When you’re first diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, otherwise known as celiac disease, it can be quite traumatic and rather depressing. Others may not understand that. After all, it’s not like you have cancer or anything, just some vague food allergy, big deal. Yes, it is a big deal. No, it’s not cancer but neither are a lot of difficult conditions and circumstances people face. This is not just some vague food allergy either, it can be difficult, painful and even dangerous. Furthermore, learning you are gluten intolerant immediately and dramatically seals your fate for life; no more gluten products. So much easier said than done. This isn’t just about cutting out bread either but tons of other items, some of which you never even knew contained gluten. Meanwhile the sights and smells of both gluten-laden food products and people enjoying them are everywhere in our environment. This just isn’t something you ever even noticed much before but now, with gluten products off your list, it’s all you do notice. Now you must build a new list, a gluten free foods list. Sounds logical but suddenly the gluten foods seem painfully irresistible and your cravings soar. Breads, rolls, cookies, buns, bagels, pasta, meatloaf, croutons, etc. How can you just suddenly accept that you can no longer eat any of these foods that you’ve enjoyed all your life?
As difficult as it all is, just learning to go without some of your favorite foods is not the only challenge of going gluten free. There’s also learning how to shop and to keep your sanity while you shop. Gluten free shopping can be complicated as well as expensive. This is because gluten isn’t just found in bread, it’s found in all kinds of items. It’s even added to certain food products that wouldn’t otherwise have it. Most people never even think about whether gluten is in a food item or not. Now, you must know, and you must always know, every time you make a purchase and take a bite. To be a successful gluten free shopper you’re going to have educate yourself on gluten, learn what foods naturally have it, which one’s don’t, which one’s potentially have it, and which one sometimes have it, and when. You’ll also have to learn all about food labeling and certain ingredients and additives commonly used in food processing.
All of these things can make your first few days, weeks and months after being diagnosed with celiac disease quite dreary. The mere thought of going to a grocery store can be overwhelming. Meanwhile you may be shopping for a family as well who have no intention of seeing their gluten based diet change. Just take a deep breath and realize that given some time and experience, it will get better and you’ll adjust. There are many wonderful gluten-free alternatives just waiting for you to discover that will return culinary joy to your life. Eventually you can even learn to enjoy the challenge of gluten free shopping, discovering clever strategies, realizing new health bonuses and connecting with others who are in the same boat. We all have a tremendous capacity to adapt to new situations and find good things in our changed circumstances, you just have to give it some time.
What can be especially important for the newly diagnosed gluten-intolerant is that very first shopping excursion; so here’s a suggested strategy: First of all, don’t go it alone, and don’t go it quickly. Instead make an evening out of it. Ask someone you enjoy being with to accompany you, such as your spouse, a good friend or relative. (Do not take the kids.) Before you go shopping, have a nice meal with the person who is going to accompany you. This will not only set a pleasant tone but also keep you from being hungry in the store. Rather than having a shopping list this first trip, make the list more about learning than buying. Organize an outline of food types and categories that you want to explore. Before you ever enter the store, focus your thinking and planning on naturally gluten-free foods.
Once you’re in the store, stay away from the bread and pasta aisles as much as you can. Shopping for natural gluten-free foods won’t be too difficult, the challenge will be processed, manufactured food items. Education and planning will be key, but also patience whenever browsing items and looking at labels. As you discover items you think you might really enjoy, throw them in your basket and don’t deny yourself. After your shopping trip treat yourself and your companion to a dessert. What’s going on here is not a gluten-free learning experience, but an effort to associate your new gluten-free lifestyle with positive experiences and emotions from the very start. Additionally this will help relieve tension and other negative feelings you may have had about being diagnosed with celiac disease. This is all a way of telling yourself, it’s okay, you can do this and still lead a happy and enjoyable life with all kinds of wonderful foods. You will learn to live with gluten intolerance and live better, and healthier than ever.