7 Tips to Cope With Starting the Gluten-Free Diet

Yes, this is a difficult diet to learn, but you can do it

Mixing ingredients
photographer and designer/Moment/Getty

Going gluten-free permanently is a huge life change that requires major emotional and physical adjustments. The gluten-free diet means no wheat, barley, or rye in any form, and in many cases, no oats, either. Because gluten is included (and sometimes hidden) in so many products, it can be very difficult to avoid.

If you've just been diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity and you feel overwhelmed, no one can blame you.

But don’t despair. Lots of individuals, organizations, and resources are available to help you learn to do well and thrive.

Below are eight steps (and lots of links to additional information) to help you learn to follow the gluten-free diet.

1. Don’t Be Ashamed to Grieve

There is no way around this painful truth: the gluten-free diet requires that you give up foods — and food rituals — that you love. It will get easier after a while, and you’re going to feel much better than you did before. In fact, you’re going to feel strong and healthy. But there's no denying that at first, it’s going to be tough.

2. Learn As Much As You Can About Your Condition

Whether you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it will help you to get familiar with your condition and its associated health risks. For the most part, of course, following the gluten-free diet carefully can help ward off many health risks ...

but you still should be aware of them.

3. Tell Your Family and Friends

It’s important to tell your family and friends — and even selected co-workers — about your gluten-free diet.

One reason to tell your family is that celiac disease runs in families. If you have the condition, your relatives might have it too, but not realize it. Also, by telling your friends and relatives about your celiac disease, you’ll be giving them a chance to rise to the occasion and help you stay safely gluten-free. As hard as it can be to follow a gluten-free diet, it is almost impossible to do it in secret.

4. Clean Out Your Kitchen

The gluten-free diet is not like other diets. It’s not just a matter of buying the right foods — your whole kitchen needs to be made safe for gluten-free food preparation, and everyone in the household needs to cooperate to keep you from getting glutened.

5. Make Your Gluten-Free Shopping List

Yes, there are lots of foods that are now off-limits because you're gluten-free. But there are tons of items you can have, too ... probably including many of your old favorites. The last few years has seen an explosion in gluten-free food products, and many companies now are labeling foods gluten-free.

Before you head to the grocery store, make a list and double-check it for gluten.

6. Go Shopping

Okay, you're ready — head for the grocery store! But be prepared for your first few shopping trips as a gluten-free shopper to be long and difficult, even with all your prep work. You’ll need to read labels, and you’ll have some unpleasant surprises as you discover that gluten lurks in unexpected places. At first, it's best to stick with plain, fresh foods from the meat counter and produce department, along with a few products that are labeled "gluten-free." 

7. Go Out to Eat ... Safely

When you're gluten-free, restaurant dining can intimidating at first, but it gets easier. In the beginning, go with companions who are patient and supportive, and look through restaurant guides to identify eateries that offer gluten-free menus or gluten-free dishes.

(Edited by Jane Anderson)

Continue Reading