In the past week, I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve met or heard of who’ve just started going gluten-free. And they’re seeing amazing results. Because I’ve been living this lifestyle for so long, it’s easy for me to forget about that initial transformation phase when you start to see symptoms disappear and health return. It’s truly one of the most relieving feelings.
With time, I’ve also forgotten that early on in the gluten-free journey, amid the initial improvements and relief, almost everyone experiences a sense of overwhelm. If I can’t eat sandwiches, pasta salad, crackers and cheese, quesadillas, brownies, couscous, wraps, cream of wheat, cereal….what will I eat?!
Although I didn’t eat a grain-heavy diet when I first went gluten-free, I quickly learned that pita bread, crackers, tortillas, and cereal were staples in my diet that I really did rely on more than I thought. Cutting them out cold turkey was challenging, but not impossible. It was overwhelming, but not insurmountable. I got through it. And so will you!
I rarely talk about my early days of gluten-free living, mostly because I subconsciously want to block them out of my mind. I was sick, underweight, malnourished, and depressed in those early days. Who wants to take a trip down that memory lane? Not this gal!
This week, though, I took some time to think back to those early days and the resources that helped me the most right at the very beginning. I’ve created a list for you that I hope will relieve some of the overwhelm and encourage you to take proactive steps toward embracing this lifestyle.
Now one last thing before we get to the resources. If you haven’t noticed, the gluten-free world has BOOMED (yes, all caps needed!) in the last 6 years since I began this journey. And I mean BOOMED. Many of the resources that I’m sharing with you below weren’t even around a few years ago. Awareness has greatly increased, which is something to celebrate and be very thankful for.
Let’s get started.
If you’re ready to get down and dirty with nutrition, human anatomy, and science, these books are for you! But don’t worry. They’re easy to understand and won’t put you to sleep.
- Digestive Wellness, by Liz Lipski (a MUST read if you’re struggling with leaky gut or dysbiosis)
- The Diet Cure by Julia Ross
- The Blood Sugar Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman
- The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael T. Murray
- Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Bach
- The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne (tons of great info, even if you’re not Paleo)
- Get the Sugar Out by Ann Louise Gittleman (not 100% gluten-free, but excellent for sugar addicts!)
As a cookbook author, you might expect my list of personally influential books to be longer than this. But the truth is, I’ve learned more by doing and not so much by reading. That said, these books are fabulous resources to keep on your shelf (or e-shelf…) in the early stages of your new gluten-free life.
- Nourishing Meals by Alissa Segersten & Tom Malterre (stay tuned for their new book releasing this spring)
- The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook and Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry by Elana Amsterdam
- Go Dairy Free by Alisa Fleming
- The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen and The Longevity Kitchen by Rebecca Katz (not 100% gluten-free, but almost)
- The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook by Dr. Mark Hyman
- Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free by Amy Green
Of course, my cookbook library just wouldn’t be complete without my own books, too!
- The Pure Kitchen
- Super Healthy Cookies
- Dairy-Free & Gluten-Free: A Whole Food Starter Guide, coauthored with Alisa Fleming (ebook)
While we’re on the subject of print media, I also want to highlight Simply Gluten Free Magazine, the perfect resource for seasoned g-free’ers and newbies alike. Every issue is jam-packed with recipes (some of them mine!), nutrition articles, products spotlights, inspiring stories, and more. Many recipes are also grain-free or Paleo-friendly, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free, vegetarian, and/or vegan. Pick up a copy at your local Whole Foods or Barnes & Noble (or any of these sellers), or subscribe here.
Blogs & Websites
I’m treading on tricky territory here because there are MANY blogs and websites that I absolutely love. Far too many to list here. I mean absolutely no disrespect to the ones that aren’t included here. I’m just highlighting those that I think are most helpful right at the beginning. This is by no means an exhaustive list!
