Going gluten-free is a process that takes time.
The first thing you need to realize is that there isn’t anything that tastes like wheat bread. Don’t try to find something that does because other grains taste different. Be ready to embrace other tastes that may taste good to you. You will have to grieve the loss of bread as you have known it.
The next thing to understand is that if you want this to be a lifestyle change, it is a process that will take place over a year or so. Don’t assume that in a month you will have figured this all out. You will overwhelm yourself and quit. Work at learning and beginning to substitute something each week and try your best. You will miss things at first or forget things. That is natural to learning anything new. Be gentle with yourself.
This is an adventure to find the gluten-free (GF) products that you like. Begin to explore the obvious first. If you eat sandwiches regularly, then find a GF bread that you like. If you like pizza, try different crusts to see what you like. Some things will be in the frozen food section. I found that if I bought frozen GF bread, kept it in my freezer, and took out only what I needed, then it stayed fresh. Most GF products don’t have the additives that keep them fresher longer. So be ready to eat them right away or seal them well and keep them frozen until you use them.
Start with prepared mixes or frozen or fresh-baked products. There are breads, rolls, muffins, and more from Essential Baking Company, Rudi’s, Izzio Artisan Bakery, and others. There are some local companies in your area. There are several companies that have put together GF products and mixes for cakes, muffins, cookies, breads, pancakes, or waffles, such as Namaste, 1-2-3 Gluten Free, Simple Mills, Craving Place, Bob’s Red Mill, Pamela’s, Barbara’s, etc. You can find the tastes that you like. Also, see my list of products in “Gluten-Free Products I Really Like” for more ideas.
Where to Look
You can find some gluten-free products in the Northwest at PCC, Whole Foods, Janell’s GF Market, some QFCs and Fred Meyers, GF bakeries, etc. Most stores that carry GF products have labels that identify them as such or have a section for GF foods. Google what you want and the area you live in, and you will get ideas. It isn’t difficult. You can also order online products from some companies, such as Namaste (my favorite flour and cake mixes). If you find a product you really like, you can ask your local store to carry it and it might try it out.
The Celiac.com website has a lot of information that is helpful. Go visit and learn and grow in your knowledge. Learn the grains that have gluten and print a list that you can take shopping. Learn the hidden forms of gluten in the ingredients lists. Take your time, and don’t try to stuff your brain with information. The website will be there. Stop when your brain feels full, and don’t overwhelm yourself. Set aside some time each week to learn.
Finding Hidden Gluten
Begin to read labels for GF grain‒based products, including malt and modified food starch. Look in your cupboard and refrigerator for any prepared products and read the labels. Don’t automatically toss them, but begin to look for substitutes in the store. When you find one you like, then toss or give away what you have in your cupboard or refrigerator that has gluten. Waiting to toss until you have a replacement will help you avoid feeling deprived.
Most major manufacturers will have cross contamination in their products because they process GF grains without cleaning away the gluten-containing grain on their machines or in the air. GF grains need to be processed in a separate facility to be truly gluten-free. So assume gluten-free grains like oats that are offered by your old companies are contaminated and go for Bob’s Red Mill oats that say they are GF. Bob’s has both GF and non-GF, so read the label!
If a product lists spices but not every individual one, then you can’t be certain that it’s GF unless it says it is. McCormick is good about labeling if a product contains whey, gluten, etc., so its spices are a safer try. You can always email or call the company and ask if the product contains any gluten. If they don’t know exactly what you are talking about, assume they aren’t a safe try. Again, the celiac website has helpful information.
Once you have some substitutes in place, you may want to begin cooking and baking GF. There are many cookbooks available. See my GF Cookbooks list. But take it slow. Try one or two cookbooks. I went to the library over a year and checked out GF cookbooks. I tried a few recipes, and if my family or I liked them and I saw enough other recipes I wanted to try, then I bought the book. Otherwise, I would copy the few that we enjoyed. That way I didn’t waste my time or resources on what I wouldn’t use. You may have to try a recipe several times tweaking it each time before you get what you want. I don’t always have time to make muffins, so I tried different larger pans and cooking times until I got what I wanted.
In the greater Seattle area, Puget Consumers Co-op (PCC) offers classes on GF cooking regularly, and Bastyr University sometimes has classes. Again, Google what you want and include your area to see what’s available.
Realize that over time your taste buds will change as your body chemistry changes. You and your family will enjoy different things from what you used to enjoy. Your body will generally feel better if you are an O blood type because those with that don’t metabolize gluten (or dairy) well. And you will probably lose weight without trying. If you have reacted to gluten, you will lose the stuffy nose or stomach issues. It took me about a year to fully heal my digestive tract so that I didn’t need to take B vitamins every day. So, although GF products cost more, I save money on supplements. And I got rid of a lot of gas.
As with anything new you do, you will get more proficient over time. At different points, you will realize how much you have learned or how much better you have gotten at something. Celebrate those times. And you will feel better physically. Congratulate yourself! If you look at changing to a gluten-free diet as an adventure in tastes, you will enjoy the process more.