(Or know somebody who does?)
Welcome. You’re not alone.
This is a quick-start guide for gluten-free “newbies” to learn the first things they need to know living with Celiac.
My girlfriend, “Dee” (she’s too shy to let me use her real name), was diagnosed less than three months ago. Our world was turned upside down. She was attending school but had to take a hardship withdrawal for the term. It took 12 doctors, nurse consultants, and physicians and 4 visits to the ER until the G.I. doc said, “We might as well check for Celiac just in case. But it’s probably just stress…” Well, at least we finally figured it out. Celiac with lactase deficiency (no dairy!) And she’s vegetarian to boot. Well, seafood and eggs are OK, but we basically adhere to a vegan diet now.
No Wheat. No milk. No meat. No excuses.
We live together, so this affects me tremendously as well. Though I’m not allergic, I still have to be gluten-free for her health and safety. Beer? Not if we kiss. Bread? Not if it might get in the toaster or on the cutting board. Desserts? Talk about a guilt trip.
Everything turned around when we started connecting with other Celiac and the gluten-free community, online and locally (we’re in Seattle). One gluten-free bakery owner referred us to a Celiac specialist MD. Celiac.com forums answered many of our questions, especially regarding complications of Celiac, nutritional deficiencies and vitamin concerns, and support for getting back into the game of living normally.
After some months of adjusting, our world is getting right side up again. But it hasn’t been an easy road, and there’s still quite a ways to go. This site is a guide for gluten-free newbies, whether you’re just starting on your gluten free diet or have been trying and still need more direction! We’re still figuring some things out beyond the diet, but hope this helps.
The Emergency Gluten-Free Newbie Diet
The first few weeks were the most difficult. I was working full-time while Bee was too fatigued to go to classes. What the heck were we supposed to do for food? We had no idea where to start, no time or energy to shop or prepare the gourmet gluten-free vegan specialties we found in the usual gluten free cookbooks. If only we’d had a newbie guide with EASY recipes we could whip together, every day, in minutes!!! So here you go.
This is how we survived. These are simple vegan gluten-free foods that take less than 20 minutes to prepare and cost VERY little! I mean, it wasn’t too long ago I was a bachelor living on Hot Pockets and insta-pizza, so if I can prepare gluten-free vegan dishes then so can you.
- Fried Rice with vegetables*, Brown Rice, Olive Oil, Tamari Gluten-Free Soy Sauce, and spices (Island Spice)
- Curry dishes with curry paste (red, green, yellow), Coconut Milk, and lots of vegetables, over bed of rice or potatoes
- Rice-Flour Pasta with Gluten Free Sauces (Available at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or online stores listed below)
- Potatoes with vegetables, gf margarine, and vegan cheese (available at Safeway and most supermarkets) Don’t forget yams too!
- Coconut Bliss ice cream or gluten-free sorbet for dessert
- Fruits, juices, and gummy bears!
*Vegetables i.e. broccoli, onions, green/red/yellow peppers, zuccini, cucumber, spinach, beans, lentils, corn, peas… etc.
As we got to understand the gluten free lifestyle better, we started making more varied dishes and buying gluten subsitutes (gf pancakes! toast!), but those are still our favorites when we don’t have much time or energy. We stockpile rice, potatoes, sauces, Coconut Bliss ice cream, and gummy snacks, and make weekly trips for fresh veggies and soy milk.
NOTE: If you want to eat out, BE CAREFUL!!!
You can’t just go out your first week or two and think you can catch everything, ask all the right questions, and expect to be totally safe. Your first few weeks gluten-free should be the most careful (i.e. extreme de-tox) until you learn what’s OK and what’s not.
- Thai – Many curry sauces have flour. Check first!
- Chinese – Rice dishes and rice/egg-noodle are usually safe, but commercial soy sauces use flour. No soy sauce!
- Sushi – fresh, without soy sauce or horseradish
- Specialty vegetarian restaraunts/allergy-sensitive owners, chefs, and managers. ASK!
Questions to ask your server:
- Do you have a gluten-free menu?
- Are pans and cutting boards washed to prevent cross-contamination?
- Does this have a sauce, marinade, or preservative with flour?
- Does this have any soy sauce, caramel coloring, other colorings, or preservatives?
If your server doesn’t seem to understand, or only “thinks so” without getting a confirmation from the kitchen, you’re better off finding something else. And if you ever start getting frustrated when you’re hungry and say or think, “It’s just a little bit!” then STOP and reconsider. Having Celiac means your intestinal lining will be damaged if there is even trace amounts of gluten. We’re talking parts per million or parts per billion.
As much as possible though, just eat in! It’s safer, cheaper, and usually takes less time than going out. Remember… fast food is a thing of the past!
Your Best First Resources
1. Find a doctor who specializes in Celiac Disease. Not just a nutritionist (though still recommended for diet assistance), but an M.D. who can help diagnose further illnesses and allergies caused or exacerbated by Celiac.
2. Start browsing Celiac.com and reading the forums there. It’s an amazing community who has made progress possible for me and Bee.
3. Find the nearest Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods supermarket. They’re major time-savers if you’re looking for gluten-free products on the shelf. If there’s none near you and the local stores don’t label gluten-free or wheat allergy, you can always shop at glutenfreemall.com (founded by the guy who started Celiac.com!)
4. Keep a food journal and list everything you consume. Not just consume by eating, but also health and beauty products, soap, make-up, chewing gum, hairspray, etc. There are so many sources of gluten! Write down everything. You won’t be able to remember it all, trust me. Record symptoms as well as how you feel, mood swings, energy level….
5. Gluten-free product lists (like this one – PDF). If a product doesn’t say “Gluten Free” on its label, DONT CONSUME IT. There are plenty of labelled gluten-free products. Don’t risk it. If anything says, “Made on machinery that also processes wheat” or anything similar, then it’s totally NOT safe.
Top 3 Gluten-Free Guides and Recipe Books
(Digital for Instant Download)
You probably only need one of these, but they’re really inexpensive compared to some of the texts out there. Start with one, and it never hurts to review others to make sure you’re not missing anything.
The Gluten-Free Bible covers recipes, lifestyle, strategies for living with Celiac, and many ideas that are hard to come by on your own with trial and error. When they say essential, they’re not kidding. Great first one to start with, as it comes with tons of bonus materials such as recipe books etc. ($37.00)
The Healthy Urban Kitchen is a big fat e-book of super-healthy recipes. It’s not focused on Celiac, but all recipes are gluten free and soy free, and avoid most other allergens. The book is great even if the sales page is cheesy It gives a wide range of options so you’re not going to run out of ideas any time soon. ($39.97)
The Paleo Cookbook has tons of recipes from pure ingredients. Go nuts It’s a whole new way of eating once you get used to the concept. After adapting a gluten-free diet, this is great for a lifetime of living healthy and eating awesome “real” food. Not necessarily just for Celiac either. It costs more, but it’s worth it for the variety and education on raw and real foods. ($
All the best.