I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in November 2017. Since then the gluten-free world has changed and so have I. I feel a little more confident about how to eat, I am comfortable talking with restaurant staff in front of friends and I have learned not to hold up the entire tables order when giving my specific instructions. But there are some other big things I have learned. Let me share them with you!
1. Gluten-free does not always mean healthy. It is so easy to get caught up in the gluten-free breads, desserts, pastas and other processed foods. Many times those foods are high in sugar, fillers, fat, etc. that are not always good for you. While I am not perfect and I enjoy breads, cupcakes (icing is my weakness) I am trying really hard to stick to whole foods and have even tried to eliminate sugar and carbs completely. It is really important to read labels.
2. Gluten-free does not always mean celiac safe. In my early days, I thought if it was on a gluten-free menu it was safe. Many times restaurants will label fries and wings as gluten-free. Many times those items are fried in the same oil as chicken fingers or other breaded items. I try to always question items that I know will be fried or I avoid them all together and stick with salad and grilled items. Even a few tortilla strips on top of a salad can be agony for someone living with celiac disease.
3. I have gotten a little bit boring with my food. I eat at a lot of the same places because I feel safe. I feel like when someone asks me where I want to go it is one of these restaurants: Tacolu, Bonefish, PF Changs, Kamiya 86, Moxie, Epik Burger or Sake House. All places #1 are close to my house and #2 are places that make me feel safe. However, I am always up for trying something new even if it means I may have to spend extra time talking with my server before I order. More and more restaurants are educating their staff on the needs of gluten-free patrons.
4. I always have snacks on me. There is nothing worse than going to a work meeting and seeing that everyone is given a sandwich or wrap and I am stuck there for 3 hours or being on a plane where the only snack options are pretzels or cookies. I always keep some sort of nuts in my work bag and when I travel I like to bring peanut butter, gluten-free crackers, gluten-free pretzels and apples or grapes because no one wants to sit next to someone who is hangry.
5. I have a huge fear of being stranded without anything to eat. This is similar to #4; when you live with celiac disease the convenience factor is taken away. Fast Food restaurants are not always available and able to accommodate, gas stations have limited availability and coffee shops and other quick stop places don’t always have gluten-free items available. This has caused me to perhaps overeat at times and has got me into trouble with my weight. It is hard to find that balance between eating before you go somewhere and not having any options when you get to the event. This happens mostly when I go to weddings, dinner parties, on trips, and going to a friend’s house that doesn’t know I have celiac disease.
6. I make mistakes. I sometimes get lazy and it has come back to bite me in the you know what. Sometimes at certain restaurants that I trust I forget to tell the server that I am gluten-free and dairy-free . While most of the time I am fine, there have been times when other ingredients that are not gluten-free end up on my dish. This is not only annoying for me it is annoying for the server and those dining with me because they have to re-make my food
7. I need support. It is easy to feel like the odd man out when you are gluten-free and dairy-free. I occasionally get comments like “oh my gosh what do you eat” or “don’t you just want to cheat.” But overall my friends and family know that I am gluten-free and they are very supportive. My husband is extremely supportive we don’t have any gluten in our house. On Monday nights we rotate houses for dinner with some of our friends and it is amazing to see how friends say “gluten-free really isn’t that bad.” When I was diagnosed I felt like such a weirdo but now my friends will call and say “I am making dinner and here is the menu what can’t you have” or “what do I need to avoid for this recipe.” People don’t realize just how happy this makes me.
What have you learned on your gluten-free journey? What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?