Going Gluten-FreeDecember 21, 2011

Counting Your Blessings

“Yes, we can eat this…and this…and this…and this…” 

Although each member of the Living Without team has different food issues, there’s one thing we have in common – we are all “glass-half-full” type of people - or at least we try to be.  

We recently received an inquiry from a distraught mother. Her teenage daughter had just been diagnosed with celiac disease and the girl was moping about all the things she couldn't have. What would we advise?

This is a frequently asked question and any one of us would offer a similar response: Yes, it’s challenging at first - but tell her the glass is half full. There’s a whole world of delicious food out there and she’s going to feel great without having to take prescription medications.

Let’s go a step further. Let’s suggest that the mom tell her new celiac to start writing down all the things she can eat. How about taking her to the local supermarket, starting in the produce section. It’s huge, it's colorful, it's full of delicious, fresh food. Start here and list what you can make.  

The same advice holds for many other food issues. Even if you go into “forbidden zones” - the bread section, the cereal aisle, the dairy case, for example – there are now many options that weren't available just a year or two ago. In supermarkets in metropolitan areas, there are now allergy-friendly items actually sitting on the shelves.

And if you’re willing to turn on the oven and dust off your measuring cups, there’s almost nothing you can’t make. You just have to be willing to make it a new way.

As we at Living Without count our blessing this holiday season, we are counting “our cans,” reminding ourselves that the glass is half full, not half empty.

What advice would you offer this mom?

Comments (7)

My adult son discovered he had celiac about 6 months before it became apparent I also have it. As a result of that, our roles were reversed -- he went through the stages of acceptance before I did and he helped me through it...well, he's helping me through it. Remember, this is one of those situations where accepting your limitations is a process. My son processed through the acceptance phase very quickly because he was very ill and willingly, happily embraced diet changes that made him feel better. I processed through the acceptance phase more slowly because my symptoms were more subtle and I wasn't aware that I was feeling as bad as I was. What worked for me was that I made a commitment to the diet for three months and I fully expected that after that I would cheat from time to time. First thing that happened is the most obvious symptom disappeared, then some things that I never would have connected to my diet changed. Finally I realized my energy level had dramatically increased. And then it was time for my first cheat. What I missed most was microbrews so my cheat was 2 1/2 glasses of my favorite microbrew. Never. Again. Two days later I'm still suffering. "Suffering" is defined as "feeling like I did for the past few decades". I simply hadn't realized how bad I use to feel and how good I feel when I'm gluten free. My son, who has since become a gluten free vegan, says "I hate the diet but I've never felt better in my life." I now know what he means.

My son was very sympathetic to my mourning the foods I had to give up though I will point out that it probably was more supportive coming from someone who had already given up those things than it would be from someone who still eats them. My son reassured me that the foods now available aren't that bad, that you get use to them and soon won't miss what you had to give up. And, because he's past the age of being embarrassed by everything his mother does in public, he didn't mind when I questioned people in restaurants about things like dedicated fryers for their french fries. (Bless Five Guys -- except for the buns, it's totally gluten free and they have GREAT fries. ) Google is your friend -- find those fast food places that have gluten free options so she can go to those places with her friends. My son said finding a place he can hang out with friends and everyone can eat something is really important.

My other advice to the mother is consider whether making a deal to be faithful to the diet for three months and then allow a cheat to see how much better she feels. This won't work for a child who won't cheat in that three month period. You have to know your kid. But it might work.

Posted by: Sara G-A | December 22, 2011 4:29 PM    Report this comment

Gosh I remember when I first went gluten free. It was awful, no one around me understood what I was going through. But I felt so much better not eating it. My biggest vice was pizza. Every now and then I would cheat and get pizza, it wasn't worth it. Many restaurants now have gluten free options (including pizza!!!!) call around to all your local restaurants - ask which ones have GF options. Unfortunately the Mall doesnt usually have GF soft pretzels and you have to be careful at the Orange Julius's etc- I remember as a teenager those were the things I liked. But call around know ahead of time where she can go with her friends to eat, that will make socializing easier for her - invite her friends over for a nice GF meal, perhaps explain to them, (or their mothers so they can talk to your daughters friends so they may understand HOW important it is for her to stay on this diet, and how SICK she can get off of it, even if she doesnt feel it at first. That way they will be more inclined to be helpful and not pressure her into eating something she shouldn't. Teach her how to read labels - there are some really good web sites that tell you what is gluten and WHY it is possibly gluten (like caramel color - which seems innocent) You could make up print outs for her friends too, so they know. have her eat BEFORE she goes out and to parties so she will be less tempted. Have a constant supply of snack bars, GF potato chips and other things to shove in her backpack - she may not tell you - but she will be thankful! Honestly most GF baked goods and sweets taste JUST as good some even better than "regular" stuff it can be to easy to over indulge! Perhaps you can start a tradition where you bake or make something new each week, be prepared for some failures in the beginning - but take them in stride. It really does get easier with time, now I eat almost everything I want, and I can socialize without feeling awkward :)

