Starter Guide to Gluten Free Living

It’s been just over 6 months since Melina was diagnosed with Celiac disease. At first, that label put her into a bit of a depression. It was overwhelming for a teen to be told that she no longer could eat pizza or a sandwich at the drop of a hat. Actually, I think the biscuits might have hit her even harder…she had a love affair with those things!
While it’s definitely been a learning curve, I do think we are getting into a groove. Like anything, change is big at first…but slowly it becomes the new normal. Some of you have asked what the biggest changes have been and some have wondered where you even start after getting the “celiac” word thrown at you. When I began to write down some of the resources I have used (thanks to so many who have passed on their notes and suggestions to us!), I thought it might be helpful to put it into blog form…this way, I can keep updating it as we find different options that are worth sharing.
By no means are we experts…I highly suggest talking to your doctor/nutritionist as each individual case might have diet requirements specific to you. Consider this more of a shared experience…what we have found helpful in making this transition. Also, now might be a good time to mention that we have not changed our whole household to gluten free. I’m sure that there might be some strong opinions on this (I’ve heard some of em!) but our thinking is that the world isn’t gluten free. We want to teach Melina how to make choices and to live in a world where she needs to learn how to manage celiac disease, the questions to ask, etc while still making home a safe place for her. The simple fact is that her siblings are not celiac…at least not at this point. All of the main courses I make are gluten free…when it comes to sides, if I serve a bread/foccocia I will also have a gf option as well. It seems to be working well at this point. Of course, the biggest indicator of this is Melina and how she feels. Since cutting out gluten, she rarely complains of stomach/digestive pain (when she does have a stomachache we can usually trace it back to where the mistake was made). We have also seen an improvement in her countenance. Simply put, I think when she began to feel better and saw her painful symptoms subside, it had a direct correlation on her mood!


Here is what our strategy has been in transitioning Melina to a gluten free life:
1. Do a sweep of the fridge/pantry and read the labels.  There were many food items that I knew obviously had gluten in them…but there were also a number of products that kinda surprised me! Especially the sauces: Soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce…those were the sneaky ones.  Replacing those staples with gluten free substitutes was the first thing I did. Now that I have them in my fridge, they’re no brainers…we never have to worry. These were maybe the most simple changes with huge benefit because I cook with these products daily.


2. Arm yourself with good recipes/resources. Sounds simple enough. But…it took a bit of time to figure out which cookbook authors & food guides created recipes that were consistently good. They now serve as go-to’s when I’m doing my menu planning (yep, menu planning…I’m such a believer in makes grocery shopping, prepping so much easier).
I do most of my weekly grocery shops through Spud  where they clearly label what is GF.  I can buy snacks, breads, etc through there..we’ve tried a whole host and are slowly figuring out Nina’s favourites.


Some of my favourite cookbooks/websites include:
Minimalist Baker has some great salads…and then I just add a protein i.e. grilled chicken, etc  She also has a ton of recipes online.
The Half Baked Harvest– great recipes…I often replace the “carb” in her recipes with gf versions such as quinoa or rice or gf pasta
Oh She Glows – tons of awesome baking recipes: Cookies Dough Balls, Glo Bars are favourites.
Cookie and Kate – everything from waffles to salads..consistently delicious recipes.
Elena’s Pantry – she is an incredible resource for a gf diet with recipes that strive to use healthier ingredients (in general, many gf recipes use high carb ingredients…don’t be fooled! This is why I love this site).
My New Roots – super flavourful foods, such as Sweet Potato Hummus or  Overnight Oats.


3. Have backups at the ready. I really do try to make most everything from scratch. But life is sometimes a bit hairy, and that’s when it you need some quick options. There are some products out there that have become favourites in our household. When time is short, Melina has a dedicated area in the pantry that is stocked with quick options.
Some of these include:
Protein Bars , locally available at Popeye’s.
Mixes to bake such as these ones from Pikanik or these ones from Zena’s Gluten Free.
Crackers, such as these sweet potato ones from Costco.
Chicken Fingers , locally available at Save On/Safeway
Pizza or takeout from Panago
Cheerios (naturally gluten free!)
Rice Cakes


Other general notes:
Our favorite gluten free flour has been a game changer. Once you have one that you like, you’re golden for baking.  I ordered the pack of 6 so I’ll be stocked for a long time (thanks Hannah for this tip)! We also like using almond flour and oat flour in recipes.
Bread- we usually buy  Millet and Chia Loaf or Gluten Free Seeds & Grains Loaf from Little Northern Bakehouse.
Other bread items- We also order Pikanik bread products (garlic bread, pizza dough, etc) from Spud.  I love that I can order lots of GF products through there.


Also, Duft and Co now has a GF bread that you can well as GF cinnamon buns Friday mornings (YA!)
Not to be forgotten,  Polly Fox makes so many incredible treats… their cowboy cookies are off.the.hook. They cater to gluten, soy & peanut allergies
Pikanik in Whiterock.


 Ok…you still hanging in there with me? Almost finished. Last but not least, here are some recipes that our household has given the thumbs up to:


Nina loves these ones or these overnight make ahead ones.


Chocolate Espresso Almond Cookies – Oh She Glows Everyday
Pavlova – this continues to be a favourite dessert loved by all in our household.


Oh…and I’d be remiss to not do a little Pinterest shout out. If I’m EVER dry for gf recipes, a little scroll through Pinterest gives me a ton of options!  Pin away!


Hope you find this helpful…if you have some awesome tips yourself, please share them! Let’s help each other out, k? Thanks so much for reading, friends! Laurel xo