In the short time I’ve been writing this blog, many folks have come in to read about how I stock my gluten-free dairy-free fridge and my gluten-free dairy-free pantry. It’s clear to me that while these sensitivities are definitely more abundant than they used to be, a lot of folks are looking for guidance on where to start when they want to take these foods out of their life (either for a short or a longer period of time).
I remember when I transitioned to a gluten-free dairy-free life, it was a huge milestone in my health. Not only did I start feeling better within just a few days in terms of bloating, gas, diarrhea and my other digestive symptoms, but my other non-digestive symptoms vanished quickly too – skin rashes, itchiness, dandruff, acne, and mental fogginess. Although it was a huge benefit to me to take these foods out, I also remember it being super hard for me to make the commitment, because it was just too difficult to think about my life without my favorite bread and dairy products that I loved so much.
A few of you have written to me and asked how I did it – how I made the transition a seamless one without feeling deprived and like I was going to starve without my favorite foods.
So I’m answering the call today with my 10 tips for gluten-free dairy-free beginners! I hope this is helpful to you if you’ve been in the transition phase or are just about to be in the coming days and weeks.
1. FOCUS ON THE FOODS YOU WILL BE EATING, NOT THOSE THAT YOU WILL BE REMOVING.
One of the easiest things to get hung up on when going gluten-free and dairy-free is what you cannot enjoy anymore. Trust me, this is the biggest thing that I struggled with. I couldnt imagine my life without some of my favorite foods. I found that by shifting my attention to all the new foods I could try and could enjoy that I was eating very yummy and even healthier foods with this shift in my diet and mentality.
2. DONT TRY TO REPLACE BREAD AND CHEESE (OR OTHER GLUTEN AND DAIRY PRODUCTS) WITH GLUTEN-FREE AND DAIRY-FREE COUNTERPARTS ONE FOR ONE.
The truth is that they just dont taste the same, and while you may get used to the change in taste and texture over time, its best to see the change in your diet also as an attempt to change your palate too. There are definitely some great alternatives out there for breads, milks, cheese, etc. but plenty of them are full of even more sugar and chemicals than were in the gluten and dairy products themselves and could wreak even more havoc on your system than the real deal.
3. ATTEMPT TO STICK WITH WHOLE FOODS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE AND USE THIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO EAT MORE VEGGIES AND WHOLE GRAINS.
I know of plenty of folks who go gluten-free and dairy-free and wind up eating even more crap than they used to. Relying on packaged products with the gluten-free or dairy-free labels wont necessarily help you get healthier or help to heal your gut. Use this change in your diet as a chance to start incorporating even healthier foods into your daily diet like whole grains, fresh veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, and lean meats. Youll feel much healthier eating foods that come from the perimeter of the store than eating packaged foods you find in the center.
4. FIND A FEW GREAT RESOURCES THAT CATER TO GLUTEN-FREE AND DAIRY-FREE LIVING AND HAVE AN ABUNDANCE OF RECIPES YOU CAN MAKE AT HOME.
One the easiest ways to feel like youre not the weird person who has to change their diet is to surround yourself with others who have done the same. I found that picking up a few cookbooks that specialized in gluten-free dairy-free cooking, as well as websites with plenty of recipes and resources really helped me to feel at home with the new lifestyle change that I was about to make.
5. Seek out a few restaurant options in your area that will become your go-to places for when you want to eat out.
To this day, eating out is still one of the most difficult things about having food sensitivities. What I had to do over time was have a list of go-to restaurants, coffee shops, and even grocery stores for where I could rely on having good gluten-free dairy-free options. I don’t see food sensitivities as a death sentence, so finding some restaurants that you can find a few options and still enjoy yourself is crucial to keeping up your new lifestyle.
6. Become knowledgeable about gluten-free and dairy-free alternatives.
Read up on the effects of some ingredients in these products so you know what you’re adding to your diet after taking other offenders away. This one I feel is important to point out, because I think many folks tend to be drawn to things like soy milk and soy products and there is extensive research that shows that soy can be an endocrine and reproductive system disruptor and cause more harm than good. The same can be said for dairy-free milks with carageenan, a potential carcinogen. I’m not telling you to eat certain things or not, but I do recommend digging in and doing your research before making any major shifts in the foods you’ll be bringing into your life as a result of removing gluten and dairy.
7. Learn about how to cope with becoming “glutened” or “dairy-ed” (aka ingesting these ingredients when you don’t mean to).
Everyone’s body responds differently to these two ingredients and when you take them out of your diet, your physical response will become much greater than when you were giving it a steady stream into your body. While you may not know how big or small your reactions will be, it doesn’t hurt to consult either your doctor or a few websites to find out the best ways to combat becoming “glutened” or “dairy-ed.” Here’s a post I wrote on how I deal with becoming glutened.
8. Know the many names of gluten and dairy so you can steer clear of them.
Gluten and dairy both hide under many names, so knowing what to look for on food labels and even on restaurant menus can be a real lifesaver. Here is a pretty comprehensive list of the many names of gluten, and here is one for dairy as well. Get to know them so you can avoid them.
9. Plan your menus for easy and reliable meals.
I can’t tell you how many almost-meltdowns I’ve had while standing in my kitchen feeling like I had nothing to eat because of my food sensitivities. I’ve always been a menu planner, but after going gluten-free and dairy-free, this became a non-negotiable. Plan out what meals you intend to eat throughout the week, so you never find yourself staring into the pantry about ready to cry (trust me, this can and will happen if you aren’t prepared). I share my weekly menu plans here on the blog for inspiration. Find them here.
10. Embrace healthy alternatives to gluten and dairy.
I mentioned in one of the above points to do your research on packaged gluten-free and dairy-free alternatives. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that there are plenty of ways to embrace healthy alternatives to gluten and dairy like many popular diets have already. Seek out vegan versions of foods with dairy – they often use nuts and seeds for the creamy flavor a lot of us are after with cheese or cream and paleo versions of recipes you love as this diet is inherently gluten-free and dairy-free. I’m not advocating following a strict vegan or paleo diet, but getting inspiration from their recipes is definitely a good idea!
If you’ve gone gluten-free and dairy-free already, what are some of your tips for beginners?
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