Going gluten-free and feeling overwhelmed? Learn quick tips to help you survive the first week of starting a gluten-free diet and lifestyle! Eating gluten-free is not easy, but these tips will make switching to a gluten free lifestyle easier.
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What you need to know your first week on a gluten-free diet
Eating a gluten-free diet at first can feel realllllly overwhelming.
It feels like you’ll never taste the good things in life again.
And if you’re anything like me and LOVE food, this is a devastating feeling.
Eating gluten-free takes a lot of change. But those changes do not have to be the end of good food.
I want to show you how to make the gluten-free lifestyle do-able, even on a budget.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that it is easy, but my goal is to walk with you through the process and make it easier.
The first week can be especially difficult in this gluten-less journey. It’s hard to know where to even start. This post is very basic, with things you need to just get you through right now, and set you on the right path. If you feel overwhelmed, then you’re in the right place. My goal is to break down what you can do this week to adjust to this new gluten-free lifestyle.
1. Read labels
First things first. When you’re switching to a gluten-free diet, you’ll want to become a label reader.
Yep. You get to be THAT person.
Reading labels will save your bacon, though. You wouldn’t believe some of the things gluten gets snuck in to.
Cream of mushroom soup.
Frozen french fries.
The list is endless.
But sometimes looking at the labels is overwhelming in and of itself. And depending on your former eating habits, there may be a lot of ingredients that you can’t even pronounce, let alone know what they are.
Here are the things gluten is in:
- Barley (including barley malt)
- Triticale (a cross between barley and rye)
Now, wheat has all kinds of forms, and gluten is in all of them.
So that means you also want to avoid:
- Wheat germ
- Cracked wheat
- Wheat bran
- Wheat starch
Note: When reading labels, look at the “Allergies” warning under or near the nutrition label. They generally have to disclose if it contains wheat products or if it’s made in a factory that is not gluten-free certified (meaning it could come in contact with glutenous things in the factory).
If you see any of these ingredients or warnings, put it back on the shelf.
To learn more about the names of gluten and to download a free list of what to look for on labels, check out this post next:
What to Look for on Food Labels When Eating Gluten Free
2. Swap out your regular flour based items
Sometimes it’s too shocking to go from eating regular pizza crust to eating cauliflower pizza crust (which I still find to be sorely lacking for me. Kudos to those of you who can do it). To make the switch easier, you can simply identify things that you still want to eat without substituting for a purely “clean” alternative (but it’s a good idea to work toward that).
Again, sometimes cauliflower just can’t fill a shoe (and don’t get me started on all the things garbanzo beans can’t replace).
You’ll want to find a gluten-free substitute to things like
We certainly live in a time where gluten-free items are pretty easy to buy in-store. If the shock of this kind of eating is real, I’d say start this week by finding alternatives to your favorite things. Goodie Girl, Milton, and Vans have versions of crackers and cookies that taste very similar to the real deal.
But if you are wanting to find healthier alternatives and save some money, which I of course advocate for, you can replace a lot of these snack items with healthy homemade versions or whole food snacks.
There are a few processed foods that I still continue to buy. I have found these foods not worth making myself:
Pasta, crackers, and chips.
The time it takes to make them doesn’t have great pay-off for me
My favorite pasta in the world is Trader Joe’s organic brown rice noodles. Wanna know what’s in them?
Organic brown rice and water.
That’s it. I can pronounce those things, and I KNOW what those are! Yippee skippy.
They have spaghetti, penne, and fusilli style pasta, and work great as a straight-across substitute.
Here’s the Amazon link: Brown rice spaghetti noodles (Do NOT buy them from the Amazon link. That’s just so you can see what they look like. They’re crazy-cheaper at a Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have a TJ’s near you, look for a local alternative. It will still probably be cheaper than buying TJ noodles from Amazon).
Tip: I like to add zoodles (noodles made from zucchini) to my spaghetti pasta to add more nutrition and cut down on the carbs of the grain noodle. They blend in well with the spaghetti. Just add the zoodles to the cooking spaghetti during the last 30 seconds of time and drain as normal.
Crackers and chips
For me, crackers and chips are not worth making (at least not often) at home. It’s a lot of work for such a quickly-consumed pay-off. We just don’t eat crackers or chips regularly around here, but when we do, I buy them.
The one exception is graham crackers. I make my own paleo graham crackers for summer time s’mores (heck yes I do).
