Starting Out Gluten Free, Dairy Free and/or Egg Free

A year ago, I didn’t know what a blog was. Yes, I am that uncool. And now that it’s out in the open, my teenage daughter is denying her DNA. All pride aside, the process of going gluten free, dairy free and/or egg free, or any other food “free”, for that matter, can be overwhelming and daunting. Because of my own challenge of going through it, I am always asked for advice or more importantly, for recipes. But how do you even start? I mean let’s be honest,it’s not like you can ignore this. And the issue of food “problems” isn’t going away. In fact, it is growing at an alarmingly rapid rate (See Food allergy facts and stats). I am willing to bet the every single one of you knows at least one person other than yourself that has a food “issue”.

So how do you start from taking something for granted, like grabbing a muffin or throwing snacks together based solely on what you feel like eating, to suddenly having this become an exhausting thought process? Apply this to a child, and the challenge doubles. Almost every single “typical” child’s food contains one or all of these. I know. When our son was 8, we were told that his body could not break down the proteins in most major food categories. I clearly remember that first year of feeling overwhelmed and consumed by the one thought of what I was going to feed him for this next meal or for a snack when he got home from school? What can you just grab that is quick to eat? Starting out is the hardest part because it will take effort.

#1 Don’t Be a Victim

Your mindset is key here. Yes, this is going to be work and things are going to have to change. No one likes drastic change, you’re not alone. But you can’t look at this as being deprived. Too many people see this as a “poor me” situation and focus on all the foods they can’t have anymore. Seeing the glass as half empty doesn’t do any good. You have to look at this as a challenge that will pay off because you (or your child) will finally feel SO MUCH BETTER! This is just a new approach to eating. But your attitude is so important. If you were diagnosed with diabetes, you’d have to change how you eat, right? This is no different.

#2 You Must Read All Labels

This will probably be your biggest challenge. Yes, it adds an extra step to your former life of just grabbing food without giving it any thought. You are going to have to get into the habit of automatically reading ingredient labels. If there isn’t one, you need to ask about the ingredients. Do not take anything for granted. Gluten and dairy can HIDE in things like seasonings and marinades. And as a warning, many, many people have no idea what gluten is or what ingredients are considered “dairy”. I can’t tell you how many people think that “gluten” is the name of the ingredient to look for. You need to educate yourself.

Gluten and dairy aren’t necessarily obvious in your food. It is often “hidden”. Nacho cheese flavored corn chips contain dairy in the cheese seasoning. Gluten and dairy can also be found in medicines, gummy vitamins, seasonings (aka “whey”), marinades and many other unsuspecting foods.

#3 Clean Out Your Pantry/Refridgerator

Go through your entire kitchen, yes both your pantry and your refrigerator and throw away anything that contains any of the ingredients you can’t have. This means looking at EVERY bottle and package. Now, here is where you will need to make a choice. You will need to decide if you are going to completely revise your kitchen to be free of your particular food, or if you are just going to have a separate “safe” zone. I will also address that in another blog if you decide to do the latter. I tried having 2 different eating lifestyles in our home but it became too much work so, for the most part, we have all just changed our diet to eat like Alex.

#4 Now Replace

Start finding new brands or substitutes for the particular item(s) you can’t have. For example, if you can’t have eggs, which egg substitute works best for you if you are going to bake? Chia eggs? Flax eggs? Psyllium husk? Egg replacer? While this is time consuming at the beginning and will require alot of your own taste trial and error, in the end you will have your “go-to” product. You will rebuild your pantry and refrigerator so that it is safe.

#5 Be Patient!

I realize that many of you might be feeling even more overwhelmed after reading this post. This change to your eating lifestyle does not happen overnight. And it doesn’t happen in a week. Changing your eating habits is a gradual process of learning and trial and error. The accomplishment that I felt when I conquered the simple chocolate chip cookie for my son, without any of the top 8 allergens, was as much as if I had earned a doctorate. Just start..take small steps, one meal, one day at a time, and please do not ever hesitate to ask me any questions you might have. If I don’t have the answer, I’ll try to find it. To help you get started, I have posted one of my family’s all time favorite recipes, Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bread!