A change in your diet is never easy. Often it leads to a complete change in lifestyle. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail at them, but dieting still remains to be something we think about from day to day, whether it be that we’re eating better, or perhaps we feel our diet needs a bit of rehab.
Cutting out sugar, perhaps or cake or chocolate, seems hard enough, but it’s another thing when you suddenly have to cut out of whole ingredient and one that appears to be in more foods than it’s not.
That’s right, I’m talking about gluten. A lot of people think when you say ‘I can’t eat that, I have gluten intolerance’ that we are just being awkward and fussy. But the truth is we dislike saying it as much as you dislike hearing it. We’re not being awkward, we wish we could eat that slice of Victoria Sponge, or that digestive biscuit you’ve so elegantly placed on the saucer of that cuppa you’ve made us. But that fact of it is, avoiding the temptation of saying yes and giving in to gluten is far harder than you may think. Not to mention the nasty side effects we may experience, such as nausea, stomach cramps, acid reflux, and a poorly stomach.
About six months ago I received the news that I may have Celiac Disease, a condition that affects your small intestine. Gluten can be found in wheat, barley and rye. Ah only three things, you may think. Well think again. Take out some food in your cupboard, flip it over and read the back. I guarantee, unless you only eat carrots, nearly all of your processed and boxed foods will contain some form of wheat, or barley or rye. This makes the gluten free diet that much harder, because so much of what we already eat, contains it.
When I first started to go gluten free, I felt rubbish, because I’m going to be honest, I love carbs – who doesn’t? And nearly all carbohydrates contain gluten: bread, crisps, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, cereal, pasta etc. What am I going to do? I thought to myself, there is no way I’ll be able to never eat gluten again. And the thing is, you probably won’t be able to never eat gluten again. But you can moderate it and begin to make a change, even if it’s by taking small steps. I’m still trying to make a gluten free lifestyle work, but instead of cutting out everything at once I am trying to make my dieting lifestyle healthier and easier by following these steps:
- Stop stressing out. An intolerance is not necessarily the same as being allergic. You will not have as bad reaction a if you do slip up on your diet, so calm down. Often conditions such as Celiac or IBS are brought on more by stress than the diet itself, so don’t let the stress of a diet increase your problem.
- Take a hard look at your current diet. Are there things you want to change already? For me, I wanted to cut out more carbs and eat more fruit. As this is something I already planned on doing, it became more about improving my current diet, rather than swapping to a new one. Carbohydrates usually contain gluten, as previously mentioned, but by saying out loud, ‘I want to reduce my carb intake’ rather than ‘I can’t eat gluten’ not only makes the challenge less scary, but also makes you focus more on what you can eat rather than what you can’t.
- Free From foods are ridiculously expensive, and to be honest it feels like a slap in the face. Why am I being punished for having a problem with my tummy by having to pay more? It doesn’t seem fair, but the reason it’s more expensive is because unfortunately it costs more to produce than food containing gluten. However, I discovered that if you buy individual ingredients rather than ready-made Free From foods, it’s cheaper. There are plenty of simple gluten free recipes online. Try making some bread rather than buying it. Not only is it cheaper, but tastes so much nicer. Buying a packet of gluten free bread flour is cheaper than buying a loaf of gluten free bread, and it will make at least two loaves out of one packet.
- Make small changes. Don’t eat everything gluten free to start with. You’ll only miss normal food more. Perhaps start with some pasta and mix it into a lovely tomato sauce. At first I wasn’t sure about the Free From pasta but now I think I like it more than normal pasta and I would choose it over normal pasta. Because I made the changes one at a time and tried different things before I started cutting them out, I grew to like them. I didn’t feel any pressure to suddenly feel used to the tastes.
- Make exciting meals out of food you can have. By enjoying the process of cooking, you feel more excited about what you’re going to eat. Perhaps it’s a meal that didn’t ever need gluten, like Salmon with potatoes and veg. Or perhaps you want to make pizza- spend time preparing a fantastic topping and that way you’ll look forward to and focus far more on their flavours rather than the fact you’re eating a gluten free base.
If you follow these steps you’ll be on your way to having a stress free gluten free lifestyle. Are you going to slip up from time to time? Of course, we’re only human, but remember, don’t stress yourself out. Being gluten free can be fun if you take the time to make it fun.
Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat because it has gluten in it, focus on what you can eat, because it doesn’t contain gluten, it may even lead to discovering new foods that you wouldn’t ever have thought to try. See it as a great opportunity and seize it.
Written by Laura Sexton