This Celiac Awareness Month, embrace your gluten free-ness and live fully!

Whether you’re newly gluten-free or have been eating gluten-free for a long time, changing your eating habits probably wasn’t easy. I had a tough time coming to terms with changing my diet, and even though I was feeling better when I didn’t eat gluten, I was still missing Philly soft pretzels and deep-dish pizza pretty badly. But I knew these changes were necessary in order for me to stay healthy, and after a while, I embraced this new lifestyle. As they say, when one door closes, another door opens!

This Celiac Awareness Month, join me in leaving the (gluteny) past behind. Instead of focusing on what you can’t have, fully enjoy what you can have! Below, you’ll see all the things I thought I couldn’t do once I became gluten-free. And you’ll also find out the ways I overcame those obstacles by living fully and incorporating new gluten-free foods into my diet!

I Thought I Couldn’t… Have Sandwiches

When I became gluten-free, I thought my days of lunchtime sandwiches were over. Not so! Try these tips for safe-to-eat sammies:

  • Use safe bread. My very favorite sandwich bread is Glutino White Bread. It’s the closest I’ve found to “regular” white bread—but without all that silly gluten. It’s soft, doesn’t contain large holes, tastes good, and toasts up nicely!
  • If you’re toasting your bread, use a dedicated toaster. Don’t bring your bread to work and toast it in the break room toaster! At home, dedicate one toaster for gluten-free bread only, and toast your bread in that. This way, there’s no chance of cross-contamination from the crumbs of gluteny products.
  • Pick quality ingredients. Fill your sandwich with foods that make your mouth and tummy happy! I like to use veggies (crisp Bibb lettuce, ripe tomato slices), gluten-free lunch meat (my favorites are Applegate Organics chicken or turkey; there are also tons of Oscar Mayer lunch meats that are marked gluten-free), sliced cheddar or mozzarella, and bacon (I’m addicted to Oscar Mayer bacon, and when I want to make a healthier choice, I use Applegate Organics turkey bacon).

I Thought I Couldn’t… Eat Crunchy Snacks

I have a salty, snacky tooth. Once I couldn’t eat gluten anymore, I was disappointed that I couldn’t eat some of my favorite snack foods (I’m lookin’ at you, Cheez-Its). But I quickly saw this as an opportunity to find some new favorite snacks, and focus on what I can have, such as…

  • Popcorn—check. I love to make my own air-popped popcorn, drizzle some olive oil on it, and sprinkle on some sea salt. I eat so much of it I’m surprised I haven’t turned into a 5-foot-2 popcorn kernel at this point!
  • Pretzels—check. I’m a Philly girl, so I’ve gotta have my pretzels! I love Glutino’s pretzel twists and pretzel chips. For dippers, I like Jif Natural peanut butter or (guilty pleasure) Sharp Cheddar Easy Cheese (yes, it’s gluten-free!).
  • Nachos—check. Nachos are actually one of the easiest things to make gluten-free. Take your favorite GF tortilla chip (I prefer Glutino’s Tortilla Dippers) and arrange them on a baking sheet. Layer safe ingredients like Amy’s refried beans, drained diced tomatoes, diced peppers, and shredded cheese on the chips, then bake ‘til delicious.

I Thought I Couldn’t… Dine Out at Restaurants

When I went gluten-free, I feared my social life was over. Not so! There are plenty of restaurants that serve safe gluten-free meals. Try these tips to help you safely dine out:

  • Talk to other gluten-free folks and share recommendations. Celiacs gotta help each other out! Share recommendations with your gluten-free friends. Better yet, go out to dinner together and enjoy gluten-free noms together!
  • Use the Gluten-Free Registry to find restaurants near you. This website has been a lifesaver for me. It’s not an all-inclusive list of restaurants that can provide safe gluten-free meals (I know of plenty of places that serve GF food that are not on the list), but it is a good start. Get started here: http://glutenfreeregistry.com/
  • Keep an eye on chain restaurants. These days, many chain restaurants are implementing gluten-free menus. Keep an eye on your favorites to see if they’re bringing any gluten-free dishes to their menu! My favorite chain restaurants for gluten-free meals are P.F. Chang’s, California Pizza Kitchen, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Outback Steakhouse, and Chick-Fil-A.

