Category Archives: Getting Started

Keep It Simple

I know there are wonderful specialty gluten free mixes and crackers and cookies and frozen treats out there.

I just can’t afford to buy them.

As much as I can, I choose naturally gluten free food to feed my family, and I shop at my regular old grocery store for most items.  There are whole sections of the grocery store that are generally gluten free (dairy, meat, produce, drinks, canned veggies condiments), so I focus on the things that I can eat and not on what I can’t.

I make an occasional trip to Sprouts to supplement my normal grocery store purchases, and I stock up.  I buy nuts and whole grains from the bulk bins which I grind myself to bake flatbread and muffins or just eat plain as side dishes of brown rice or quinoa.  I buy a cake mix and a pancake mix to have on hand in a pinch, and I buy several packages of GF pasta.  That’s it!

I’ve learned that food tastes much better this way too.  The more I focus on simple, unprocessed eating, the better it tastes, the better is it for me, and the better it is on my budget!

 

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Dairy-Free and Casein-Free

DSC_0596Cutting out dairy in addition to gluten can be a real challenge.  But, there are some great substitutions you can make, so that you can still make most recipes work.

For recipes with cheese, I just cut it.  (heehee!)  No really, I just leave it out.  I never knew that nachos (piled with beans, tomatoes, salsa, etc..), pizza, enchiladas, and sandwiches could still taste great without the cheese.  It seems like cheese is the main player here, but really it just bosses the other ingredients around and bullies itself to the main stage.  Once you get it out of the way, you can appreciate all those other ingredients better, and that’s really a self-esteem boost to those other foods.

For a milk replacement in baked goods, I like to use Vanilla Almond Milk (sweetened) by Almond Breeze.

For a spreadable butter, I use Smart Balance, and for baked goods, I cook with a vegetable shortening by Spectrum.

For CHOCOLATE, you’ll need to stay away from milk chocolate, but you can eat some dark chocolate.  They also have dairy-free chocolate chips that are very good, made by Enjoy Life, which you can buy on Amazon and bake with or eat by the handful right out of the bag.

There are soy-based products for most things too, but they are so expensive that I just decide to do without.  I find plenty of other things to eat, which is a true strength of mine.  I have great talent in eating.

As with gluten, if you are eating casein-free, you need to pay close attention to hidden ingredients.  With the new allergy labeling laws, most things are clearly labeled that contain milk.  Sometimes it’s weird stuff too, like Cool Ranch Doritos.  Also, when eating out, you’ll need to find out what ingredients they use, especially if they cook in butter or add milk to a sauce.

It does add a more difficult component to do both gluten and dairy free, but it can be done.  And for about 30% of those with gluten intolerance, it needs to be done, because they also have dairy intolerances.

If you have been gluten-free for a little while and still have some health issues going on, you might try cutting out dairy as well.  It just might be the next step you need.  Good luck!

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A Trip to the Grocery Store

I took a field trip to the local grocery store, to show all the choices we have in what we can eat.  Every aisle had something gluten-free on it, even the bread aisle, and sometimes whole sections of the store had foods to choose from.

DSC_0569First stop:  the Deli, where most cheeses and deli meats are OK.

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The Bakery.  Hold your breath and walk quickly.  There is nothing for you here.

DSC_0574Fresh Produce!

Take your pick; it’s all gluten free, and it’s all good for you!  Spend lots of time here!

DSC_0587Snacks!  All I can say is God Bless Frito Lay!

Tostitos, Fritos, Plain and Baked potato chips, Cheetos, Plain Ruffles, most Doritos (not nacho cheese) and also many but not all of the flavored chips are gluten-free.

We try not to make chips a staple, but it sure is nice to be able to eat them, especially for things like team snacks, traveling, etc.  They are so easy to find, and they seem so normal!

DSC_0593And now we get to the evil bread aisle.

But wait!  There is a spark of hope.

Grab some corn tortillas and some corn tostadas (crispy flat shells) and run away without looking back!

That bread doesn’t deserve you anyway!

DSC_0596See this lovely Dairy section?

Pick whatever you’d like!

(but check the ingredients first, there may some sneaky gluten in here even though I’ve never seen it)

DSC_0597the Drink aisle….

soft drinks?  Check!

juices?  Yep!

coffee? tea?  It’s all good!

DSC_0586The Grown-up drink Aisle…Have your fill!

DSC_0584But then there’s this.  Sorry, friends, but you must flee from the beer.  There are gluten free beers available, just not here.

DSC_0599Canned Foods:

Be a little careful here.  If it’s just a plain fruit or veggie, you’re OK, but stay away from the seasoned ones.  Most of the canned beans are fine too.  You can even have most canned tuna, chili, or baked beans.  These get a little tricky with reading ingredient labels, so check carefully.