Posted by: Unknown | December 22, 2011 2:23 PM    Report this comment

And you don't have to become a vegiterian... I've also gone through about 10 brands of bread with my boys and the taste test winner is "Genius" Bread, I like some of the others but my 6 year old and 12 year old hate them, so maybe that'd be helpful, they (and I) also like the corn pasta better than the rice one (I didn't even TELL them it wasn't "normal" pasta and they couldn't TELL!), and so you know, ALL "Sugar Ray" BBQ's are GF, they'll be remarketing their labels going into next year to show this, but they all are and always have been, I learned that through calling them. There's also GF Rice Krispies, and Fruity Pebbles are GF, and my kids LOVE the cinnamon chex and the honey ones - all GF. Those are the quickest "fill your pantry" items I can think to share with you :)

Posted by: Unknown | December 22, 2011 1:44 PM    Report this comment

I'll just assume, like many teenagers, she may be a junk food junkie or a convenience food type kiddo... I'm newly diagnosised too, and I've found a MULTITUDE of foods I can STILL eat. The pasta sauce I love (Prego) is GF, I can still have all the meat, fruit, and veggies I all ready was eating, I LOVE GF BISQUICK (total saving grace), you wouldn't BELIEVE the amount of normal/off the shelf candy that is GF, Skippy peanut butter is GF, Fritos are GF, tostito chips are GF, certain ice creams, like Friendlys, is GF, MANY resturaunts offer TOTAL separate GF menus (the 99, Uno's, Boston Market, lots, but I'm not sure what area you're from, I list at least ten local ones near me), Progresso soups have a bunch they offer that are GF, I use GF shampoo and conditioner, by Finesse (clean and clear), that's the same cost as anything else and right in the local drug store, I also use Gold Bond Ulitmate Body Wash, also GF, and also normally priced and available in normal drug stores. I switched all my make up to "Fit Me," by Maybeline, AGAIN - ALL GF and ALL normally priced and right in the local stores. You ALWAYS have to be careful of cross contamination, and brands that have "GF ingredients" but are NOT GF due to be made in a plant that processes it, but I've called a million manufacturers, they're always super nice and willing to talk with you. I just refuse to have this "take me over" like it initially seemed it would. It DOES take some time to digest the informaiton, but you can live pretty normally, you just have to "get there." Hope some of this helps.

Posted by: Unknown | December 22, 2011 1:39 PM    Report this comment

It will be important for the mom & her daughter to find & connect with a support system. The physician who diagnosed the daughter's Celiac Disease, or her / his office personnel, may know of a local support group. A local hospital may have a support group, too. I know that Children's Hospital Medical Center in Boston, MA, has such a support group for kids & their parents. (The article doesn't indicate how old the teenage daughter is.) I think it would be very helpful for the daughter to find other teens who also have CD, for support & ideas re: how to cope & thrive.

Posted by: Patricia A S | December 22, 2011 1:28 PM    Report this comment

She can also make gluten-free snack bars to keep in her backpack, and make gluten-free pizza when her friends come over. I know my teenages love pizza and popcorn!

Posted by: Elizabeth1inVermont | December 22, 2011 12:10 PM    Report this comment

If they can afford the ingredients, I would encourage her daughter to get in the kitchen and learn to make things like the popovers, bagels or french bread that probably none of her friends know how to make - but that are good enough that even the non-GF will enjoy. That will not only give her something famliar to enjoy - but may also give her some 'status'. Also cookies like the lemon sugar cookies - make them into jam cookies and no one will turn them down. Pie crusts too - I guess the list could go on for some time - but anything that will provide a sense of 'normal' and help her maintain whatever 'cool' she has among her peers.

Posted by: Catherine K | December 22, 2011 8:25 AM    Report this comment

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