Taking Steps to Remain Gluten-Free - dummies

Taking Steps to Remain Gluten-Free

By Jean McFadden Layton, Linda Larsen

Removing gluten from your life doesn’t just mean that you avoid eating foods made with wheat, barley, or rye. Gluten has found its way into many manufactured products. And even if gluten hasn’t been deliberately added to a product or food, it can find its way into your life through cross-contamination.

There are steps you can take to be as gluten-free as possible. Reading labels, decoding safe foods, and identifying forbidden and questionable foods are key to staying healthy and feeling good.

Checking for gluten in food labels

Labels are the holy grail for those who must avoid gluten. Fortunately, manufacturers of all kinds are starting to come around to the fact that those on the gluten intolerance spectrum are demanding transparency in product labeling.

You can do some research online. Dr. Jean Layton has a complete list of the terms and fancy names gluten can hide behind. She updates the list quarterly to reflect current understanding of gluten-free products.

You can also turn to organizations dedicated to the gluten-free lifestyle for more help. The Gluten Intolerance Group is a nonprofit organization that inspects products for gluten and gluten only. This company verifies manufacturers’ claims that a product is gluten-free.

Manufacturers change products all the time, and they should note those changes on the label. So every time you buy a product with a label, you must read that label to make sure it’s still gluten-free and safe for you to eat. If you have any doubts or questions about an ingredient on a label, call the manufacturer to check.

Finding safe, gluten-free foods

Fortunately, you can find a lot of safe, gluten-free foods on the market. Good sources for these foods, especially the more unusual ones, are health food stores and the Internet. If you can’t find xanthan gum at your local grocery store, you can order it from Amazon.com!

After your house is a safe zone, you’ll want to venture out into the world. Eating at food trucks, fast food joints, and fancy restaurants are some of the joys of life. And eating at a friend’s house ranks right up there! But if you must avoid gluten, those joys contain pitfalls.

To stay healthy, you must become something of a detective. Question waiters, ask to speak to the chef, request labels from places that serve food, and ask about possible cross-contamination. Don’t let anyone tell you that a food is “perfectly fine” unless you’re sure they understand the possible ramifications of being wrong. Be polite yet firm. After all, you have to live with the consequences of what you eat.

You must be an advocate for yourself and your family. And you can do some proactive things to make eating out and traveling safer. These websites offer guides to safe restaurants and grocery stores in the United States and around the world:

  • The Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program lists safe gluten-free restaurants by state. This guide is especially helpful when you’re traveling.

  • The Gluten-Free Registry lists gluten-free restaurants, grocers, bakeries, and caterers by state.

  • Celiac Travel has printable gluten-free restaurant cards you can carry with you when you travel. Available in 51 languages, these cards detail what you can and can’t eat. Print them out and take them with you on your trip to increase your odds of avoiding gluten.

  • The Gluten-Free Travel Site has reviews of gluten-free restaurants, along with hotels, resorts, and cruise ships.

  • For the smart phone set, Urbanspoon has a helpful gluten-free application.

Armed with this information, you can relax and enjoy your adventures outside your safe, gluten-free home. However, you can never completely let your guard down. Keep reading labels and stay informed about progress in gluten-free cooking and baking.