On the right side of this aisle, you could pick up some dried beans, unseasoned rice,  Jello, pudding, marshmallows, applesauce, or raisins.

DSC_0602This is the cereal and breakfast aisle.  Ignore all other cereals, and go straight to the Chex.  The gluten-free varieties are labeled clearly.  You can also use the recipes on the boxes for yummy snacks.

Next, find the Nature Valley “Almond Crunch” bars.  I carry these with me everywhere to have something to eat anytime I’m out and get hungry, which is actually every time I’m out.

DSC_0580And look!  This store even had a “Natural Foods” section where I found GF oatmeal, GF pasta, and even some GF baking mixes!

I didn’t buy any, because they are much cheaper at my local Sprouts or on Amazon, but it’s good to know they carry them in a pinch.

At this point, my happy photographic field trip came to a bitter and immediate end, when I saw a large, angry  fellow marching up the aisle in my direction.  Turns out, Kroger does not smile upon nice customers who just happen to like taking photos of their shopping experience.

And that’s a shame, because now I can’t show you these:

The Meat Department, where you can buy anything that isn’t pre-seasoned or marinated

The Cheese and Lunchmeat section, where almost everything is safe to eat

The Condiment aisle, where peanut butter and jelly, mustard, ketchup, mayo, pickles, and olives can still be your friends

The Frozen section, where you’ll find ice cream and Ore Ida french fries

The Baking aisle, where the chocolate chips and Betty Crocker GF mixes for cakes, cookies, or brownies are calling your name

The Candy aisle, where you can cheer for Snickers, Reeses, Hershey’s bars, 3 Musketeers, Butterfingers, Skittles, Twizzlers, … Most candy is GF.  Just watch out for the obvious cookie ingredient (Twix) and “barley malt”

So, now your cart is full of good things to eat, all from your local store, and my camera’s card reader is full of illegal images from mine.

Happy Shopping!

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What Can I Eat?

DSC_6685Most people begin the gluten-free lifestyle the same way.  In a panic over what they CAN’T eat anymore, they rush to the nearest health food store and buy lots of expensive mixes to replace their favorite foods.  They bake their gluten-free pizza crusts, bread mixes, brownie mixes, and pancake mixes, only to discover that they taste very different from what they’re used to.  The grief sets in, and they cry, “I’ll never be normal again!”

Instead of focusing on all the things you can’t eat anymore, set your taste buds on all the foods you already eat that are just naturally gluten-free.  It’s not that you’ll never have bread, pizza, cookies, and baked goods again, it’s just that in the beginning, you’re going to take a little break.  In time, you will find a gluten-free replacement for almost everything you ate before, but for now, let’s focus on what you’re doing right already.  It’s cheaper, it makes you feel more normal, and it gives your taste buds some time to adjust to some new flours you’ll be enjoying in baked goods.

You are already eating many gluten-free foods.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, deli meat, potatoes, rice, corn, milk, yogurt, cheeses, sour cream, butter, some ice creams, eggs, beans, corn tortillas, crispy taco shells, condiments, peanut butter, jelly, Jello, Chex GF cereal, chocolate, many kinds of chips, salsa, Ore Ida frozen french fries or tator tots, etc… are all OK to eat.

That means you can still have eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, fruit, corn grits, or yogurt for breakfast.  Lunch could be a grilled chicken salad, nachos, a veggie quesadilla in a corn tortilla, deli meat and cheese in a lettuce wrap, tuna salad, or peanut butter and jelly spread over a rice cake.  For dinner, steak, a baked potato or rice, and veggies work well.

Learning what to eat will take some time and adjustment, so start simply, take it a step at a time, and most importantly, remind yourself that by eating gluten-free, you get to feel healthier just by eating the right things.

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Welcome to Easily Gluten Free!

Hi!  Welcome to Easily Gluten Free, a place dedicated to simplifying the gluten free lifestyle.

I’ve been living the gluten-free journey since 2006.  At first, I felt very overwhelmed having to learn a new way to eat, thinking about every ingredient I put into my mouth.  Common things like making a weekly meal plan, a trip to the grocery store, ordering from a menu, or making dinner now came with huge learning curves and a host of emotions.

There are great resources out there that speak about eating gluten free which are full of medical information, testing options, ingredient lists, special recipes, and more.

But what I needed was practical help.  I would have loved to sit down with someone who could tell me the essentials: what to eat for each meal, how to feed my family nutritiously, how to eat out safely, how to enjoy special occasions like everyone else, and how to do it all without spending a fortune in time and money.

Now that I’ve been walking this road for several years, I’m dedicated to helping you on your journey as well.  I’m not a medical expert, just one who has lived gluten free long enough to finally feel at peace with it.  I’m here to help you live easily gluten-free too, so whether you’ve just begun or have been gluten-free for a while, I hope you join me in the journey.

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