The hardest part of the gluten free diet is probably when you realize that wheat is in almost every processed food imaginable. So don’t think about that now! Give yourself a week to mourn the fact that you can’t buy normal bread and pasta, and that Campbell’s soup can no longer dwell in your pantry. Mourn the obvious losses – we’ll deal with the rest later. For the first week, let’s focus on eating some healthy unprocessed gluten-free food.
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So, what are whole, unprocessed foods?
Most people are not used to cooking with whole, unprocessed foods or for looking for gluten in their foods, so don’t freak out if you still can’t figure out what to eat. I’m going to give you some ideas for breakfast and lunch and a menu plan (with shopping list) for your dinners.
|If you usually eat cold cereal for breakfast, then this week try Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Cinnamon Chex, Honey Nut Chex, Chocolate Chex, or Strawberry Chex. These Chex cereals are the only mainstream gluten free cereals. If you live near an urban center, you may find that your grocery store carries other gluten free specialty cereals, and if they do then feel free to try them. The advantage of starting with Chex is that it’s widely available, less expensive than other gluten free cereals, and familiar/|
|If you usually eat a breakfast bar for breakfast, first check to see if your usual bar is marked gluten free. If not, then I’d suggest switching to cereal or fresh fruit for a week. You’ll be tempted to read the labels on all of the breakfast bars in the grocery store, but that’s just going to depress you. Save that for next week. Unless your store carries Larabars – those are all gluten free.|
|If you usually eat a hot breakfast, then see how many eggs recipes that you can come up with. A few that I can think of off the top of my head are: scrambled, fried, poached, omelette with veggies, and frittatas. Bacon, sausage, and hot cereals are all processed and should be avoided this week unless they are marked gluten free.|
|If you have access to a microwave at lunch, then the easiest option is to eat leftovers from last night’s meal for lunch. Add a salad or fresh fruit if you need to round out the meal. Lunch is easily the most bread-centric meal of the day, so don’t freak out when everyone around you is having sandwiches. You will be able to eat good bread again.|
|Not crazy about the microwave? Then try a large salad and some fresh fruit. I like to add chickpeas to my salad as the protein – that way I don’t have to worry if I forget to take my lunch to the refrigerator. A lot of salad dressings contain gluten; an easy solution is to make your own vinaigrette at home and take that with you to dress your salad. Check out these recipes from Michael Ruhlman’s new book, Ratio, if you need some guidance.|
|If you have to go out for lunch, please try to get the lunch moved to a restaurant that has a gluten free menu or has a chef that is very familiar with the diet. If you’re new to gluten free foods then you might get frustrated–trying to identify the gluten foods on your own. Call the restaurant before hand and talk to the manager or the chef and explain to them that you have to eat gluten free, but that you’re going to need their help since you are new to the diet. They should be able to tell you which items from their menu are gluten free, or can be prepared gluten free. The manager at a good restaurant should also be willing to oversee the preparation of your food to make sure no one slips up. And, if you call ahead, hopefully all of this can take place discreetly in the background, especially if it’s a business meeting.|
|To make dinner easy for you, I think you’ve basically got two options. The first option is to prepare simple meals of a meat (seasoned with salt, pepper, and/or other herbs), a side of fresh vegetables, and a side of rice and potatoes.|
|Or, you can try printing off the free menu plan that I’ll be publishing later this week, and follow it. It will have recipes for 6 meals, a cookie recipe, and a shopping list. The point of these options is to keep you from having to search for recipes and then make sure that all of the ingredients in the recipes are gluten free. That would be way too frustrating for the first week of the diet. Option one will probably work best for those people that are accustomed to cooking without a recipe and feel comfortable dealing with unprocessed foods. Option two, the menu plan, should work for everyone else.|
How about some Homework? Make a list of what you want to eat for each day of next week. Here’s an example:
Monday: Rice Chex and banana for breakfast, green salad (with chickpeas) and balsamic vinaigrette dressing for lunch; cheddar cheese slices and an apple for snack; baked chicken breast, mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies for dinner.
This is covered in more detail in our Gluten-Free eBook. It’s packed full of practical tips and strategies to help you get started and stay gluten-free successfully. And be sure to Subscribe to our Newsletter for even more great tips on Gluten-Free living. Take a look at our very own Gluten Free Recipes database for a never-ending supply of great-tasting gluten-free food options.
Starting A Gluten Free Diet Can Be Ugly: Once upon a time, I was a 23 year old newlywed that needed to learn how to bake gluten free bread. I was confident! After all, I’d spent many a day baking and cooking with my mom and grandmother, and I was armed with a brand-spanking new bread machine.
What else could I need? I scoured the internet for a gluten free bread recipe (there was not much too choose from at the time!) and settled on one that involved soaking brown rice overnight and then grinding it and making bread dough from the mush.
