Your doctor has just told you that you need to start a gluten-free diet, effective immediately. After the appointment, you drive your car to the ‘weird’ natural foods store in town that your neighbors told you about. You find a parking spot and turn off the engine, but you’re not ready to get out of the car. Where did it all go wrong, you wonder, and is there still time to run over and grab a breaded fried chicken sandwich and a milkshake one more time and pretend that your doctor’s appointment is tomorrow and that’s when you’ll go gluten-free? You pull the keys out of the ignition, climb out of your car, and start the long walk across the parking lot to the store’s entrance. You grab a shopping cart, and in you go…
I’ve seen that look over a hundred times by now; a couple or an individual is tentatively looking around the ‘health food’ store which you can tell they’ve never set foot in before, and on their face there’s a complex mixture of resignation, trepidation and skepticism. Inside their heads, the thoughts are swirling: “I’m going to have to eat unflavored vegetables, steamed chicken and potato chips for the rest of my life.” “While the rest of the family gorges on pizza and Aunt Sally’s famous strawberry pie, I’m going to be looking at a plate of rice crackers topped with pepperoni slices and a bowl of cold strawberries.” “I’m going to have to cook two sets of meals every day.” “What will I do besides sip water when the office staff goes to lunch together?” “I’ll never get a birthday cake again; and what about Thanksgiving? OMG, What about Thanksgiving?!”
The good news is: you’re going to make it through this. And though there will be disappointments and inconveniences, you’re not going to be relegated to the corner, picking at a bowl of tasteless gluten-free gruel and sipping a wine cooler while the gang is downing brewskis and pizza watching the big game. As a matter of fact, even if you’ve been told you have to go on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet for the rest of your life, you’re still going to be able to have pizza and beer again. “No, but you don’t understand, my friends said I have to…-wait, did you just say I could have pizza and beer again?!” I sure did; just not the kinds or brands you may have had in the past. And it will take a little bit of extra work to locate the beer or prepare the pizza, but they’re out there. You’re also going to be able to eat pasta, french toast, muffins, cake, pie, gravy and a whole slew of foods that you might have thought you were doomed to never meet again once you had heard your physicians’ list of ingredients to avoid in the future. You’re even going to be able to get many of these items at the regular big grocery store in town. -Feeling a little better now?
Millions of people are navigating through the same dietary restrictions you’re now facing, and many of them are even doing so voluntarily. Why? Well, there are now an abundant number of articles and studies on why people from all walks of life, not just celiac patients or those with extreme gluten sensitivities, should consider going gluten-free or at least trying to minimize the ammount of gluten in their diets.
And it’s not a stretch to say that there are over twenty-five times the amount of gluten-free labeled products out on the market today than there were in the late 1990’s when I first began to encounter a growing number of gluten-free customers. There may have been perhaps three or four decent gluten-free cookbooks back then; today there are over 300! And there are just as many good gluten-free themed websites as well. So relax a little; you’re in the company of millions of others going through the same process, and the resources and product choices have never been better. In the next gluten-free article: your pantry, label-reading and some of the easier-to-find gluten-free items that you’ll want to start getting familiar with.