I Thought I Couldn’t… Wear Gorgeous Lipstick

When you can’t ingest gluten, it matters what you put on your lips. Lipsticks that contain gluten—and believe it or not, there are plenty of them that contain it—could make you sick! I had to give up a few of my favorite lipstick brands, but it was worth it to know I wasn’t glutening myself through my lip products. These are my go-to brands for safe, beautiful lipsticks:

  • Tarte: All Tarte products are gluten-free! From lipsticks to lip glosses to lip tints, they’re all safe for Celiacs!
  • Bite Beauty: All of Bite’s lip products are gluten-free. Not only are they gorgeous, they’re nourishing and hydrating as well. I love Bite’s high-pigment pencils and lush fruit lip glosses!
  • Ulta store brand: Yes, it’s for real—there’s a store brand that makes affordable gluten-free lip products! Check ‘em all out, and also keep an eye on the Ulta website—their store brand makeup products often go on “buy two, get two free” sales, which means you can score lots of lip products for minimal moolah! (The Super Shiny Lip Glosses are my favorite from this brand.)

I Thought I Couldn’t… Eat Pizza

Okay, so my days of getting pizza delivered are over, but my days of eating gluten-free pizza have just begun! Here’s how I enjoy pizza these days.

  • Glutino frozen pizza: Glutino’s Duo Cheese pizzas are available in the freezer sections of my local Giant and Whole Foods. This is my go-to frozen pizza—it cooks up nicely and tastes delicious. It has just the right amount of cheese and it doesn’t burn up or get too crunchy when you cook it.
  • California Pizza Kitchen: This is my favorite pizza to get if I’m dining out. CPK staff is GREAT-trained, and they take care to follow safe handling procedures when making and serving gluten-free pizzas. There are five varieties to choose from; I’ve had two of them, and both have been delicious. My only bone to pick with these guys is that they don’t deliver!
  • Make your own pizza! I love using Udi’s frozen pizza crusts to make my own pizzas at home. They come two to a pack, and all you have to do is thaw them, throw your favorite sauce, toppings, and cheese on ‘em, and bake them. They’re not difficult to cut, and they hold up nicely under a bunch of toppings!

I Thought I Couldn’t… Enjoy Dessert

Seriously, one thing you don’t have to worry about as a gluten-free person is finding delicious dessert foods. They’re everywhere! Here are the treats that satisfy my sweet cravings:

  • Ice cream: I’ve found my new favorite frozen dessert, and it’s not even actually ice cream (although it tastes just like it). I’m seriously obsessed with the new So Delicious Cashew Milk Frozen Desserts. The Snickerdoodle flavor is out of this world. This creamy, dairy-free dessert includes decadent hunks of gluten-free cookie dough. It’s beyond incredible, and once you taste it, you won’t miss “regular” cookie dough ice cream ever again!
  • Delicious cookies: My favorite sweet snack to pack in my lunch is Glutino vanilla creme cookies. A serving is two cookies, and it’s just the perfect amount to keep me satisfied.
  • Give yourself an excuse to bake! There are tons of yummy gluten-free baking mixes out there that are both yummy and simple to make. I dig Glutino’s Double Chocolate Brownie Mix and Sugar Cookie Mix.

Leave a note in the comments below and let me know how you’re living fully during Celiac Awareness Month!

Disclaimer: Some of the products mentioned in this article were provided to me for review purposes. Under no circumstances has this affected the integrity of the article. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t cover it here. See my personal disclaimer for more details.

I first posted this article on Examiner.com.

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