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Six tips to live gluten-free

Kimberly Kaye lives and writes in New Jersey with her longtime boyfriend and their deaf pit bull. Her work has appeared in Draft, NEW, CityBelt, and on OldCookbooks.com.

It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle

Celiac disease and gluten-intolerance make going to the grocery store much like navigating through land mines. Lurking in a vast array of food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic items, gluten is seemingly everywhere, from cereals and frozen dinners to vitamins and lipstick. Is it possible to easily live gluten-free?

BreadDue to the growing awareness of celiac disease and gluten-intolerance, food manufacturers, supermarkets and health-food stores are stocking the shelves with a delicious abundance of gluten-free products. Even better, there is an increasing selection of gluten-free cookbooks and gluten-free websites of information. You can follow a gluten-free lifestyle and it is becoming increasingly easier and more convenient to do it.

LIVING 100 PERCENT GLUTEN-FREE

The most important part of living with any level of gluten intolerance is a 100 percent gluten-free lifestyle. This means eliminating foods such as traditional breads, pastas, beer, baked goods, gravies, sauces and cereals. These items can be replaced with rice, risotto, potato, corn, buckwheat, quinoa, millet and amaranth, as well as legumes like beans, lentils and chickpeas.

While the idea of forever living without your beloved favorite foods is daunting, fear not – the availability of great-tasting gluten-free foods is growing. Made with rice flours, corn and other gluten-free substitutes, most stores offer an ever-improving array of gluten-free goodies like beer, cereal, sauces, candy and pasta. People who must eat gluten-free can also search their local bookstores for gluten-free cookbooks to find delicious and inventive ways to cater to their unique dietary needs.

TIPS FOR GLUTEN-FREE LIFESTYLES

Beware of hidden sources of gluten: cosmetics, vitamin supplements, meal replacement powders and bars, restaurant food and even prescription drugs can contain gluten or gluten derivatives. Because of the discomfort – and even danger – of consuming gluten, its paramount to know how to avoid it. Here are a few tips to make sure your diet and other products you use are gluten-free:

1. Read the labels before you buy.

Get savvy on product labels and ingredient lists. If an item does not say "gluten-free", or if you are unsure of the status of certain ingredients, avoid it or call the manufacturer's customer service line for clarification.

2. Check your pantry.

Be on the lookout for stealth gluten hiding in your favorite foods – soy sauce, malt, malt flavoring, and some varieties of maltodextrin (a food additive) all contain gluten unless labeled otherwise.

3. Avoid processed food products.

Many will contain additives with gluten – unless otherwise labeled.

4. Search for gluten-free restaurants.

Several mainstream chain restaurants, such as PF Chang's and Outback Steakhouse, offer gluten-free menu items. Many other restaurants are willing to accommodate patrons with food allergies and intolerances if given fair warning first, so call ahead and speak with a manager.

5. Order online.

Many online stores stock gluten-free sauces, pasta, cookies, pizzas and snacks in addition to other products that normally contain gluten.

6. Gluten-free does not mean calorie free.

Even though you will be cutting some foods from your diet, gluten-free food contains calories, carbohydrates, fat and protein, similar to their gluten counterparts. You are eliminating gluten from your life as a strategy for better health. Don't counter it by eating too much gluten-free food. Watch your portions!

If you are experiencing gastrointestinal distress and suspect that gluten may be the culprit, see your doctor for a diagnosis and follow-up treatment plan. 



For more information on living gluten-free, see these articles & recipes!
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