A Starter Guide to Going Gluten-Free (Part One)

I was talking to Elaine (@TOBeautyReviews) on Twitter last week, and I promised to send her an email about going gluten-free. While writing that email, though, it occurred to me that I might as well post it on theNotice, because why not, right?

From there, the post sort of got out of hand (because that’s how I roll, apparently), so here’s a not-so-quick starter guide on going gluten-free. I hope you find it helpful!

Why I’m gluten-free

I went gluten-free a few years ago, after my sister had some blood testing done & found out she was gluten-intolerant. (She’s supposedly intolerant to most other things, too, but… well, we didn’t really buy into it. After three weeks of an extremely restricted diet, she decided it wasn’t for her, but kept the gluten out.) My family cut gluten out of her diet, and it sort of fell out of ours, too.

I ended up going G-Free by accident. It was gradual, but with less gluten just “kicking around” in the house, I just started consuming less and less. And the longer I was off it, the more I noticed when I did eat it – I’d grab a sandwich while out and about, for instance, and find myself lethargic and mildly bloated afterwards.

So, I cut it out entirely. As you may or may not already know, I have fibromyalgia and (currently in remission) rheumatoid arthritis, so every little bit of energy really counts in my day to day life. Not everyone with fibro and RA will also be intolerant to gluten, but for me, it was a no-brainer: as much as I love “real” bread, when the flipside was being tired, bloated, and feeling kind of foggy, going g-free just made sense for my lifestyle.

Anyhow; that’s my story. I hope it can help inspire you to have your own gluten-free adventure, even if you’re just going to try it on for fit! ;)

Breakfast breads (are the best kind of breads)

I have a soft spot for breakfast food, but it’s a good starting point for going gluten-free, too. Quick breads do all their rising in the pan (or the oven), so there’s no waiting or extra timing involved – just a bit of xanthan gum added to the recipe (sometimes), but aside from that, it’s just like making “normal” breakfast foods. 

I’d start with Gluten Free Cooking School’s Light and Fluffy Gluten-Free Biscuits, which are hands-down the tastiest biscuits you’ll find, gluten-free or not. (Seriously; they’re really, really tasty.) They bake on cookie sheets and don’t need kneading or time to rise, so the recipe is easy to put together – the hardest part is that you have to grate a chunk of frozen margarine, which, well, weird. But also kind of fun.

Next, I’d recommend giving their Saturday Morning Pancakes a try. I tend to mix up a batch during the weekend, make half and freeze them (for when I’m in a hurry in the mornings), then make the other half as I need them during the week. Honestly, if you hadn’t told me the pancakes were G-Free, I probably wouldn’t have guessed it – they’re extremely convincing.

Finally, Gluten Free Mom’s recipe for Gluten Free Crepes is pretty good. The recipe is pretty basic, so it’s easy to tweak, and the resulting crêpes hold up well while still being quite thin. I like mine with plain yogourt and maple syrup, for a dessert crêpe, or with ham and melted mozzarella, for a meal one.

Other carbs: let’s talk bread and pasta

My can’t-live-without-them bread recipes are this Gluten-Free Bread Machine Bread and Alison’s Gluten-Free Bread. Both of them are really easy to make, and I like them for different reasons – the first (Bread Machine Bread) makes a great “everything” bread; spongy and moist without too strong of a flavour. It’s perfect for sandwiches and the like, while the second (Alison’s) is a tasty, savoury bread – it’s more dense, and is delicious on its own with a bit of butter.

What I’ve found from all of the gluten-free  breads I’ve tried is that toasting is key. Even a recipe that’s practically inedible at room temperature or cold (gluten-free products tend to go bad faster, so I like to store them in the fridge) can be tasty when baked – it’s all in the texture. You can’t really get around the lack of “springiness” in the bread, though, so a toaster oven might be needed depending on the recipe.

Finally, I want to give a HUGE shoutout to Tinkyáda Rice Pasta. Honestly, the line is a godsend! Their pastas taste pretty much the same as the whole wheat pasta I used to rely so heavily on, and it’s nice not to have to worry about baking things, making things, etc. We buy ours at either Safeway or, and it cooks pretty much the same way as regular pasta. (The timing’s different–read the package before you make it–but it’s still pretty much just water and pasta in a pot.)

UPDATE: See part two of this series, here!

