5 Rules for Healthy Gluten-Free Living

August 10, 2011 at 11:47 am 8 comments

[Annsley Klehr has been a dynamo on our volunteer force. She's embraced the gluten-free lifestyle after being diagnosed with celiac disease, and now she wants to help others get diagnosed and get healthy, too. Here, she shares some tips from her own experience. To read more from Annsley, see her article "My Gluten-Free, Soy-Free World."]

If you’d like to volunteer for NFCA, visit CeliacCentral.org.]

Learning I had celiac disease was a bittersweet moment – one of relief, and one of great anxiety.  I was happy to know I wasn’t crazy and that there was a very clear way to feel better. Yet, I was confused with how to begin my new adventure in life.

Annsley Klehr

That's me!

Being gluten-free is a life-long journey filled with lots of trial and error moments. However, I have learned from them, and I now share with you the top 5 things I wished I had known as I was starting my gluten-free diet.

1.  Keep it simple: The healthiest and easiest gluten-free diet is one of fresh fruits, vegetables, gluten-free whole grains, and meats.  Steer clear of processed foods until you’re sure your gut is healing.

2. When in doubt, call them out: As of now, there are no laws regulating gluten-free products.  A label that says “gluten-free” means the actual ingredients should contain no gluten. However, if the product is processed in a plant or on a conveyer belt that also processes gluten, it could be contaminated.  When in doubt, call the manufacturer.

3. You are what you eat: Medication, supplements, and beauty products may contain gluten ingredients.  While gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin, make up and lotions can pose a risk if you apply them with your hands and then touch your food or mouth. [See more in NFCA's Ask the Dietitian.] Read the labels carefully and check with your doctor as well.

4. Cleanliness is in the eye of the beholder: Be extra wary of other people’s counter tops, because they aren’t yours.  You don’t know what’s been on them, so be sure to ask for a plate before putting your food down.

5.  ALWAYS carry a dining card: You are the only person who can advocate for you.  Those with celiac disease are living experts, and in some ways, have more expertise than chefs in a restaurant.  Don’t expect the chef and/or wait staff to always know what gluten-free means and how to keep your food uncontaminated.  Carry a dining card with you that specifies what you need. [Note: NFCA trains restaurants in gluten-free food safety through the GREAT Kitchens program. See a list of current GREAT Kitchens.]

gluten-free grilled pizza

Gluten-free pesto pizza, made with basil and tomatoes from my garden!

These five tips have helped me survive and live anxiety free inside and outside of the home.  By educating others, I have been able to ensure a safer eating environment where I can enjoy any setting without worry or compromising my health.  Though it is often a battle of will to not just shovel heavenly food into my mouth, I know that at the end of the day, I will feel better if I follow my motto: Think Before You Eat!

-Annsley Klehr, NFCA Volunteer

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