Being diagnosed with celiac disease can be shocking. Suddenly, it may seem that there are many limitations on what you can eat and drink, including some of your favorite foods. Once the initial shock wears off, it is helpful to develop a sort of game plan for educating yourself about your celiac disease and to become aware of what you can and cannot consume.
As with many diseases, education is the primary pathway to making life with celiac disease easier. Eating right and gaining balanced nutrition are the most important aspects of celiac disease treatment. Maintaining a gluten-free diet is critical. This is accomplished by avoiding any products with gluten, such as most grains, pasta and cereal.
Processed foods also often contain gluten and must be avoided.
Healthy Gluten-Free Substitutions
There are many substitutions for foods containing gluten. As more people are diagnosed, the selection of such substitutions are becoming more and more prevalent. Wheat flour substitutions suited for celiac disease patient consumption include potato, rice, soy, buckwheat, quinoa, bean flour and soy flour.
Gluten-free bread, pastas and other foods are available at most grocery stores. Products can also be ordered on the Internet. Completely safe are natural foods such as unseasoned and additive-free meats, fish, rice, vegetables and fruits. When in doubt about what can or cannot be eaten, these are great options of safety and nutrition. Oats are a bit more controversial among celiac disease patients. This is because some people can eat oats, while others should remain away from them. For people who can have oats, they should be eaten in moderation. It is also important to ensure the oats are prepared and packaged in a gluten-free facility, so cross-contamination does not occur during processing. Ultimately, an individual patient’s doctor is the right resource for determination of whether oats are safe for that individual.
Tips for Going Gluten-Free
When eating out and shopping for gluten-free foods, it is important to seek support when it is needed. A dietitian, nutritionist or support group may be helpful during the adjustment period after diagnosis. Always remember to do the following, when food shopping or dining out:
- Read food labels, especially those of canned, processed and frozen foods
- Avoid products with hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soy lecithin or lecithin
- Ask servers or the chef about gluten-free options and preparation
- Ask hosts if gluten-free options are available, before attending an event
- Prepare for higher cost for clearly marked gluten-free foods, as is typical
To avoid higher cost of gluten-free foods, learn to read packaged product ingredient lists to find “hidden” gluten and to determine which products are safe. When gluten-free options can be found that are not specifically advertised as such, the cost is lower than items marketed directly as being void of gluten. By doing your own homework and not relying upon brands to present options directly to you, you can save money.