And that’s it for today! (Because… hello, enormous post.) I really hope you’re enjoying The Starter Guide to Going Gluten-Free so far, and I will see you next weekend for Part II.

Have a great week! :)

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  • mostlysunnybunny

    Ah the pancakes and strawberries *drools like a Labrador*

    I'm glad you found a diet that works for you! When I was living with my Belgian family, I ate a lot more meat than ever. The parents are believers of lean protein. While I think it does work for some people, it did all kinds of horrible things to me (digestion problems & weight problems). I even cut sweets out of my diet altogether (I don't eat THAT much anyways anymore, but a piece of chocolate here and there has definitely been ever-present in my diet), but didn't see much improvement.

    Until I started hanging out all the time with an Italian friend and an Indian one.

    I ate a lot of pasta (along with which a copious amount of olive oil. That's how they roll), rice, and carbs in general, but I LOST WEIGHT. I think the lesson I learnt is that you have to listen to what your body wants and be nice to it. That way it'll be nice to you too :)
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    • I know, right? I get hungry just looking at this post! :P (Which, for the record, is weird. My brain's all, "I want to eat that!" despite the fact that I've… already eaten that.)

      I absolutely agree with what you're saying about listening to your body – I have some relatives that are all "this is what works for me, so it must work for everybody!" and it's seriously, seriously annoying. I do think there's a diet that's going to work best for each individual, but I (like you) don't think it's going to be the same for ALL individuals!

      Anyhow. Rant over :P I'm glad you've found what works for you, too, Sunny! <3

  • I'm gluten-free as well and loving it! I find I have so much more energy and zero joint pain when I'm strict.

    • Good to hear that it's working well for you, Alex! :D I (thankfully) don't notice a big difference between when I'm strict vs. when I'm *fairly* strict, personally, and it's helping to keep me sane :P I'm not great with impulse control when it comes to carbs, I'm afraid!

  • Thank you sooo much for this!! This is super helpful. As a person that LOOOVES bread this is going to be the biggest adjustment for me. And also I make pasta a lot – it's the easiest thing to throw together, so I'll definitely look out for that brand.
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    • :D!

      Really, really glad it's helpful for you, Elaine. I hope going gluten-free works for you! (And yes, oh my god, Tinkyáda. We've tried a couple other brands, and can I just say: ugh, gross. I mean, corn pasta? Whose idea was it to make pasta almost entirely out of corn flour?! /shudders)

  • Good on you for committing to the diet, but just one thing… You need to be super careful about completely cutting out food groups from your diet. I've and an endocopy and colonscopy (too much information!!!) after my doctor thought my sister was gluten intolerant, and it turned out I wasn't. My sister wasn't in the end either – despite the fact that she felt better going off wheat, it turned out she was lactose intolerant, and because she was cutting out cheesy pasta, she thought she felt better without gluten.

    Anyway, long story short, the advice from the 5 or 6 medical professionals I ended up chatting with, was that you should never go gluten-free without specific medical advice from your doctor, and without a blood test AND endoscopy. There are nutrients in wheat/gluten that are important.

    … I'd just be careful, that's all. Especially giving out medical advice on your blog, disguised as a diet… Becuase it's not.

    Anyway, just my 2c. You know I love your blog, Rae ;)
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    • Oh, no, I totally agree with the first part – cutting out an entire food group is almost always a bad idea, unless your doc's the one telling you to do it. (And even then, it's good to be careful!) Cutting out gluten's far from cutting out carbs, though – there are so many non-gluten grains out there; it's just that they're not super common.

      I do kind of disagree with the second half, but mainly because my doctor's a complete idiot -.- I've had to argue my way to specialists for every diagnosis I've ever had to deal with, with her insisting all the way that I'm completely healthy and they're all just somatoform – there's no way I'd be able to get her to test for wheat intolerance, unfortunately :( (Finding a GP in Edmonton is nearly impossible, which is why my family's still seeing her.)

      /ramble over :P

      Thanks for leaving your two cents, Clare – I do think you have a really good point, and I'm really hoping people aren't taking this as medical advice! :/ This is just my personal gluten-free story, y'know? I'm just an RA patient for whom this happened to work for — not a nutritionist!

      • Carla

        I'd like to give an irritated shout out to it being impossible to find GPs in Edmonton. What is up with this city?