- Nourishing Meals
- Gluten-Free Easily
- She Let Them Eat Cake
- Healthful Pursuit
- Elana’s Pantry
- Tasty Eats at Home
- Cara’s Cravings
- The Blender Girl
- Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free
- Lexie’s Kitchen
- Go Dairy Free (also great educational info)
- The Spunky Coconut
- Dr. Hyman.com
- Joyous Health
- The Paleo Mom
When you start eating gluten-free, that automatically means that—if you’re doing it the right way—you’re going to be in the kitchen a lot more. Why? Because you’re going to be preparing your own food! Look at this as a blessing, not a chore. With the right tools at your fingertips, prepping food gets a whole lot simpler and takes a fraction of the time. Granted, you don’t need all of these, but wow do they ever make a difference.
Here are my favorites:
- Food processor
- High-powered blender, like a Vitamix or Blendtec (worth the splurge!)
- Handheld or standing electric mixer
- Microplane grater
- Glass storage containers and mason jars
- Slow cooker (see my friend Steph’s list of recommended cookers)
- Large wooden cutting board
- A set of high quality stainless steel pots and pans (I love All-Clad)
- And last but not least…sharp knives!!
While not essential, these tools are additions that make living a healthy gluten-free lifestyle more fun and creative.
- Spiralizer (to jazz up the way you eat your veggies!)
- Ice cream maker (for recipes like this one or this one)
- Dutch oven (trust me, it’s worth the money)
- Nut milk bag (for straining homemade non-dairy milk)
- Immersion blender (great for soups and sauces)
When you transition to a gluten-free diet, it’s easy to fill up your cart with “replacement foods” that might be similar to your old favorites, but they’re usually seriously lacking in nutrition. So ditch the gluten-free junk food and eat REAL food instead.
Below is a list of pantry staples that I recommend keeping on hand in addition to your fresh items like produce and proteins. Again, it’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start for those getting the hang of things.
- Certified gluten-free oats (Note: In the early stages of gluten-free living, many find that they can’t tolerate oats period, regardless of whether or not they’re certified GF. Use your own judgment and please listen to your body.)
- Sprouted brown rice flour (easier to digest than traditional brown rice flour)
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Coconut milk (BPA-free can)
- Coconut oil
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Ghee (if you can tolerate dairy)
- Jarred tomatoes: Bionaturae or Jovial (glass containers, no BPA)
- Jarred tomato paste (glass containers, no BPA)
- Brown rice pasta: Jovial or Tinkyada
- Coconut aminos (wheat-free and soy-free alternative to soy sauce)
- Raw honey
- Coconut sugar
- Gluten-free chicken broth (homemade is best, but this works in a pinch)
- Gluten-free vegetable broth (homemade is best, but this works in a pinch)
- Eden canned beans (gluten-free and BPA-free packaging)
- Almond butter, sunflower seed butter, cashew butter, etc.
You know me. I’m a stickler on ingredients and won’t eat just anything labeled “gluten-free.” Prepared/packaged foods should be the exception in our diets, not the norm. But if you must eat something processed while on the go or during a busy week, these options are minimally processed and healthier choices.
- Clif Kit’s Organic Fruit & Nut Bars
- Whole Me Bars & Cereal
- Health Warrior Chia Bars
- Mary’s Gone Crackers
- Go Raw Flax Snax
- Lundberg Organic Rice Cakes
- Qi’a Superfood Breakfast Cereal
- Wild Salmon Jerky from Vital Choice
- Single-serving almond or coconut butter packets
- Wonderfully Raw “Coco-Roons”
- Ancient grain baking mixes from Zema’s Foods
So there you have it! I’m pretty sure I’ll be adding to these lists as new items come to mind, but I hope this gives you a place to start.
When I gave up gluten about 6 years ago, it changed my life in ways I never would have thought possible. I didn’t get healthy again overnight—it was a long process. But after I overcome that initial feeling of overwhelm through leveraging the resources available to me, I got into a groove. This way of life is second nature to me now. Give it time and pretty soon it will be for you, too. Promise!
Questions? We’ve all got ’em, especially at the beginning. Leave a comment below—we’re all in this together! And remember: this is a “no dumb questions” zone. :)