eating foods you are used to in a gluten free form. Eventually you can try eliminating the pre-packaged stuff when you're ready but be kind to's a lot to learn and change!

You'll notice in my pantry items and sample menu that I don't include dairy. I have cut almost all dairy out of my diet as well because I have found I don't feel great when I eat that either. I will occasionally eat cheese but usually at the cost of feeling pretty yucky afterwards.

So let's get are my staple pantry items. I am a big fan of Trader Joe's so you'll see a lot of items listed from there. It's reasonable and wonderful and it's my main grocery store. I also get a few favorites from Super Target, Amazon, Kowalski's, and Tailor Made Nutrition.

Grocery Items

Trader Joe's:

  • Greens (spinach, lettuce, etc.)
  • Fruits (apples, pineapple, bananas, etc.)
  • Peppers/Onions
  • Avocados
  • Herbs (especially cilantro)
  • Ginger
  • Potatoes
  • Organic, Free Range Eggs
  • Meats (Organic, Free Range Chicken breasts/thighs, grass fed beef, pork, etc.)
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Brown Rice and Quinoa Pasta
  • Tri-color quinoa
  • Brown Rice
  • Arrabiatta Sauce
  • Organic Olive Oil
  • Organic Maple Syrup
  • Canned Coconut Milk
  • Spices (any and long as they are gluten free)
  • Frozen Fruit (I love the organic pineapple, mango, strawberry, and banana combo back)
  • Fresh orange juice and carrot juice
  • Fresh pico de gallo ('s not too spicy I promise!)
  • Hummus
  • Gluten Free Oats
  • Chia Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Tortilla Chips (occasionally)
Super Target:
  • Applegate Naturals Chicken Apple Breakfast Sausage (amazingly delicious)
  • Applegate Naturals deli turkey 
  • Mini sweet peppers (amazing with hummus, guacamole, and with eggs)
  • Simply Balanced Frozen Organic Veggies (best price on organic frozen veggies: broccoli, corn, etc.)
  • Gluten Free Baking Mixes (for a special treat and if you aren't up for making gluten free goodies from scratch just yet...King Arthur's Flour is a great brand)
  • Organic Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
  • Free range rotisserie chicken (a great go-to for a quick meal, salad, etc.)
  • Organic fresh veggies for juicing or eating
  • True Dough frozen pizza crust (locally made and the best tasting pre-made dough I've can also make your own!)
  • Other gluten free options...they have a great selection!
  • Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil (I never thought I'd like coconut oil but I go through it by the tub now and only use olive oil on cold/room temperature price I've found by far!)
  • Nutiva Hemp Protein Powder
  • Amazing Grass Wheatgrass products (great addition to any smoothie...great natural energy)
  • Coconut Flour
  • Garbanzo Bean Flour
  • Almond Flour
  • Ground Flax (All flour is Bob's Redmill)
  • Coconut Aminos or Liquid Aminos (good soy sauce alternative)
  • Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar

A local honey distributer that we get all our honey from. We no longer bake or cook with refined sugar. Honey and maple syrup are a great substitute! We love the raw wildflower honey, the vanilla spoon honey, and the hot honey which is good with chicken : )

This is a fabulous store in Woodbury that is an all gluten free grocery store. It is a great place to go when you are first starting out on your gluten free journey. They do sell a lot of processed gluten free foods so I don't shop there too often but it's a great starting point!

An all gluten free bakery in Eagan. They have tasty cookies, cakes, pancake mixes, and take and bake pizzas! I have only tried the pancake mix and the cookies but they were both amazing!! (Monster Cookie...holy balls!)

Hopefully the list above can help you to make your grocery list. You certainly don't need to go to all those stores to get your shopping done but it's what works for me. On a regular week I will always go to Trader Joe's and Super Target and only occasionally go to Kowalski's. 

Here is a typical menu for my day as well. I plan to post some other helpful cooking tips, recipes for smoothies, and more but I will start with the menu : )

  • Two Eggs Fried in Coconut Oil with sauteed spinach, peppers, and onions (I also add turmeric, crushed red pepper and whatever other spices strike my fancy)
  • 3-4 Applegate Chicken Sausages
  • Tea or Coffee and Water
  • Smoothie (it's always green...either from wheatgrass or spinach...but it's delicious, I also always add chia and flax seeds)
  • Salad with veggies, chicken, avocado (dressing is olive oil with sea salt and crushed red pepper or olive oil and apple cider vinegar mixed)
  • Fruit (if i'm hungry enough)
  • Meat
  • Veggies
  • Quinoa, Rice, or Quinoa/Brown Rice Pasta
Sometimes I eat more and sometimes I eat really depends on how I feel. I do not count calories I just listen to my body and ask myself if I am truly hungry. I eat slowly and stop before I am full. Sometimes we eat a small salad for dinner if that's what we want...sometimes we eat a plate of's all about listening to what we want and need at that time. If I overeat or eat something I am not proud of I move on and do better next time. No need for shame! (And if I can have this attitude anyone can...I used to be the queen of shame and falling of the wagon after one bad meal)

I also try to have snacks on hand like power balls, granola, fresh fruit, hummus etc. in case I am hungry but not for a full on meal.

 I also do not fear fat. I use a ton of coconut oil and incorporate all sorts of healthy fats into my diet (like avocados and nuts)...and I truly feel that it helps me stay full longer and has helped me lose more weight than I would have otherwise. 

So those are the basics of my gluten free life. I am proud to say that I never feel deprived, disappointed in my dietary "limitations", or like I am on a diet. I eat tons of incredibly tasty food. It is possible to live a healthy and wholesome life even if you grew up eating only macaroni and cheese and hot dogs as a kid and mozzarella sticks through your teenage years (and early twenties who I am I kidding?)...that was me! 

I am more than happy to answer any other questions you may have but I wanted to have a good starting point. I hope you found this helpful!

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