        • Ugh. I don't even know! Too many people, not enough GPs, I guess. /frustrated

  • It's so much easier now to go gluten free. I had a friend who had Celiac's and I always felt so sorry for her-there was none of this stuff available to make it easier.
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    • Oh my gosh, HUGE +1. Celiac disease must have been so hard to deal with five or ten years ago! :(

  • Jen W

    Your food pics are making me salivate onto my work clothes Rae. This is NOT. GOOD.

    But seriously, I'm happy that you've worked out what foods make you feel best, and I agree with Tracey- it's so much easier these days with all the gluten free options.

    I don't think I'm gluten intolerant, but I hardly eat pasta or bread, or cakes/muffins these days- my carb staples are rice and rice based noodles.

    • LOL! Sorry, Jen :p

      Also, re: your carb staples: NOM. This post (and these comments) are killing me; I just want to go consume everything! /flails

  • Awesome, awesome post. My friend recently had to go Gluten-free, so cooking for her always blew my mind. But now I am realizing it is not that difficult! I am noticing my stomach acts similarly when eating larger quantities of gluten. Perhaps I will start trying to take it out of my diet!

    What do you use for sandwich breads?
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    • Sandwiches are hard – even the best gluten-free bread I've found is kind of icky when eaten cold; they're definitely best if toasted. I use this for my toasted sandwiches, though, and it always turns out really well! :)

      If you're just noticing it a bit, try talking to your doc & phasing it out slowly – I hope some of these recipes can help get you started! Good luck with it xx

  • Alison

    I suffer from CFS and rheumatoid arthritis myself, too, and I also discovered (much too late) during my illness that I'm intolerant to grains – all of them! Because my case is severe (I've been pretty much housebound to bedridden for the past several years), I have to keep my carbs down to minuscule (No starchy vegetables, cane sugar/honey, large amounts of fruit, or grains) which does sound like an awful way of life to many, but when I eat even a single snack-size amount of any of these things, I really pay for it – so I relate to what you're saying! Sometimes after eating carbs I literally fall straight to sleep even if its the middle of the day and wake up feeling foggy and bloated. After going without for a while and then trying to break my diet again I realised it just wasn't worth feeling that much worse.

    I really like all these posts catering to the chronically ill, by the way! I lost half my eyebrows due to hypothyroidism (They're growing back now that I'm on proper treatment – I really could have used that post a year ago!) Plus, its nice to find tips to cover up sickly pallor. That said, I don't love people's comments when I only look a bit pale and they say "Oh, you don't look at ALL sick!" – how many illnesses can you see?!

    Zelda – There's actually a book about the "Specific Carbohydrate diet" that has a nice recipe for a bread that's completely wheat-free and virtually lactose-free. There are actually a tonne of books on gluten-free and even bakeries that specialise in this area along with many organic shops. I kind of wish I was *only* gluten free, because after looking deeply into it I discovered there are so many options out there. Even pre-made cereals, breads, snacks, everything. After you discover these things you don't really feel you're missing out. (Unless you're going through withdrawal – I found that I craved the worst possible things for me for a period after cutting out my intolerances)

    • … can I smother you with hugs? Because I'd like to smother you with hugs.

      The whole "hidden disability/illness" thing is such a double-edged sword – I run into a lot of problems with (non-Disability Services) admin staff at my university because I don't look sick, so it's hard for them to comprehend that I can't take a full course load, you know? I'm definitely thankful for the fact that I can choose to disclose or not disclose my disabilities to people I meet, but "you don't look sick" is pretty much the most frustrating thing everyone else can say to someone who's chronically ill. I'm sure you can understand! :p

      Anyhow. Smothering you with hugs with my brain! I'm really, really glad you're enjoying the posts for the chronically ill – it's amazing to be able to reach out & find other people like me through theNotice. :)

      • Alison

        Aww. You're so sweet. Sorry for the late reply, Rae! I've been having a bad year illness-wise, so my commenting energy has been non-existent, but needless to say whenever I can I'm always checking up on the Notice! :D

        • Aww, don't worry about it, Alison! I definitely know how it is — I have messages in my inbox marked off as important from months ago that I still haven't found the time/energy to reply to >.<

          Sorry to hear you're having a bad health year :( ♥

  • Alison

    God, I write books… *cringe*