Yes, you read that correctly. We’re just not going to even talk about how badly that turned out!
Over the next few years, I experimented with gluten free bread mixes, bread recipes that used ump-teen different gluten free flours, and recipes from the backs of random gluten free flour packages. Nothing was good enough! Every single loaf of bread either fell after it came out of the oven, never rose to start with, or had a weird taste and was too crumbly for a sandwich. This would not do!
I was determined to make good gluten free bread for my husband, and I decided that, by golly, I was going to find a recipe that worked, even if it meant coming up with the recipe myself. And I did. After years of tweaking recipes, and changing one thing after another, I finally came up with a gluten free bread recipe that worked!
But, I know you don’t want to hear that it’s going to take years to be good at gluten free baking. And that’s not what I’m going to tell you. It took me years to develop my first bread recipe because I had no freaking clue what I was doing! You, on the other hand, can be baking all sorts gluten free foods that get WOW reactions in a few short weeks.
Follow These 5 Steps & Become Amazing At Gluten Free A few months ago I decided that I needed to create a couple of new bread recipes. Was I in for another multi-year ordeal simply because I needed to use a different mix of GF flours? Absolutely not. I wrote out the new recipes, baked them, and they were awesome. I baked a 2nd batch to confirm the recipe, and they were ready to send out to my newsletter readers! Two batches and I was done! Trust me, that is the kind of confidence that you too can have. There is no need for you to go through the long learning curve that I did!
Step 1. Stop Expecting Perfection.
I recently asked a large FB group what was keeping them from enjoying gluten free baking. One of the responses was, “a lack of a 100% guarantee that the recipe will turn out.”
I know none of us want to have a recipe turn out badly, but it’s going to happen. And that’s good. You’d never learn a thing if some of your recipes don’t go wrong. To truly understand your ingredients, you have to be able to contrast recipes that work and recipes that don’t. Keep reading and I’ll show you how to use those failures to boost your skills even faster.
Step 2. Use a Scale.
Two of the reasons that my first bread recipe took so long to develop is that I did not understand the tremendous advantages of using a scale to weigh my ingredients and using recipes that are written by weight. There is nothing about gluten free baking that I feel more strongly about than this. Buy a digital kitchen scale and use it!
Step 3. Take Notes.
A sturdy notebook will be the 2nd most useful tool in your gluten free kitchen. Use it as a journal and write down everything that you can measure and observe about the recipe as you are preparing it. And don’t just do this the first time, do this every time that you’re making a recipe that you want to learn from. And every time you make a tweak to a recipe. That way, when a recipe is unexpectedly WOW worthy (or unexpectedly bad) you’ll be able to look back at your notes and see why. That is how you make the most of the inevitable failures!
My gluten free cooking classes include a printable note-sheet that you can complete as you work on a class. Each of the sheets is customized for the particular recipe that you’re working on, so that you measure and observe the right variables. This has been invaluable in trouble-shooting results.
Step 4. Cook In A Group
If learning from your own mistakes expedites your gluten free skills, just imagine how much you can learn when you do you gluten free baking with others and can learn from their successes and mistakes too. In the group-coaching version of my classes, this kind of learning has taken place spontaneously. As we all baked bread in different kinds of loaf pans, we got to see how the shape, material, and size of each loaf pan affected the finished loaf of bread. Learning that, on your own, would take years of experiments and lots of money on loaf pans. Instead, we got to see it happen, discuss it, and quantify it in one week.
Step 5. Experiment
Find someone who’s doing research and experiments and read about what they are doing! All of my biggest aha! moments in gluten free baking have come from reading articles about “normal” baking and then applying it to gluten free recipes. The aha! moment that allowed me to create a yeast-free bread recipe that would make a sandwich-sized loaf…yeah, that came from reading an article on baking cakes with wheat flour. Now, getting all geeky about recipes and rations and baking techniques may not be your cup of tea, and that’s fine. But find the people that do love that and learn from them.
At this point you may be feeling some resistance to following through on this tips. That’s to be expected! It’s really discouraging to go from being an awesome cook to not knowing what the heck to do with these gluten free ingredients. It’s perfectly normal to just want it to be easy. To just want to wave a magic wand and have everything work.
But it is going to be okay! You’re going to be an awesome, amazing gluten free cook very, very soon. There will be a day when you decide that you want to bake a cake, and you pull out the flours and make a phenomenal cake and it’s not stressful at all. There will be a day when you can make every single food that you and you family love with gluten free ingredients, and you’ll all sit down and eat it, and the fact that it’s gluten free will not be at the fore-front of your mind at all. You’ll just enjoy sharing good food with people that you love.
Enter your email address below! So you can get our free eBook, and email updates about all things gluten-free! Learn some great tips, and have fun–all while you’re wrapping your head around the idea of using a scale, keeping a kitchen journal, and all that sort of great healthy stuff.