3. Make your own gluten-free food at home
Now, if you are not a make-it-from scratch person, this is possibly the scariest sentence in this blog post.
However, if you’re trying to eat gluten-free on a budget, you and your kitchen are going to need to be best friends. Don’t let it scare you! You can do it.
You’ll need some kitchen tools to help make your life easier, but once you have the right equipment, you can start making delicious things at home. (And if you need me, I’m always here for you to reach out to. I love talking gluten-free food, so e-mail me with any questions).
If you already are a make-it-from scratch person, you just need some pointers on how to work with gluten-free flours.
For some things, like cookies, it’s really not too different. But for other things, like bread, it’s just a matter of working more with batter than with dough. You won’t be doing much kneading anymore at all.
You will also be working with gums instead of wheat, which requires beating to activate it for the perfect chewiness.
Related post: Kitchen tools you need to save money eating gluten-free
I make everything from cake, to biscuits, to gravy, to bagels, to sandwich bread. All at home. All for about a quarter of the price I’d pay at a store for the same thing.
That’s motivation enough for me to make the time to make my own!
Start this week by browsing Pinterest for gluten free versions of your favorite meals. Create a gluten-free board and start saving recipes that you want to try! But before you dive into that, read this last tip to help you sift through which recipes to try…
4. Get comfortable with your new flours, starches, and gums
Once you start looking at gluten free recipes to make at home, you’ll quickly realize you need ingredients you don’t have.
My sister in law who does not normally eat gluten-free asked me if I have a gluten-free pizza dough recipe. Of course I was so excited to share a SUPER SIMPLE recipe! When I texted it to her, she replied, “It has ingredients I’ve never heard of”
So much for simple. Ha!
It reminded me again that I’ve been doing this for such a long time it all seems very normal.
But when you first start, it truly feels like learning a new language.
Take that as encouragement. All of the things that are a bit stressful right now will be second nature in a short time. You’ll be fluent in gluten-free-ese.
Have you felt totally overwhelmed in knowing which flours and starches you need?
There are a TON of options out there! Cassava, millet, rice, buckwheat, yadayadayada.
However, these are the gluten-free flours that I have personally found to be the least expensive and the most simple to use:
- Brown rice flour
- Potato starch (note: potato flour is VERY different. You want to get potato starch)
- Tapioca starch (or flour. These ones are interchangeable and the same thing)
- Xanthan gum
- Coconut flour
- Almond flour
- Arrowroot or corn starch (I have recently also added arrowroot starch as we’ve been avoiding too much corn. It can also be used in DIY deodorant powder, for face powder, and even for homemade dry shampoo. The fact that it’s multipurpose has won me over. But corn starch also works beautifully).
Note: I’ve used all of these ingredients from both Bob’s Red Mill and Anthony’s (I refer to them as “my boys”). Bob and Anthony are both great. Whoever has the best pricing at a given time gets my money. The taste and quality seem to be about equal.
These ingredients are the simplest, most basic ingredients from my experience. They can be used for just about everything that you will need to bake or cook. When you start buying specialty flours for specific recipes it gets spendy very fast. And since you usually don’t need all of the flour you buy, you have an annoying bit left over that you don’t know what to do with.
Stick to recipes that use the above list of flours, or a basic “gluten-free all purpose flour.”
Read next: Simple, all-purpose gluten-free flour blend recipe
If you need to buy a pre-made blend, I recommend THIS one.
What to avoid in a gluten free flour blend:
Have you ever tried something that was gluten-free, and it just tasted weird? I know I have! You want to know what the culprit usually is?
Garbanzo bean flour/chickpea flour.
Some people love it or don’t mind it, but I just can’t handle it at all. I can always tell when it’s in a recipe it shouldn’t be (aka MY COOKIES). So if you want the best success with not only convincing yourself but also other people that gluten-free food tastes good, ditch the garbanzo bean flour blends. Use point 1 to identify any blends that you should avoid.
Here are some basic recipes to get you started:
- Read labels (and know what to avoid! Wheat, barley, and rye are the big ones)
- Swap out your regular flour based items with either store-bought or homemade versions. Things like pasta and crackers might be better to purchase gluten-free
- Make your own gluten-free food at home. Eating out or buying boxed can often times be more complicated than just cooking at home
- Get comfortable with your new flours! Start by making your own flour blend and try it out in an easy baking recipe this week