A participant in one of my Gluten Free 101 classes asked, “Does it have to be all or nothing?” The answer is yes and no. We’ll talk about gluten first, but then we’re going to touch on the other biggies: sugar and dairy.
If you have Celiac Disease it is a resounding “YES!” You cannot even have something that’s come in contact with a utensil, plate or appliance that’s been used with gluten-containing foods. So, if you toast, you have your own toaster. Most of the people I’ve talked to with Celiac say that their homes are basically gluten free. Otherwise it’s just too hard to not ingest something that’s been cross-contaminated.
Gluten Sensitive people can usually tolerate small amounts of gluten without major issues, however I always recommend eliminating 100% of gluten for 3 months to make sure your system has cleared it all and has had some time to mend. After that, you might find that a small piece or bite of cake at a party doesn’t cause you any, or just slight discomfort and you might decide to allow a slip-up now and then.
In general, whether it’s dairy, gluten or sugar, I find it easier to just say no. When I fall into the I-can-have-one-bite syndrome it usually ends badly (See Thursday’s blog for that story.) and so I just prefer to not even go there. Food corporations design their food to be addictive. They know what chemicals and ingredients, what percentages of sugar, fat and salt will bring you running. Breaking the cycle is the only way to beat it.
If instead of totally eliminating all gluten or dairy you might want to spend a few months trying out different gluten-free or dairy-free products to see which ones make the grade. You can even blend things together to make it easier to adapt to the change. For example, mixing half dairy and half almond milk for a week, then increase the almond milk over time to where you are dairy milk free.
Try out some gluten free cereals and breads before you go 100%. (I’m not crazy about any of the breads so far. I’m planning to make my own one of these days to see how that works, but Trader Joe’s or Tinkyada’s Brown Rice Spaghetti Pasta is great if cooked properly.) I’ve used Udi’s Whole Grain bread the most. I only like it toasted nice and dark. Their hot dog buns are pretty good if lightly toasted. There are a wealth of gluten free crackers and chips and most Mexican restaurants serve a multitude of gluten free dishes; Just ask. Many Chinese restaurants will substitute gluten-free soy sauce and rice noodles when asked. (Blue Koi in KC is my fave and they carry my favorite GF Beer, Estrella Daura!)
For me, sugar is definitely all or nothing. If I allow it into my diet it creeps up to alarming proportions over a few weeks, so I am back on the no-sugar wagon! If you’re someone who can have one piece of candy or a serving of ice cream a day … go for it! I highly recommend using fruit as your sweet treat of choice and have posted a few great summer treats on this blog. If you need extra sweetener, I recommend NuNaturals Liquid Stevia.
So, as you move into a diet that is free of a specific food, you’ll have to determine which way works best for you, but what I’ve found is that total elimination is the easiest way to get over cravings for what you’re eliminating. Martina Navratilova, upon going gluten free said this, “Don’t concentrate on what you can’t have. Concentrate on what you can have. Although I was initially challenged by a gluten-free diet, I’ve been able to find many alternatives to my favorite foods, from gluten-free beer to gluten-free oatmeal and bread.”
Whatever the food you need to eliminate, I wish you success!
Nancy Oglesby, the Practical Health Coach
Simplifying Healthy Lifestyle Choices™